The exterior of polished concrete and an imposing, hand-carved 300-year old Indian door provides a hint that something special might lie within, without giving an indication of what it might be. We have arrived at 88 Place, located on the west bank of the Ping River, south of the city. Our family has come for a night’s stay at this five star rated villa south of Chiang Mai that has played host to families, groups of friends, business moguls and more than a celebrity or two.
Passing through the imposing gateway, we are transported into a world of delightful contrasts. The azure of the swimming pool runs into a lush green lawn that stands directly above the Ping River in full flow. We arrived at the height of the rainy season and although the sky is blue and the sun is out, the river is a surging torrent from a recent downpour. The garden though is the picture of calm and while my wife and I enjoy a welcome cocktail, the children disappear to explore this exotic paradise. It’s quite a while before they break the calm, rushing up and gabbling excitedly about the discovery of giant tortoises and parrots – some of the more exotic permanent residents. The flora garden is equally captivating with unusual bat orchids, spiky succulents, creepers wrapped around trees and branches dripping with Spanish moss. There are exquisite features to catch the eye in every direction and little nooks and crannies where you can escape to read, relax or enjoy a quiet conversation.
Inside, the villa is beautifully decorated throughout, a fascinating fusion of the old and new. Antiques and curios sit unabashed by walls laden with large canvases of modern and abstract art. They contrast, yet complement each other and were clearly chosen by someone with a skilled eyes.
In the living area, there is an unusually shaped hard-wood bar, perfect for pre-prandial cocktails and leather furniture made for lounging with a classic G&T. On the floor above a rare treat is revealed. The games room with pool, darts and state-of-the-arts sound system. Again the decor is outstanding, polished concrete, leather furniture and is that a Jackson Pollock on the wall?
After a few drinks and being roundly thrashed by the kids at pool, we dine alfresco at a large table (seat’s 14) hewn from a single piece of monkey wood. The food is sensational. Fresh, zingy Thai salads and plenty of meaty ribs and wings, which the children absolutely devoured. It is all unpretentious but totally delicious.
We lounged long into the evening, allowing the kids to stay up late for a ‘midnight swim’ while the adults sipped drinks to a chilled jazz vibe. The river whooshed and roared pleasingly in the background.
Eventually, we relax to the point where we need our beds. The children collapse into fits of giggles at the novelty of having a lift to take them up a single floor to their rooms. Fun for them but vital for guests with mobility issues. Each of the six bedrooms is decorated in the same tasteful style as the rest of the villa and we all sank into sumptuous mattresses for the perfect night’s sleep.
The next morning’s relaxation was only interrupted by a lazy swim and a healthy but hearty breakfast which hit the spot. And then all too soon it was off home again but recuperated, relaxed and ready for the week ahead.