it was a dark and stormy night…
Imagine walking through the narrow streets of the old city in Chiang Mai. It’s dark and pretty quiet, except for the occasional hum of a passing motorcycle. You’re trying to find your way back to your hostel, and it’s been an exhausting day of temple-exploring. Your DSLR is making your backpack feel heavier by the minute and you’re all but sticky. You’re holding your phone in one hand (google maps is open), and your other hand is carrying a glorious dinner of Thai street food. After making a few wrong turns and getting catcalled, you spy some fairy lights, make a left turn, and come home to this.
It isn’t midnight yet so the main passcode gate is open. The water fountain in the garden is trickling gently, and there’s no sight of the hostel’s resident green-eyed, grey-furred Bengal cat.
You remove your shoes and place on them on the shoe rack before heading to the tea room to fill up your water bottle. Someone left the TV on in the lounge — it’s the local news channel. You unload your arms, your back, and take a minute to shamelessly crack your bones before commandeering an arm chair.
There isn’t AC in the lounge, but the fan is on and you sit for minute before unpacking the rest of your dinner (pork and curry with rice, 40 BHT) and dessert: coconutty sticky rice with slices from one, fresh WHOLE mango (60 BHT). You’re still sticky but nothing could be better.
Last month I visited Thailand for the first time. Even though I grew up just to the south in Malaysia, I had never ventured to visit my neighbour and didn’t really know what to expect. My week-long trip was to the northern city of Chiang Mai, and I stayed at Sherloft home & hostel for a week with a friend in one of their private rooms. The stay was cosier and lovelier and far more relaxing than I’d dare to imagine, which is why they deserve a feature of their own here!
A bit about Sherloft: it is run by the nicest airbnb superhost Napa and her staff of English-speaking staff, and is a loft-style home with private rooms as well as dorm-style bunk bed rooms.
the garden part 1
Like many of the cafes I’ve seen in Chiang Mai, Sherloft is decorated with greenery and is full of plants — ferns, roses, and what looked like giant yams or elephant ears. I don’t think I can describe it as anything other than inviting.
In the garden out front you can sit, play the guitar (this is a hostel after all), read, wait for your grab car to come, or cat watch.
The common kitchen area is at the front of the house and overlooks the garden. Breakfast is served every morning from 7 — 10:30am and includes instant tea and coffee, fruit (mango was on the menu everyday during my stay), white bread for toasting, jams and spreads, heart-shaped fried eggs, some savoury hot dish (like fried rice or fried kuey teow), and corn waffles!
I know that loose-leaf tea is always preferable to teabags (because plastic!) but I couldn’t resist making a cup for breakfast. Can we also just admire the lanterns which were strung up all over the hostel? Besides plants, the old city is dotted with lanterns and warm fairy lights which come to life at night.
Before my trip, I was mentally prepared to buy plastic water bottles from 7-11 after reading/hearing many personal accounts of how the tap water was unclean. Thankfully I was able to limit the number of plastic bottles I went through as the hostel had filtered water 24/7 in both the common area and in the tea room (pictured below).
When you’re finished breakfast and are ready to start exploring, you can set off on foot or borrow one of Sherloft’s picturesque bikes for free. Yes to gas-free transport and exercise!
the garden, part 2
Now for part 2 — there is another garden in the back of the hostel just behind the dining area. This garden is alot smaller but just as lovely. Watermelons, bromeliads, and what look like honeydew are grown here.
This was probably the first time I saw a watermelon on the vine (which is rather sad) but just look at it! Also kindly note the bumblebee butt sticking out of one of the small yellow blossoms in the second photo.
The garden opens into what looks like an abandoned plot of land which has palm trees and is overrun with weeds.
If I were a cat, I’d probably spend all my time in the garden chasing butterflies and bugs.
The day before I took these photos, there was a honeydew (or some other type of melon) nestled among these vines. If you haven’t grown anything from seed before, may I suggest something edible? It is the best feeling — of accomplishment, pride, awe — to harvest something which can feed your family.
Unlike Singapore, which is always tweezed to perfection, the greenery here has a bit more breathing room.
In the back of the hostel next to the garden is a laundry area where you can wash and sun-dry your clothes. The relatively simple setup — drying racks and a couple of machines — feels humble and perfectly suited for a hostel. You don’t need a fancy, marbled room with 10 different types of detergent powder and the newest app-assisted machine. The basics are good enough to cover what you need. Sun and soap will do.
What looks like papaya trees are growing right behind the fence made of planks.
I realised that I don’t have any nice high-res photos of the private room we stayed in, so this iPhone photo which I sent to my mum will have to do. You have my word that it was comfortable and clean, and came with folded towels, AC, a spacious shower, and a safe!
sit and stay a while
Sherloft is definitely not a party hostel, which is fine by me because I happen to be allergic to parties. I don’t think it’s considered a budget hostel either, although it is affordable. If you were like me and came to Chiang Mai with only a vague plan of what you wanted to do except RELAX (and yes, “discover myself” a little ), then Sherloft is your home.
You can book a room at Sherloft through airbnb or through their website. Have no fear — I decided to book directly through their website since airbnb takes a cut from hosts, and I always received a prompt response within 24 hours. Also, this post is completely unsponsored. I just really loved my stay there and felt so at home. And Napa if you are reading this, hello and I hope to visit Chiang Mai again soon!