A Jungle Unicorn: Monoceros Resort
Paul Eenhoorn sits down at a table in the open air restaurant and orders us a coffee. The sun is softly shining through the layers of green bamboo towering over the entrance and the sounds of birds’ wings flap around us. We are here to experience the one and only Monoceros Resort — a small tree-filled haven in northern Thailand.
As freshly ground coffee begins to percolate, we are taken on a journey by Paul who tells of how he ended up being in Thailand as the owner of this unique, green and peaceful resort. “I was in Thailand over 12 years ago when I visited Chiang Mai and fell in love,” he explained. “Back then, it was very different and by the time you made it to Mae Rim and further still, the land was almost all jungle.” With a growing love of the natural setting around the foothills of Northern Thailand, Paul took the opportunity to buy up some land with a dream of one day building a home or something similar and retiring here for good.
After a few years back in Europe with his partner Peerapong ‘Oom’, Paul let the land sit and grow, bamboo taking over the roadside and old teak trees spreading their roots inside. “Once we finally made it back to Thailand I soon became inspired to create a resort based on a really unique village I saw in Phrae,” Paul said as fresh coffee was served, momentarily breaking up our conversation. “Each individual room is designed in this Phrae way, some describing it as old colonial teak trader homes, while others suggesting they look more like gingerbread houses.”
Either way, the ten rooms at Monoceros Resort are both cosy and spacious, Thai but western, a true fusion of styles that fit perfectly between the green foliage that they endeavoured to keep. “It was hard to explain to the construction company that we didn’t want to lose any of the trees, as they usually level a piece of land before building on it,” he explained. “I was so keen to keep all the trees that once the foundation markers were laid out, I realised that the restaurant building would force a tree to be cut down, so I moved the entire thing just 40cm to the left. They thought I was crazy, but in the end we had to remove just two trees from the whole plot of land.”
Paul’s surname means unicorn in Dutch, so as a tribute to his family, Monoceros Resort is named after the word for unicorn in Ancient Greek — the constellation of Monoceros. This resort is a sort of unicorn in itself, as its existence is almost unbelievable unless you see it with your own eyes. Each nook and cranny of the resort is filled with something green or something stylish, and a real contrast is formed between good taste and natural wonders. The resort is also home to a salt-water swimming pool, a massage pavilion and a herb garden.
The restaurant serves up a selection of incredible Thai and Isaan food from North-eastern Thailand that is hard to find in the area. “The menu is actually Oom’s mother’s creation,” explained Paul. “She is a talented home cook and she has inspired our chefs to create some really unique and hard to find Isaan food. In addition we have a selection of Thai-Chinese dishes and Western dishes too.” Most days you can see the chefs walking to the herb garden to pick the fresh herbs and vegetables used in the day’s cooking. As we sip our coffees, butterflies swam over a small potted basil plant and the calls of birds ring out over the veranda.
“Our resort is full of trees so birds often nest and live in and around us,” Paul says. “In fact, there are over 40 types of birds living in this area, including the noisy Asian Koel and the soft coos of owls at dusk.”
Many guests visit to escape the big city, clear their mind and enjoy colourful nature during their stay. Although the resort lends itself to relaxing, with only a pool and verandas to sit and take time to read a book or admire the weather, they can arrange bespoke tours of the local area including trips to waterfalls, elephant camps, ziplines, botanical gardens, art galleries and city markets. “We tailor each trip to the needs and interests of our guests, so we don’t offer any set packages for people,” Paul said as the coffee ran dry. “We like to get to know our guests personally, learn about their tastes and offer them a truly bespoke experience inside and outside of the resort.”
As we reluctantly left the resort, our minds felt cleansed by the calming atmosphere of the resort. Although we live just in town, there is no doubt that we will be back again, this time for longer — ensuring we make the absolute most of our time at the resort away from the city, away from noise and lost in a sea of trees, birdsong and pleasant company.
Kitchen open daily 7am- 9pm
Tel. 088 251 3962