By Parinyaporn Pajee
Offering 2 dorm-type rooms with bunk beds and one private room with twin beds, Pickbaan is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious taste of local life.
Lamphun is the smallest province in Thailand’s north and because it’s located just 20 km from Chiang Mai, is often overlooked by tourists. Nowadays, thanks to the secondary destinations campaign being promoted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, new guesthouses and cafes are opening across the town and more tourists are stopping off for a night and sometimes or longer.
Situated in the heart of the city not far from the City Hall, Pick Baan is a Thai style wooden house – raised on stilts and with an open space underneath.
Pickbaan owner Uraiwan Chaipipat spotted the classic house not long after she and her family moved from Bangkok to Lamphun. Having closed the family restaurant and trying unsuccessfully her hand at vegetable farming, she was looking for a new project to occupy her time.
“Running the food shop was our family business and everyone helped with the cooking, waitressing and cleaning. But my parents were old and finding it difficult to cope. When I saw the house, I thought it would be perfect for a hostel even though Lamphun had few tourists at the time,” says the former event organiser who decided to start a new life in order to have more time to take care of her parents.
Uraiwan’s first step was to inform the provincial authority about her plans. That done and approval granted, she set about to run her own business in a way that wouldn’t stretch her capabilities while also not costing her too much money. That, philosophy, she says, is very much in line with the sufficiency economy, which she learned from taking part in the “Phor Laew Deethe Creator” project that selects young entrepreneurs to find the true definition of sufficiency (phor phiang) through their own endeavours.
Uraiwan runs the hostel very much in her own way. She doesn’t have time to stick around at the front desk nor does she want to hire staff. “I don’t live there either, so I needed to find a solution to handling reservations and Booking.com was the answer,” she says.
“I am not a tech geek. I’m online via my phone and I don’t have a computer. Booking.com has an application that helps me to run the reservation system as well as respond to customers,” she says.
Pickbaan has partnered with Booking.com since the end of 2015 and bookings started coming in not long after the agreement was signed. At that time, Pickbaan had just 3 beds but more have been gradually added. And while Pickbaan worked with a few platforms early in its life, the others have all been dropped in favour of Booking.com which, Uraiwan says, is the best fit for her lifestyle.
“Booking.com has a great mobile application that makes my life easier. It’s easy to use and I can check it anytime, anywhere. Other applications tend to be more complicated,” she adds.
Each room in the Pickbaan’s wooden house has a shared bathroom and toilet. The common area is equipped with a microwave, a toaster oven and a
refrigerator. Guests are asked to keep the place clean and quiet. Alcohol and cigarettes are not allowed on the premises and guests are requested to turn off lights to save energy. Breakfast is prepared by her family and features simple dishes like congee with minced pork prepared to traditional recipes for a true homely feel.
“We take care of our guests the way we like to be treated and in our own style,” she says.
She contacts her clients through the app and adds her guests to the hostel’s Line group once when they check in. Guests will experience the traditional way of living as part of the local community, chatting with neighbors and wandering around town and Uraiwan can come to their help through Line if they happen to get lost. Travelers can also ride a bicycle around town and book trips to Li, Mae Tha, and Pa Sang districts.
And, best of all, Uraiwan has plenty of time to look after her other guesthouse Baan Kai Muan, which is also on Booking.com, and her recently opened coffee shop in front of Pickbaan.
“She is able to make the most of the benefits offered by Booking.com, and particularly the Booking assistant, which helps to deal with customers. We provide the guest’s contact information to the owner and we also help to deal with requests from customers because Booking.com is available in 43 languages,” says Parichat Haehne, regional manager for Thailand and Indochina at Booking.com.
The room rate is cheap at only Bt750 for the private twin bedroom and Bt500 for a bunk bed including breakfast cooked and free wifi. The shared toilet is in the house itself while the bathroom is downstairs like in old style Thai houses. Guests get a towel, a pha khao ma for man and pha thung (Thai style sarong) for woman.
Since using Booking.com, Pickbaaan has been attracting more visitors from overseas with occupancy now roughly equally divided between Thais and foreigners though the latter tend to dominate during the low season (May to September).
Most of the guests stay one night before moving to the next destination, usually Lampang. There’s a bus stop in front of the guest house where visitors can board a bus to Chiang Mai, a mere 40-minute ride on the old road which goes through beautiful scenery on what is called the Rubber Tree Road for its hundreds of rubber trees on the sides.”
With Lamphun one of the 55 provinces being promoted as the secondary destination by TAT, competition has become higher. A new guesthouse nearby with more rooms and modern facilities has opened but Uraiwan works closely with the owners, with referrals between the two now common.
“We talked and decided we are not rivals, but neighbours. I’ll send guests to them when they might not feel comfortable at Pickbaan guesthouse or when it’s full. They do the same,” she explains.
Even though Pickbaan is now recognised among travelers, Uraiwan says that she doesn’t have a plan to expand her business although she is planning renovations based on comments from the guests on Booking.com. And even when travellers try to book direct, she refers them to Booking.com
“Even though I have to pay commission for Booking. Com, I think it’s worth it. Being in Booking.com helps to promote Pickbaan to a wider group of tourists in the meantime, their system helps me a lot in running the business. They even notify me when I should run promotions. For example, during Golden Week in Japan, they suggested I offer a campaign for Japanese tourists.”
Reservations can be made at www.booking.com/hotel/th/pickb