Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa, Chiang Mai
“Here in Thailand, we love new things,” Supamit Kitjapipat, owner and managing director of Siripanna Group told Citylife in his elegant office, walls lined with modern art, with windows looking out onto lush green foliage. “There is nothing wrong with that, but we also tend to not value the old, the traditional. Instead we tear them down and replace them. I have always thought that it was such a shame.”
Supamit is a Bangkok man who, like so many others, has fallen in love with, and moved to Chiang Mai. “My family is in logistics and I wanted to do something different. I wanted to open a city resort,” he explained of his move to the north. “I wanted to build something which honoured Lanna traditions and culture. It is OK to look to the west or elsewhere for inspiration, but at what cost? Sometimes you have to consider whether something is appropriate or not for its location. So our aim from the start was to have a very green and very Lanna resort in the heart of Chiang Mai.”
Sitting on 13 rai of land not far from the train station, Siripanna is an oasis of green, having won multiple eco awards nationally and internationally for its variety of flora – 20,000 trees have been planted since it opened six years ago – as well as eco-friendly practices. A paddy field sits in the middle of a resort ringed by, and dotted with, trees.
“I spent a lot of time studying the functions of a resort, making sure that our guests have all the conveniences and facilities they would come to expect from a city resort,” he explained. “But I also consulted numerous Lanna experts so that I could be as faithful to the local culture as possible.”
Upon entering the foyer, Lanna flags, artworks by local artists and hand-carved wooden furniture welcome guests into an open aired reception area. Walk through the reception and you will encounter a mini moat – a swimming pool shaped like our moat, complete with bridges and walls, surrounding a cocktail lawn where guests come to enjoy a sunset drink.
“Of course we are not a historical site,” Supamit says, “but we try to study history and see how we can apply it to modern sensibilities.”
“Siripanna’s buildings are all under three stories, so there is no need for lifts and we remain under the height of our taller trees,” he continues. “Our architects have studied how wind flows so that we conserve energy, and everything from the local cotton we use for our bathrobes and slippers, to our paddy field which is functional and bears rice, is aimed at honouring the land in which we live.”
After six years, Supamit says it is time for a grand renovation. “We have studied our guests’ needs and behaviours over the years and it is now time to elevate ourselves to exceed their expectations. So over the coming months there will be many changes to our property.”
Another of Supamit’s grand passions is art, as seen in every corner of the resort. He first discovered his love for art when he moved to Chiang Mai to build the resort; visiting art galleries, meeting artists and soon becoming not just a major patron, but friends with many renowned local and national artists.
“It was after the 2011 floods and my artist friends and I wanted to do something to help those affected,” he told us. “Many of them offered to donate some artworks if I held an auction, with monies raised going towards flood victims. That was five years ago and our annual auction is growing bigger and bigger every year,” he beams.
Each year Siripanna chooses another foundation or cause to support and over the years has raised significant amounts of monies from its auctions, the most was in 2014, when over three million baht was raised. Between 300-400 pieces of art, donated by over one hundred Thai artists have been exhibited and then auctioned off every year for the past five years.
“One piece was even sold for half a million baht,” Supamit said.
The masterpiece ‘Ratchakan Thi 9 (Rien Diew)’, an oil painting by Watchara Klakhakhai was auctioned off to the highest bid of 500,000 baht to raise funds for the renowned Mahabodhi Mahavihara temple, located in the centre of Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, the city of Buddha’s enlightenment. The money went toward a particularly special project, covering the spire (Royal Umbrella) of the temple with gold.
“But if you look around the hotel,” he continued, “you will see that I also bought many pieces!” In fact, Siripanna has recently opened up a new four storey wing called Siripanna Gallery, where each room – as well as all corridors connecting them – features artworks by local artists.
“We invited the artists to come to the hotel and be inspired,” he explained. “So sometimes guests can walk into the garden and recognise a tree that is a painting hanging on their wall.”
Supamit, who has recently developed, and sold, condominium projects; Parano Condo @ Chiang Mai and Grand Parano near the Promenada, has many other projects underway including Akaluck Sansai, the modern tropical housing project in Sansai. But one thing that he promises is that they will all respect and honour the city that he has come to love.
Supamit Kitjapipat, Owner and Managing Director of Siripanna Group
Siripanna Villa Resort & Spa, Chiang Mai