PHOTOGRAPHY HANS FONK | TEXT PAULINE PRINSEN
Just south of the Thai resort of Hua Hin the civilised world appears to end. The whole area is rural, apart from a strip bordering the Gulf of Thailand, where there are a great many small and medium-sized hotels. OBJEKT©International went in search of Hotel Brassiere, a complex that was designed personally by its owner Yingluck and, which at first sight resembles a Mexican settlement. It is a hotel with character and privacy in which each of the twelve rooms has a unique and colourful interior.
The brightly-coloured, single propeller plane was standing at the end of Bangkok’s modern Suvarnabhumi airport. The passengers seated in the front row practically had their feet under the pilot’s pedals. As it made its way to the runway, the little plane looked diminutive among the wide-body aircraft – it could easily taxi under its big brothers. Once in the air, it was ‘flying as usual’ at 1500 metres with a splendid view of the Gulf of Thailand. In the distance, on the left, was the busy resort of Pattaya. Hua Hin – our destination – lies further to the right, and is considerably quieter. The King of Thailand has his summer palace here and, following in his footsteps, the country’s elite have acquired houses and apartments in the area.
Hua Hin’s airstrip ends at the beach. The passenger building is one that allows you to take your luggage straight from the plane to the car. Most visitors come for seaside pleasures of the quieter variety. The big hotel chains all have resorts and spas here, the peak of perfection being wellness at Chiva International Spa, where international guests are pampered and detoxed, protected from the outside world. The coast is studded with a wide selection of design hotels combining Thai and international elements, including the inevitable lounge music, which would seem to pursue the world’s travellers wherever they go.
OBJEKT©International was heading for something different: the hotel, Brassiere Beach, in the village of Prachuapkhi-rikhan designed and furnished entirely by Yingluck. It is a further 45-minute drive from Hua Hin and some familiarity with the local topography is to be recommended. This is rural Thailand, scattered with protected nature reserves. On either side of the road there are coconut plantations, cowherds tending their cattle and, as you approach the coast, waterways and small fishing boats. As evening falls, it becomes clear that fishing is widely-practised – the sea is dotted with the bright green lights of the boats shining in the water. This is how the locals catch squid.
At the end of the road we had to continue along the beach until our path was barred by a huge rock. That is Brassiere Beach. It overlooks twin rocks which rise out of the sea like a woman’s breasts and which inspired the name of the resort. Legend has it that a fisherman and his family once lived here on the beach. He had an exceptionally beautiful daughter whom all the men desired. The father promised her to two different kings, who unfortunately turned up simultaneously to ask for her hand in marriage. The fisherman had no idea what he should do and in a moment of madness tore his daughter’s body into pieces and threw the parts into the sea. The two breasts landed at the very spot where Hotel Brassiere now stands and, with a bit of imagination, you can see the resemblance of the two rocks to breasts. Apparently local fishermen still regularly make offerings here in the girl’s memory.
Although it resembles a Mexican enclave, this is indeed Thailand. Yingluck created it herself around the rectangular main building, which houses the reception area, bar, lounge and restaurant. The names of the cocktails served here are written in large letters on the wall. And here too Yingluck’s interpretation of ‘eclectic’ is immediately apparent. The long, tiled space with arched windows ends at a wildly-painted indigo-coloured bar sculpted from concrete. On the left there is the corridor containing a classic red sofa leading to the sitting area. If you sit on the corner seat you can look out over the deep-blue swimming pool, leafy garden and the Gulf of Thailand beyond. An opening in the rectangular volume placed parallel to the pool contains a veranda with tables and a large chandelier made from seashells. It all makes the impression of having been here for years, but it turned out that it was only built at the start of this century. The authentic character can be ascribed to the antique doors and windows set in the main house. The owner made most of the naïve paintings herself, as well as much of the cushion embroidery and other accessories. She started learning handwork at an early age, taught by her mother.
The leafy garden behind the main building contains 12 apartments divided over several buildings. Each room has its own character and colour scheme, and has an outdoor shower. One of the apartments has a roof terrace along its entire length and one of the first-floor rooms has a private swimming pool. Among the trees there are expanses of water with large, rectangular stepping stones,, and in the garden, which is separated from the beach by a small wall, wooden seats stand in the shadow of the gnarled trees. The overall effect is of a Mexican settlement, yet the architectural style and the interior decoration were conceived entirely by the owner herself. She built the complex a few years ago, a product of her imagination. Her initial creative inspiration stemmed from her mother and she acquired hotel experience at an earlier project: her Lazy Beach Hotel, a few kilometres away in Pranburi.