Vol. VII No. 23 - Tuesday
June 3 - June 9, 2008



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


FEATURES
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

A new hotel concept in a historical building

Citylife’s Ladies Night - the “real deal” at a great venue

The Unmissable 5th Annual Yorkshire Pudding Eating Competition

 

A new hotel concept in a historical building

U Hotel opens in the old city

Pictured are Vipasiri Napawongdee, the PR & marketing communications manager, the executive chef Boonyarit Pasukri, the GMYothin Uthaphu, the operations manager Natthanon Chansorn, the food and beverage manager Thanapat Chamuangkul, and the HR and training manager Sopon Bunkhoo.

CMM Reporters
Local media were invited last week to attend a sneak preview of the newest boutique hotel in town, due to open on June 1 - U Hotel on Rachadamnoen Road, the first of a new and select chain in Thailand. Located opposite the Writers Club, one’s first impression is of an ultra-modern and very chic grey building, dominated by two restaurants, one on the road and one upstairs, both of which would be ideal for watching the world go by whilst enjoying a leisurely meal, particularly on Sunday evenings when the Walking Market is in full swing.

The swimming pool at the new U Hotel in the old city.
Entering the hotel, which involves negotiating stone slabs across a small pond - hopefully there are plenty of staff to help should a guest have had ‘one too many’! The reception area is part of a building more than 100 years old which used to be the Governor’s Residence, and which still retains many of its original wooden floors, beamed ceilings and antique artefacts. The hotel’s GM, Yothin Uthaphu, and his staff, were on hand to greet us, all smartly dressed in their signature purple, cream and grey.
After an initial briefing, during which the GM introduced his staff, we were shown around the hotel - very modern, very stylish, and very tasteful - the design using a relatively small area to the maximum effect. There are 41 rooms, 29 superior and 12 deluxe, 3 of which have steps down from their balconies to the smaller of the two interconnected swimming pools. The rooms are beautifully decorated with Lanna style art pieces sourced within the city; any guest staying in one of these lovely rooms would have no doubt that they were in the historical centre of Chiang Mai. From June 1 through to July 31, a special introductory offer of 3,400 baht per night for a superior room and 4,400 baht per might for a deluxe room will apply.
The U Spa is also situated in the old building, next to the reading room, which is open for guests to relax, read a book, borrow a DVD, or just wait for a massage.
After the preview, Yothin kindly agreed to give the Chiang Mai Mail’s reporter a brief interview.
Firstly, congratulations on the opening of your new hotel - you must be very excited. How would you, personally, describe the hotel?
U Chiang Mai is a new bijoux deluxe hotel that is a stimulating blend of local heritage and design accents that pair with modern amenities, services and facilities to encourage sophisticated guests who wish to enjoy the local environment.
As I’m sure you know already, there is an abundance of hotels of all classes here in Chiang Mai. How will your hotel differ from the rest?
There are 6 significant services in which we differ from other Chiang Mai hotels; 24 hour room usage, i.e. if you check in at 5 pm, the room is yours until 5 pm the following day; breakfast whenever-wherever; the innovative U-Choose programme and its partner U Make a Different Programme; an iPod docking station with speakers in your room; and IDD telephone calls charged at cost.
Could you tell our readers about your background in the hotel trade?
I began my hotel career back in1989 as a waiter in FB Department in Bangkok, and transferred to the sales marketing department in 1991. I have worked with many different hotel chains in Thailand and was with Marriott in Saigon, Vietnam from 2000-2003. Prior to now, I worked with the Accor group as key account director and with Cha-Da Beach Resort as hotel manager.
What do you like most about the hotel trade - and dislike the most?
I am happiest when I have accomplished and achieved my goals to make guests happy and see the happiness in their eyes. There’s nothing I dislike - I really love the hotel trade.
As a Thai person - you must be very familiar with Chiang Mai - how do you think it has changed over the past 10 years, apart from obviously getting bigger?
Chiang Mai is absolutely the same as any other developing city - definitely more traffic and pollution!
Does your hotel have any policies regarding helping the local community?
We have a program called “You Make a Different Program”, from which we will donate 30 baht for every room night paid for by our guests to Baan King Kaew, and will also organize a trip for our guest to visit in order to see that their donations have come to life.
What style of food will your restaurants be serving, and what would be an average price range for a couple?
We will be presenting home-style cuisine with no menu - I think an average charge would be around 1,200 baht for a couple.
Your restaurants will face a lot of competition - how will they differ from the other restaurants?
As we are working with a different concept, I feel that it will not be a case of competition - our strengths will be the actual concept, the food, the price, the location, the street access to the old city, etc.
What do you feel are the two best things about Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai is an amazing city and has so much to offer I actually like so many things here but if I have to choose, it would be the lifestyle and the food, both of which I love.
What do you think are the two biggest problems here in Chiang Mai - and do you have a solution?
Business-wise, the seasonal aspect is a big problem , the low season, May to October, is too long , and this is not helped by the fact that there are no direct long-haul flights into the city. My solution would be to operate long haul flights for easier access, and to constantly promote the destination aggressively and globally, particularly in the low season. Crime and pollution are also problems; crime is increasing, and it is the government who need to find a solution. As regards pollution, I feel that much more education of Chiang Mai city and outlying area residents is needed, particularly about burning.
Parking may be difficult on Sundays - have you any provisions, also what is your plan for guests who wish to arrive on Sundays - during the walking street market?
We have an arrangement with a local Wat for parking, because there is limited street parking in the immediate area. With regards to Sunday - we are at the end of the walking street, and we will ensure we have full details of guests’ arrival times so we can meet them at the airport, drive them to the police station just up the road, form where they will be escorted to the hotel. We have trained our staff thoroughly and as long as everyone has the correct information it should not be a problem.
Has the hotel any environmental policies?
We try our best to recycle paper etc, both in and out of the office, also as a new hotel we are using the most modern and energy saving equipment possible.
Thank you for your time, Yothin, and on behalf of the Chiang Mai Mail, I would like to wish you and the hotel all the very best for the future.

The U Hotel’s “reading room” for relaxation, reading, or waiting for a massage.

 

Citylife’s Ladies Night - the “real deal” at a great venue

When’s the next one?

Layle, Karen and Jaye “propping up the bar” at the Darling Wine Bar.

Powerful women meet at the Darling Wine Bar! Pictured here are Elena,
(Chiang Mai Mail), Marji, (Welcome to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai), Pim, (Citylife),
and Lori, (Art & Culture).

‘Are the men being talked about?’ Citylife Ladies Night at the Darling Wine Bar saw June, Matta, Marji and Gisella in deep conversation over a few glasses of wine.

“Ladies’ Night”, in our home countries - long frocks, tight shoes, a boring afternoon at the hair salon, polite conversation, a formal meal at a local hotel…no thanks! The Citylife Ladies’ Night, hosted recently by Pim at the Darling Wine Bar - a completely different occasion, full of gossip, laughter, affection and good, plain, old-fashioned FUN! Plus, of course, a delicious and generously served buffet - huge plates of hors d’ouvres, dips and other delights - and a great selection of wines at very reasonable prices. The 7 pm start saw this cosy and welcoming venue half-full already; very soon it was standing room only as the rest of “les girls” arrived en masse. Once the necessary introductions were performed for those of us who didn’t know absolutely everyone already, the serious business of catching up, networking, renewing old friendships and beginning new ones began with a vengeance. As the wine and the conversations flowed and the peals of laughter got louder, the Darling Wine Bar’s friendly owner and caring staff circulated to make sure everyone was having the best time ever - which we were! As we said our goodbyes and drifted off into the night hours later, (some of us less steadily than others), the main question was, “When’s the next one?”


The Unmissable 5th Annual Yorkshire Pudding Eating Competition

The Pub sees record turn out - Charlie breaks his record!

Last week, May 28, saw the 5th Annual Yorkshire Pudding Eating Contest at The Pub on Huay Kaew Road. A record turn out must have had last years’ winner, Charlie, quaking, especially when the rumour went around that a couple of the younger guys had been practising for the last month!

Uncle Brent teaching his niece how to eat in polite society. Brent, Aletheia and Kevin (l/r).
The idea is to eat as many Yorkshire Puddings as possible in one hour. A Yorkshire Pudding - for those who have not yet had the supreme pleasure of eating one - is a traditional English supplement to a roast beef dinner, also served on its own with lashing of rich gravy in every Yorkshire pub! Basically, it’s a flour, water, milk and egg batter beaten for at least 10 minutes and baked in a hot oven until it’s risen - delicious! Yorkshire puddings in the days of old were a starter - given to ‘the family’ to fill them up - before the Sunday main course of roast beef, as money was scarce and times were hard. Nowadays, most English people would not sit down to a roast beef dinner unless it included Yorkshire Pudding and gravy.

Graham congratulating Charlie on successfully retaining his cup.
Last year, Charlie ate 22 of them - so everyone knew it was going to be a tough contest. This did not stop a few ‘virgins’ - new to the game, who thought it easy - until they started! Over 20 contestants, young and old, male and female, (and somewhere in-between), took part. Dan and Robert were clearly winning at half time, although regulars knew Charlie should not be underestimated.
The hour was nearly up with two contestants left - Charlie and Dan - only one would succeed…Charlie won with a record 25 Yorkshire Puddings eaten within one hour! A new adaptation to the Thai phrase ‘slow but sure’.
Well done, Charlie! Will it be three in a row next year??

Charlie, the winner, (the guy with the cup in the middle),
surrounded by other contestants.



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