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At home in the hills

How one woman’s love affair with a remote mountain town grew into a homely resort bathed in colour

Jintana Panyaarvudh

Thailandtoday.co

Pai, Mae Hong Son

It all began when she fell in love. Not with a single person mind you, but with an entire town. The object of her affections? Pai, a tourist attraction in Mae Hong Son province.

And so On-anong Tunsopon decided to build a vacation home away from the urban sprawl, a place where she, her family and friends could escape the crowds and chaos and truly relax.

But as construction progressed and the residence grew in size, she decided to take her initial idea a step further, going from building a private house on a 4-rai plot to a resort spread over 10 rai.

“It started from my desire to live here but once it became a resort, I wanted guests to feel happy and as relaxed as if they were at home,” says On-anong, who also runs a business in Bangkok.

And that was how Baan Kung Kang de Pai resort was born 10 years ago.

On-anong’s concept for the resort is to make it “home away from home”. She designed the fittings and chose every piece of furniture and all the decoration herself, just as if she was building her own home. Some of the accessories are souvenirs she collected from her trips abroad.

From the outside, Baan Kung Kang looks like it just stepped out of a fairytale. The guest residences are painted in light blue, yellow and orange while oversize candy and ice cream cut outs are artfully placed around the property.

The colourful buildings were On-anong’s idea.

Pai is not a new tourist attraction and there were already plenty of resorts when On-anong decided to build hers. As a newcomer, she wanted to make Baan Kung Kang stand out to attract tourists.

“So, I tried to add a lot of colour while also preserving this natural green zone,” says the 48-year-old owner.

The resort offers a family-friendly environment alongside many helpful amenities designed to enhance every stay.

A three-hour drive from Chiang Mai province, the 10-rai plot features plenty of open space. Indeed, 50 per cent of the land is allocated to the resort’s vegetable garden and flower garden and the rest to buildings.

On-anong is very proud of her home-grown vegetables, which make their way to the table for both breakfast and dinner with the result that food prices start at just Bt50 a dish.

Baan Kung Kang de Pai offers five room styles – Honey, Candy, Sweety, Lovely and Cutie so there is something to suit all tastes.

Families will be tempted by the Sweety and Candy zones while guests who hanker after tranquil mountains will find their heart’s desire in the Lovely zone. There are 25 rooms and the resort takes a maximum of 80 guests at a time.

Like other resorts, providing locations for guests to check-in and post their photos on social media is a must. At Baan Kung Kang De Pai, there are many spots for guests to snap their photos.

A preferred place to pose is in front of the mural at the entrance where students from Chiang Mai University have depicted the lifestyles of ethnic groups in Mae Hong Son.

And there are plenty of murals scattered throughout the resort waiting for tourists to visit.

A giant yellow turbine at the back of the resort is also a landmark and a must for photo ops.

Colourful flowers scattered throughout the resort add even more eye candy, a rare find in Pai where drought prevents the majority of residents from planting and maintaining flower gardens.

In the summer, guests can enjoy swimming in or sunbathing around the swimming pool at the centre of the resort surrounded by mountains on all sides. For now, it is the largest outdoor swimming pool in Pai district.

And while Baan Kung Kang de Pai might sound remote, it is not. In fact, it is just a short distance from Pai’s popular landmarks. Temple on the Hill (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) and Wat Nam Hoo are just a few kilometres away.

A little further but no less accessible is Yun Lai Viewpoint regarded as the best place to watch the sunrise. Just 15 minutes from the centre of Pai, the Yun Lai Viewpoint also offers a magnificent vista of the valley below.

Adventurous travellers should take time to visit Pai Canyon (or Kong Lan), an amazing natural wonder with stunning 360-degree views and nature trails that range in difficulty from easy to extremely challenging. Located 8 kilometers from the city, Pai Canyon is a popular place to watch the sunset.

Another must visit is Pai Walking Street, a mere 5 minutes by car from the resort. Guests can enjoy local shops selling street food, souvenirs, t-shirts, handicrafts and water in bamboo tubes, a popular buy among foreign tourists.

Pai has long been known as Thailand’s mountain backpacker paradise, a place where foreign tourists come to smoke weed, drink and hike.

But today it has changed for the better, said On-anong.

“The street is now in good condition. Everything is put in order and not dirty like it was in a few years ago when Pai’s nature and local lifestyle were ruined by too many tourists,” she says, adding that the best time to visit Pai is the low season.

“That’s when you get the full experience and appreciate the beauty of the town,” she says.

 

IF YOU GO

High point: Good and quiet location surrounded by greenery and mountains. Rooms are spacious and the beds are comfortable.

Low point: Hot water in the bathroom is not hot enough.

Pay for it: Prices range from Bt1,000-1,800 per room.

Find it: 282 Moo 8 Wiang Tai, Pai, Mae Hong Son 58130

Contact it: 053-064-450 and 086-368-5556

Browse it: www.baankungkangdepai.com and Facebook/baankungkangdepai

 

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