We are somewhat pleasantly ensconced in a “homestay” “resort” in Mae On called La Bhu Salah. I say “homestay” because that’s a term referring to accommodations that may actually be in someone’s home or at least feel like home. The “resort” reference is another term with is used here very loosely. There are so many “resorts,” one could easily be confused as to what it means. It could mean everything from spa services on site, complete with pool, restaurant, as well as other exercise diversions such as tennis, all the way to nothing more than “a place to stay out of town.”
I say ensconced because we have been treated to a one bedroom “apartment” at this site, furnished with hardwood furniture, concrete floors, hardwood doors and windows. The only thing soft in this particular room is the mattress, which is significant because the original room given to us when we arrived had the hardest mattress I’ve slept on in these parts, which is saying something in a region of the world that generally has hard mattresses everywhere. It felt like I’d been sentenced to hard labor through the night.
La Bhu Salah is the dream of a Thai native, Vatcharin Bumichitir who spent many years in London as an artist and decorator renovating houses and working as a chef. He’s published a half-dozen cookbooks and eventually returned to Thailand with the resources to purchase this large wooded property. He build a couple of Tai Lu-style large houses here suitable for group or family use, smaller accommodations, hotel rooms, a restaurant, lush landscaping, a shrine, waterways and a pond. “Vatch” also lends support to a local monastery as well as an orphanage operated by the monastery.
I knew nothing of any of this when I originally booked the reservation.
The room itself was constructed of recycled hardwood from local farms and structures. There are also two large rooms displaying his personal creations along with old Thai ceramics, masks, framed textiles, a series of drawings depicting various traditional tribal dress styles. There is also a mural depicting his vision of the property as a small traditional Thai village.
The restaurant is simple, only offering a few dishes per night. But they are his creations and prepared either by his own hand or trained staff. Among the displays in the dining area is a bookcase housing textiles for sale along with his Thai cookbooks.
La Bhu Salah may be rustic for some tastes, but the warmth of the staff and the ambience are what make it special.
It’s also less than a kilometre from a small village at the junction of two major roads, one leading to the very popular Sankampaeng Hot Springs, the other leading into the mountains toward another popular local tourist zip-line attraction called “Flight of the Gibbon.” Surrounding this attraction, winding up a very steep road to the top of a mountain, is a string of coffee shops, restaurants and gift shops. On the road to this area from Sankampaeng is also a string of landscaping companies that literally stretch for a kilometre on both sides of the road, displaying every variety of indigenous tree and bush, flowers and fruit-bearing plants.
Heading to Bangkok tonight and Koh Chang tomorrow.