THE LATEST BOUTIQUE HOTEL in Chiang Mai to open its doors to visitors is the Yaang Come Village in Sridonchai Road, where co-owners Khun Chitapong Kuawong and Khun Varee Kuawong have realized their dream of creating an hotel wrapped in the traditions and culture of the Tai Lue people of Xishuangbanna, in China's neighbouring Yunan Province.
Khun Chitapong, or "Duong", as he is known to friends and family, spoke with all the pride and enthusiasm of a new father, as we sat in the cool comfort of the hotel's impressive reception area. Duong is of Thai-Chinese parentage, and while fiercely proud of his lineage, he is typical of Chiang Mai's new breed of young entrepreneurs: bright-eyed, bursting with enthusiasm, and in possession of a can-do attitude I never knew existed outside of Hong Kong.
The Yaang Come Village is built on land that has been in Duong's family for over seventy years, and is unique in both design and attention to its guests. He said that the concept was to create an hotel designed on the lines of a typical Xishuangbanna village, using the very best of modern materials. He explained further that his wish was for visitors to feel they were house guests rather than hotel guests.
The hotel lies at the end of a tree-lined avenue just off the western end of Sridonchai Road, its portal dwarfed by a huge Yaang-naa tree which has stood there for more than forty years. The reception area, where guests experience those all-important first impressions, is indeed impressive. Unlike the enclosed, crowded, air-conditioned foyers of today's modern hostelries, one enters an open-sided, sala, supported by stout columns and great rafters of deep red, and decorated by hand in real gold leaf. Red being a most auspicious colour in China, the reception desk itself is straddled by old Chinese doors upon which are the characters of the door Gods, who protect all who pass through. Khun Duong told me that he had instructed his architect to position the sala in such a way that it attracted the prevailing breezes of the day. He spoke of his hotel with a verve that brought to mind the words of the late Conrad Hilton, founder of the worldwide hotel chain - "Enthusiasm is a vital element toward the individual success of every man or woman." Khun Duong has enthusiasm in spades. But, like all entrepreneurs, he was wanted in five different places and had to take his leave of me. Before doing so, he put me in the very capable hands of his General Manager, Khun Aree Lenoir.
Khun Aree is a lady of immense charm and dignity; impeccably dressed and in place of the standard service industry grin, her smile held all the welcoming warmth of a family member for a returning relative. Khun Aree takes me on a guided tour of the hotel, stopping here and there to advise a member of her staff, or to answer a query from a guest. The hotel comprises a number of villas surrounding a swimming pool and Jacuzzi. As we passed guests in sun-loungers, or floating in the refreshing waters of the pool, I recognized accents from as far afield as Japan, USA , Great Britain , China and Australia. There are 42 rooms divided amongst the villas, ranging from a superior single or twin, through to the deluxe single or twin, the Family room, and lastly the junior suite.
Fortunately for the hotel, most of the rooms were taken, and while I could not gain entry to either the Junior suite or the Family room, I did visit the superior and deluxe rooms.
The rooms are spacious and very tastefully furnished. The beds are of solid teak, supporting well sprung mattresses encased in the finest cotton sheets, with large, down-filled pillows. Across each comfortable duvet was draped an intricately hand-woven Thai runner, or spread.
Behind the beds are hand-painted murals, a different one for every room, depicting life in a typical Thai-Lue village in years gone by. The decor is made from local materials and hand crafted by Chiang Mai artisans; from the solid chairs and dressing tables to the teak and bamboo wardrobes. The only differences I could spot between the superior and deluxe rooms were that in the deluxe, the bathroom has both bath and shower, while the superior has no bath. The deluxe also sports a high-speed internet connection.
The bathrooms in both hold the usual array of toiletries, fluffy bath towels, guest slippers etc. Although all bathrooms in the hotel share the same unique wash-hand basin. This comes in the form of a Chinese porcelain bowl, set upon a marble slab, as opposed to being a sunken part of the worktop.
The Yaang Come village is less than 200 metres from the busy Sridonchai Road, but I failed to hear the sound of traffic. There are a couple of new buildings under construction nearby, but the noise was far from being unbearable.
The hotel boasts a poolside bar and coffee shop, with a menu catering for European, North American, Thai and Chinese tastes. The friendly staff can arrange transportation, a massage in your room, local sight-seeing advice, and oh yes, ladies, the hotel is within a three minute walk to the city's famous Night Bazaar. Khun Duong is refreshingly honest in admitting to suffering initial teething problems, but he has, in his General Manager, Khun Aree, the perfect dental surgeon. During our tour of the establishment, she was approached more than a few times by new staff members seeking advice, or by guests with a request. She dealt quietly and efficiently with each as they surfaced, and never once lost the train of our conversation.
If Khun Duong is a little over-concerned about the initial few hitches in his new project, he should recall the advice of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tsu, who said - "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."
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