You May Never Leave Chiang Mai’s Slumber Party Hostel

Photo Credit: Savannah Aubinoe of SAVSHOOTS.com

Chiang Mai, a charming city in the mountainous northern Thailand between the borders of Myanmar and Laos, is infused with an inexplicable, enchanting energy. Maybe it’s the echo of peace emanating from hundreds of ornamental Buddhist temples, or perhaps it’s the temptation of the backstreets thronged with street food stalls and shops that, despite the many visitors and expatriates who frequent them, are still inimitably Thai. It could be the encircling green jungles, home to elephant sanctuaries and the tallest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, which overlooks the city at 2,565 meters tall — its Cloud Forest is Earth’s very own heaven.

Whatever it is, the former seat of the Lanna kingdom and UNESCO Creative City exudes an idyllic tranquility. And just a 10-minutes walk from the 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang in the heart of the Old City is Slumber Party Hostel. The Old City still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its storied history as a cultural and religious center, and Slumber Party sits just inside beautifully blending the old with the new.

Slumber Party boasts only four-bed dorms, which are all equipped with rain showers, air conditioning and lockers. The conversant and knowledgeable staff at Slumber Party Chiang Mai, however, is what makes one’s stay here well worth it. Through the staff, guests can book ventures to villages, temples, ruins, waterfalls, hikes and elephant sanctuaries and schedule transfers to and from the hostel. And because the staff all love Chiang Mai as much as the guests, they’ve a wealth of recommendations.

I, for one, listened to the staff’s recommendation to visit the Into the Wild elephant sanctuary, and that day will indubitably go down as one of the best of my life. I feel fortunate to have learned of Into the Wild and, if not for Slumber Party’s staff encouraging me, I would have chosen another sanctuary. This tour included just four other travelers and me who had the entire jungle to ourselves for an entire day of playing with grown and baby elephants, hiking with them, taking mud baths with them and swimming with them — it’s one of the most, if not the most, ethical sanctuaries in Thailand, and those are unfortunately difficult to find in a country with so many elephant rides.


The staff at Slumber also booked me a trek up to Doi Inthanon, where I spent the day hiking through the Cloud Forest up to the pinnacle that looked down at two adjacent chedis, one called Naphamethinidon (นภเมทินีดล), meaning “by the strength of the land and air,” and the other called Naphaphonphumisiri (นภพลภูมิสิริ), meaning “being the strength of the air and the grace of the land.” They were built to honor the 60th birthday anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1987 and the 60th birthday anniversary of Queen Sirikit in 1992, respectively.

Photo Credit: Savannah Aubinoe of SAVSHOOTS.com

When I wasn’t out exploring all that Chiang Mai has to offer, I was enjoying discounted drinks with the other hostel bar patrons — after a few hours of drinking games in the hostel’s common area, the staff guides guests on bar crawls and nights out through Chiang Mai’s effervescent nightlife scene, all of which is, conveniently, walkable.

I’ve slept in hostels in over 30 countries across the globe, and never have I found a place that makes friends of strangers as easily as Slumber Party. I had meals with staff and guests in hole-in-the-wall restaurants around the city. I spent an entire day exploring through the lens of a camera with staff just as eager to spend their days off relishing in the city’s magic over and over again. I even became so close with friends I met at Slumber Party in Chiang Mai that I’m still traveling with them through the south of Thailand.

Photo Credit: Savannah Aubinoe of SAVSHOOTS.com
Photo Credit: Savannah Aubinoe of SAVSHOOTS.com
Photo Credit: Savannah Aubinoe of SAVSHOOTS.com

Traveling, in general, teaches one a lot about saying goodbye. People come and go, and you have to get good at letting go because of it — but Chiang Mai makes that particularly difficult. Chiang Mai is a city where people don’t come to say goodbye, and that’s why so many of Slumber Party’s staff have come to stay, and why so many guests extend their stays. I miss it already, and I know I’ll have to find my way back there some day soon.

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