“absolutely stunning. Couldn't have had a better stay here” First, I have to say that this is the most stunning villa in all respects. As someone who has a rentals business in Portugal offering top end villas, I am an extremely fussy customer (and our seven winters in Australia to date have never seen us book the same villa twice). Within a day of being here we decided we would be back to the villa for three months next time providing no better recommendation for the villa or the location!!
So, what makes it so special?
First the villa was spotlessly clean.
Second, the pool was as the Australians call it ’sparkling’ (and this is the first pool villa that I’ve rented that has lived up to that description).
Third the attention to detail that the owners have put into this villa along with their property manager. For instance, the outside covered terrace has plenty of seating, they have thoughtfully put in fans and an electric mozzie detractor, the bbq is of good quality and with a new gas canister. Inside, they have installed a water chiller and another water receptacle to use for the kettle as the water out of the tap does taste a bit strange, albeit it is apparently safe to drink. The computer desk was stocked with office type things such as calculator and pens, the information pack in the villa on the area was excellent and there were all types of little touches around the villa that really made it like home as soon as we arrived. For those who need internet, I can vouch for the fact that the service and speed is excellent (better than we have at home in Portugal) and Vodafone mobiles work superbly (as did Skype)
The booking process if I am honest did make me a little suspicious (and I only mention this to give confidence to anyone else who feels the same!). Ian who rents the villa was exceptionally good at responding to emails but they were, shall we say, a little on the short/terse side and as he wouldn’t take payment until we arrived we were slightly concerned that the villa would actually exist when we got there! Also originally the wrong car hire price was quoted (a daily fee was quoted as the weekly fee so when this was picked up it make a significant difference to the cost of the stay – but even with this, just over 400 euros for car hire for a month was excellent value).
Therefore when we were waiting in the hotel for the driver (arranged via Ian) to turn up at the hotel we were a little nervous.
However, we ended up being extremely impressed – the driver turned up on time, and found our hotel (the only driver that managed this during our whole time in Bangkok) and the car was of good quality. He delivered us to the villa, offering to let us stop at Tescos on the way (which was a great help) and Teresa was at the villa to meet us, with the car we had hired through Ian being delivered 10 minutes later (and an excellent one it was too which again can always be a bit of a gamble in Thailand or indeed anywhere else in Asia). Slick service or what???
There were a couple of minor things that weren’t quite right when we arrived (TV wouldn’t work, no kitchen scissors and a toaster that had packed up) but we informed Ian of this the next day, and by the afternoon all was addressed. Again, super service.
Also be aware that at the time of writing there is no dishwasher in operation (there is one in the villa but the imminent connection of mains water hasn’t yet happened) although I would stress we had no water problems at all and as we ate out most of the time, the need for a dishwasher didn’t arise. Also, in the bathroom basins there is only cold water- we found this very strange to start with but learned this is not unusual in Thailand (the showers were hot though and there is hot water in the kitchen tap)
In terms of the villa, it is even better than described in the advertisement and to help future guests I also include some information on the area as it is a fairly undeveloped part of Thailand (tourism wise that is) and it is difficult to both pinpoint exactly where the villa is and importantly the area in which it is located in.
First, the immediate environs of the villa. The villa is totally private with high walls providing total privacy. The neighboring villas are largely owned by expats of one nationality or another but there is no feeling of being cut off from Thai life – indeed the exact opposite – and as I write this at 9.30 at night the only sounds I can hear are the sounds of birds and other jungly type animals (why birds here are up at night is a mystery to me)
Opposite the villa is spare ground which has coconut trees, pineapples growing and various other trees and plants and has a jungle type feel. The villa is located on what we would call in the UK a lane so there is very little passing traffic – the worst (or best!) noise is the cows coming up the lane twice a day. We are very conscious that it has been a haven of peace and quiet whilst we have been here and, as stated earlier, the immediate neighbors seem to live here (and therefore are quiet as opposed to noisy holiday makers). Therefore we have tried to blend in and not play loud music etc (so if you’re looking for a real wild time you might be better off staying in the more commercialised area of Hua Hin).
If one comes out of the villa and turns left, this goes up the lane and on to an unmade road which provide a lovely route out to the countryside. Turn right out of the villa and this takes one up to the village, passing various shack type homes and fields housing cows and chickens on the way. At the village there are a couple of eateries (dinner for two at less than £9 including beers - but take your own wine (usual practice here) , a little store and a couple of other bits and pieces. Therefore the villa is in a rural position which, if one wants to experience Thai life from a position of the luxury of the villa, then it’s a good mix. There are various roads out of the villa that take you to either Pranburi (the nearest large-ish town housing the biggest Tescos I have ever seen (about 10 minute away) and to the coast which is less than five minutes away
The nearest beach is not one I would suggest suitable for sunbathing on as it is effectively a small fishing port with lots of Thai fisherman’s boats and a few restaurants (cheapest meals I think in Thailand to be had and very good) but again, if one is looking to experience the true Thai lifestyle, a fascinating place to go to for a drink, meal, photography or just take in the atmosphere. Carrying on up the coast northwards takes one to better beaches and a plethora (I think even hundreds) of restaurants, all just a 5-10 minute drive away. We ate along here most nights right on the sea and didn’t have a bad meal with the average bill being £10 or less for two (excluding wine. Note to wine drinkers: very few restaurants sell wine but they are quite happy for you to take your own and don’t charge the equivalent of a corkage charge. Whilst in no way encouraging drinking and driving, the roads are good in the area and we didn’t see a single police car whilst here (the biggest hazard being dogs sleeping in the roads)
As you travel up the coast northwards towards Pak Nam Pran the number of restaurants and resorts (all low level construction wise and mostly nice) increase as does the quality of the beaches. Having said that, there are very few people overall who venture to this area (other than at weekends where there are coaches of youngsters down from Bangkok which is great fun to see) and you will rarely farangs (foreigners) are far and few between especially up the ‘ villa’ end of the beach. This has the upside that one gets to see the real Thailand (and we are convinced this will change in the long term as can’t believe such a beautiful area will remain so unspoilt) and the downside that one needs to be prepared for language difficulties as very few people here speak English. I speak a number of languages and I found it very difficult a I am not used to going somewhere where at least we can find a language in common (even my Mandarin didn’t work down here) – but Ian and Theresa came to the rescue again and organised a lesson with Stephan to get the basics in Thai which was excellent.
Coming out of the villa and going south on the coast road we had our best meal (which happened to be our first night and, as I write it on our last night, our last evening’s meal) at a restaurant less than five minute away on the coast (if you visit, just go down to the ‘cross’ (you’ll find that on day one) and turn right and it is on the left. It doesn’t have a name but the food and service was superb (about £6 for two of us)
The nearest big town to the villa is Pranburi which is about 10 min , was very clean and had absolutely everything you would want (although it is a struggle to find what you want as all the shop signs are in Thai). Other than visiting a typical Thai town, with a real interesting port (the police there are real helpful in getting you on to the boats for photography purposes) the other big draw is the Tescos. I have lived in many countries throughout the world and I have never go quite so excited about a store as this one. The array of foods is amazing – if you’re into Asian food then there is every conceivable product available. It is absolutely mind boggling. Most have English and Thai labels but some only Thai. The size of the store is bigger than I have ever seen in the UK and has everything from TVs, household goods to foods (including some Tesco Value and Finest range which I found quite bizarre). And the prices … well having travelled from Australia where the average weekly shop was £500+, here it cost just £30 (excluding wine which Tescos also sell – but only at certain periods of the day – for about £10 a bottle which in relative terms is hugely expensive)
The journey to Pranburi – or indeed anywhere – is fascinating. The roads are good. The drivers really quite ok (nothing like Bangkok) as long as you are aware of (a) animals in the road and (b) mopeds and certainly don’t live up to their reputation of being completely mad on the roads. There are hills and mountains to admire, caves to visit, beautiful beaches to walk along, and especially wonderful temples to visit and photograph. The best ones we found were two minutes from the villa and in my humble opinion, outdo anything that we saw in Bangkok (for a start one isn’t having to push through hordes of tourists!)
If one is after nightlife then I wouldn’t recommend it as there is none – just hundreds of cheap and excellent restaurants to choose from. If however you are looking for a relaxing holiday, an introduction to Thai culture, beautiful countryside, people unspoilt by mass tourism and a great value holiday then I can’t recommend highly enough.
If you’re into golf, it took us a while to get our act together here – the nearest course is Thanarat (10 minutes away) which could be a fab course but is somewhat uncared for although the caddies are fabulous (it is based in an army camp so is an adventure in itself). The next golf course along is Milford (also known as Eagle) which is a disaster area. Then there is the new army course on the right as you go into Hua Hin (very small sign so keep a real good look out for it) which is absolutely super (as are the caddies) and has some of the best views of any golf course we have played in any part of the world and the course itself is in stunning condition. Black Mountain and Banyan are further on at about 25 minutes’ drive. Both are excellent golf courses with Black Mountain my favourite as I haven’t lost a match there yet. The Majestic is about 45 minutes away and the worst signed golf course ever (so be absolutely sure where you’re going in advance) and although the staff and caddies are super, this is one course that must be on the verge of bankruptcy – loads of money being spent on the infrastructure but little on the course which means not the greatest golfing experience. There are lots other golf courses around but we didn’t get to try them.
So I hope this has explained a bit more about the situation of the villa. We loved it as it provided a good mix of a real quality home with being immersed in the Thai way of life.
But I can’t finish without reiteriating how lovely this villa is which was after all. And the superb standard of service offered by Theresa and Ian. As I said at the beginning, we have already booked to come for longer later in the year (although we may not end up staying there in the end as we liked the area so much we are buying a house there) and I can’t believe anyone could be disappointed with either the villa, the location or the service provided.