What happens when dream and coincidence intersect? When an old family photo surfaces, she never expected to see the house she had dreamed of for years…
Not long ago when mini-boutique hotels were quite the trend on the Bangkok scene, I started hearing about a new little bed & breakfast hotel called Baan Pra Nond, located in Bangkok’s Sathorn area, not far from the river and Taksin pier. I love old houses converted into quaint hotels and was surprised and delighted to find that Baan Pra Nond’s owners happened to be my old friend Jason and his wife Tasma, whom I hadn’t seen in years.
The property was a historic home they had turned into a B&B. But far more interesting than the actual house was the story of how the B&B, er…came to be…
Built in the 1930s by Tasma’s grandfather, former Supreme Court Justice Pra Nondapranya, the house was built in the architectural style popular of that time (now known as Thai colonial) for only 8,000 baht (approximately 235 USD or 170 Euros), a paltry amount in today’s money but was a princely sum back in those days. The original property was large and idyllic, surrounded by several fruit orchards and canals. The surrounding houses were owned by relatives, so the whole area was one big family community. It was Tasma’s mother’s childhood home until it was rented to a Chinese family who turned the front garden into a detergent factory. Then in the 90’s the nearby expressway was constructed and the municipal government took ownership of most of what had been their huge garden. The detergent factory moved out and the house was left abandoned for 15 years.
But Tasma grew up not knowing any of this. She found all this out only recently as an adult, and by accident.
“I lived in this area and I used to drive past this big empty old house every day on the way to work. I always looked at this place and thought how sad it was that it was so deserted and run down, and how pretty it would be if someone fixed it up and turned it into a little hotel,” says Tasma, who all this time had no idea who owned this house.
One day her mother showed her some old photos of her childhood home and Tasma was amazed to recognize the house in the old photos. It was the same abandoned house she had been staring at every day on her way to work!
Jason and Tasma loved travelling and always looked for cozy little bed & breakfast places with unique charm and character instead of big hotels when they travelled. Inspired by their many stays at quaint little B&Bs abroad, the couple decided they wanted to create their own after their honeymoon at a lovely B&B in South Africa. They both worked as advertising agency creative directors, working long hours for demanding corporate clients. Tasma was burnt out from her grueling, stressful ad agency career and longed for a calmer lifestyle. She convinced her mother, aunts and uncle to let her take over the house and turn her dream into reality.
They spent a year renovating the house, built an additional wing, added a swimming pool in the back and installed a fountain in the front for good feng shui.
The hotel is furnished with original family furniture, which amazingly had been kept in excellent condition, and family portraits.
Even Tasma’s grandfather’s teak wedding bedroom set is beautifully preserved in the Grand Deluxe room, gleaming as if it were still new.
What do they love most about running this place?
“ Meeting new people!” says Jason, who is half-Thai / half-American, grew up in New York and Bangkok, and has befriended many of their repeat guests. . “It’s like having house guests” he laughs. And for Tasma, it’s restoring the family legacy; “My mother is very happy to with the results” says Tasma.
When you stay at Baan Pra Nond, you might come down to breakfast to find the friendly owners making waffles and French pressed coffee for you in the kitchen.
“I look up recipes and try making new things. There’s no set breakfast menu. Some days I feel like making American pancakes and some days its hot fresh Thai congee from the nearby market, so the guests don’t get bored. We offer tea and coffee all day, there are plenty of good places to eat around here and I give them tips on where to eat around Bangkok for other meals. Sometimes I even like exploring new places with my guests,” says Jason, “the other day we took a boat up the river to try out a new restaurant near the Grand Palace with one of our repeat guests who is a travel writer and has become a good friend.”
Escaping the exhausting corporate grind to run your own cozy little B&B might sound like a lifestyle dream come true to some people, but it can sometimes mean a different kind of overtime – a lot of extra housework, like mopping the floors and cleaning the bathrooms yourself if the housekeeper disappears. Or cleaning the pool when the gardener doesn’t show up for work.
We sat in comfy sofas in the jade-toned living room, looking out the old French doors at the greenery outside, with Logan lying contentedly by our feet.
I asked Tasma if she ever misses the bustle and excitement of her former ad agency job and if she’d ever go back to it. “Never! Never!” she exclaimed, firmly shaking her head. “I’d rather take care of my own place and run my own business than go back to the ad agency life again! I’m perfectly happy right here.”
Have you been to a unique B&B in your travels? What was your favourite experience and where?