Meet Charles, owner of a 2 bedroom private pool villa in Thailand. Working closely with local craftsmen, and using reclaimed elements of old Thai houses, Charles is an example of an owner who is sensitive and respectful of local culture. But, rest assured, this villa of traditional elements also comes loaded with modern conveniences, making it a perfect rural retreat…
“We have placed a special emphasis on finishing the villa to a high standard, using local antiques, indigenous silks and cottons, teak furniture, four poster beds with hotel quality linens and mattresses, the quietest air-conditioning units on the market, a kitchen equipped with everything you could need, and more. We want guests to return, so need to exceed their expectations!”
1) Tell us a little about your property.
Rice Paddy Villa is an unusual Thai villa, in an eclectic setting. It is a tranquil, two bedroom property with a private pool that enjoys panoramic views over our neighbouring rice paddies.
Designing and building the villa was an interesting project. I knew I wanted specific creature comforts such as air-conditioning, a swimming pool and a properly equipped, spacious kitchen, but also wanted the villa to have a sense of place and a suggestion of history. To achieve this, I spent time looking at traditional Isan houses in the immediate locality. It soon became apparent that, over the past decade or so, more and more villagers were replacing their traditional wooden houses with modern brick homes. There I was, admiring century old wooden pillars or ancient hardwood floorboards polished by the passing of innumerable feet, whilst the locals were dreaming of replacing these with concrete columns or ceramic tiles in the pursuit of modernity…
It was a happy coincidence. I ended up purchasing five old wooden houses, lock, stock and barrel, to reclaim those elements that had a timeless quality. And the villagers now had a cleared site – and the money on which to build their new homes. Ironically, the entire team that worked on the construction comprised local villagers like these, as they have an expertise in woodwork and craftsmanship developed over centuries of using these indigenous materials.
I also envisioned a property that brought the outside in, and the inside out, maximizing views, breezes and outdoor living in this tropical country. The villa fundamentally comprises an entrance hall, a spacious dining room, an oversized kitchen, a library, a media room, two king bedrooms, an outdoor covered “sala”, and the wooden deck and pool. Rather than have the standard flow within the house, with corridors or connecting rooms, the villa was designed to have an “outdoor” flow, via a cloister-like, wrap-around verandah by the hardwood deck and saltwater pool.
2) What made you buy Rice Paddy Villa? Was it financial, emotional, a connection with the area, or something else?
The villa was not purchased, but constructed from scratch. It was inspired by my wish to have a place to relax and chill in the tranquility of the Thai countryside, in a villa that married indigenous architectural traditions with practical considerations.
I enjoy cooking, and wanted grounds where I could grow some of my own produce. As such I preferred ample grounds in an agricultural area to a small plot by the sea – in addition to the fact that a site in an area such as this is much better protected from eventual new construction nearby. Thai food is surprisingly varied, with each of the main regions having its own special dishes, just as one finds in Italy or France, and I particularly like the robust and zingy flavours of Isan cuisine. Making a Khao Tom with new rice one has grown on site, or using organic limes picked from the bush and herbs straight from the garden in a fresh and spicy Yam salad makes all the difference!
Furthermore, I wanted a place that was removed from the tourist crowds – somewhere that has remained authentic and that is likely to stay so for decades to come.
3) What’s the best thing about Northeast Thailand, the region Rice Paddy Villa is located? Is it the scenery, the pace of life, the locals, the activities, etc?
It’s a blend of them all. I would reiterate that one of the highlights of the region for me is that it has not been consumed by either mass tourism or by large scale industrial development, factors that have played a role in other regions of the kingdom. It has remained true to its roots, a principally agricultural region dotted by traditional villages where small-scale land owners cultivate their crops, where traditions and heritage remain strong, and where that rural sense of community – so absent in major cities – prevails. The people of Isan are certainly some of the most friendly and fun-loving of the kingdom.
It is also a region of vast historical importance and is strewn with major sites such as the temple ruins of Phimai or Khao Phra Viharn, with national parks and with world class scenic drives. And the changing seasons always cast a different light on the area, seeing lush green rice paddy quilts turn to gold, and hot sun-drenched days give way to cool, clear nights.
4) What are the 3 special touches you add to enhance the guest experience?
1. A local Thai family looks after guests, in person, from the time their flight arrives to the time their plane departs. They bring them to the villa, show them the area, answer any questions they may have either about the villa or the region, are happy to show them around and get them involved in the local community, cook their meals, do their laundry…and generally ensure that they get the very most out of their holiday.
2. Whilst I enjoy cooking, the trouble with self-catering holiday rentals is…that they are self-catering! Most people want to relax on holiday, and even if they enjoy cooking and may want to prepare certain meals themselves or to learn about Thai food, they enjoy the fact that all their meals are included throughout their stay at the villa. This gives them more time to simply enjoy the property and pool, and to get out and about. They do not need to think about shopping lists, doing all the prep work, doing the cooking itself…or even about the washing up!
3. There’s nothing worse than turning up in a holiday rental that is to be your home for a week, and to discover that it is poorly equipped or decorated. We have placed a special emphasis on finishing the villa to a high standard, using local antiques, indigenous silks and cottons, teak furniture, four poster beds with hotel quality linens and mattresses, the quietest air-conditioning units on the market, a kitchen equipped with everything you could need, and more. We want guests to return, so need to exceed their expectations!
5) If a guest had just one day in Rice Paddy Villa what would you recommend they do for the perfect experience?
It would largely depend upon the season in which the guest visited. If in the cool season, between December and March, I’d definitely recommend an early morning trip on the spectacular Talay Bua Daeng or Pink Lotus Sea, which is a five minute drive from here by samlor. If in the green season, then getting out into the verdant rice paddies would be fun. Most visitors know little of the cultivation of rice in all its varieties, and enjoy joining in with the seedling planting or the harvest and discovering how things are done – at least for a while! In the hotter months, there are rocket festivals and other local ceremonies where traditions are still respected, and visiting these can be an eye-opener. Again, just getting out and about in our tuk-tuk, by boat, or on bicycle can be the best way to meet the locals and to get the best insights into local ways of life here.
Then of course there are numerous historical sites such as the UNESCO World Heritage site at Ban Chiang nearby, with its museum and local craft shops, silk-weaving villages, the border with Laos on the Mekong river, snake farms, bustling local markets to wander through, village schools to drop into, forest temples to visit and so much more. …but however keen guests may be to discover and explore, they should definitely also enjoy the villa itself. Perhaps a traditional Thai massage by the burbling pool with a long cold drink, before a walk around the grounds, followed by a dip in the pool and a good read before a superb evening meal, after which they can sit and chat in the sala under the bright, star-washed skies…
To rent Rice Paddy Villa from Charles, please use the contact details in the above link.
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