What's It Like to Stay in a Hotel for Two Months?
Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Baldwin all lived in hotels for years on end. Why couldn't Michael and I do it too?
I’ve always wanted to live indefinitely in a hotel. All my life, I’ve read about how writers like Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Baldwin moved to Paris and lived in hotels or lodging houses for years on end.
It seemed so romantic.
Unfortunately, it also seemed so expensive. How the hell did Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Baldwin afford it? Were hotels a lot cheaper back then? Did they pay writers more?
But Michael and I recently found ourselves in Southeast Asia, which is extremely affordable for Westerners like us. In Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia, a great hotel room can be had for less than $50 USD a night — sometimes much less. And that’s usually with a fantastic breakfast.
Plus, my father had been in declining health recently, and I knew we might be returning to America soon. We didn’t want to commit to anything long-term.
In short, this seemed like a perfect time to try living indefinitely in a hotel, at least until we had to go back home.
What would it be like? Would it feel claustrophobic not having more room? Michael and I usually rent apartments, often with multiple bedrooms. Would Michael and I get sick of each other in such a small space? As far as I know, Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Baldwin never had roommates.
But we gave it a try, staying in At Chiang Mai SHA Extra Plus Hotel, in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Here’s how it all went down:
We’re checking in, and I’m not sure why I’m so nervous — it’s not like I’ve committed to a two-year trip to Mars. If I don’t like living in a hotel, we can just…check out again.
Maybe I’m worried that if I don’t like it, I’ll never again be able to dream about living indefinitely in a hotel, about how romantic it might be. I’ll have ruined a good fantasy.
But the clerk at the front desk, a beautiful transgender woman, couldn’t be any more friendly and efficient, and the concierge has drifted over from her desk too, to tell us what’s available and to make it clear she can answer any questions we have about the area.
While we’re doing this, the bellhop grabs our bags and takes them — well, presumably up to our room. If he’s a thief, I hope the Front Desk Clerk would’ve said something.
Once we’re done, a second bell-hop leads us up to the room itself. And…
…it’s fantastic! It’s got antique furnishings, and plush carpets, and a jacuzzi tub, and velvet curtains with tassels. There’s tons of old world charm.
And there’s a balcony! Although maybe I should say “veranda” because that sounds so much more like a classic hotel.
In short, living indefinitely in a hotel seems like it will be exactly as romantic as I thought — maybe more so.
But will the feeling last?
After years of living mostly in Airbnb apartments, it’s strange waking up in a hotel room — and knowing we’re going to be staying a while.
Airbnbs have pros and cons. They’re usually apartments, with living areas and a separate sleeping area, which is a very big pro.
And they also have kitchens and dining areas, which are even bigger pros. You can cook and eat meals at home.
Which is exactly the point. Apartments feel like a home.
But Airbnbs can also be maddeningly inconsistent — and after six years of non-stop travel, I’m not convinced price, online reviews, and pictures are all that much of a bulwark against that inconsistency.
As a very general rule, I think hotel rooms are nicer and cleaner.
But they’re also usually one single room. Suites with private bedrooms are often ridiculously expensive — and even with these Thailand prices, we opted against one here.
Can a single room and a bathroom ever really feel like a home?
On the plus side, the breakfast buffet is pretty great: a mix of coffee and pastries, cereals, traditional Western breakfast items, like waffles, eggs, toast, and fresh fruit, and also Thai breakfast items, like rice, various Thai porridges, and meat and veggie dishes. Plus, the usual Thai breakfast salad bar, which I still find a little odd.
The restaurant where breakfast is served is also open-air, next to a garden, and it’s lovely to eat surrounded by gurgling koi ponds and lush landscaping.
This isn’t the best breakfast buffet we’ve had in Asia, but it’s a thousand times better than any breakfast buffet we’ve ever had in America.
I’m writing in the hotel courtyard, at a little table in the garden next to the hotel’s spirit house.
I’m doing it! I’m living in a hotel like Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Baldwin.
And it still feels really romantic. I love watching the guests drift by.
Here’s something I haven’t fully appreciated before about hotel living: daily housekeeping. Right now, our room is being cleaned.
And it’s fantastic. The problem with an apartment is that within a few hours after you clean it, it starts to feel cluttered again. And within a day or two, it starts to get outright dirty.
With daily housekeeping, everything resets after twenty-four hours, and it’s absolutely heavenly.
During breakfast, I overhear one of the other guests talking to one of the servers. She’s an older Australian woman with close-cropped, bleached blond hair, and she’s making me uncomfortable, because she’s chattering away like she’s not even taking a breath, and the server is smiling and nodding, but she isn’t saying anything — I think because he doesn’t want to offend the guest.
Almost a week in, the problems with living indefinitely in a hotel are becoming a bit more apparent.
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