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Reviewed September 5, 2012

Homestay is a very modest word for a gorgeous property with architectural street cred, decorated with beautiful objects from all over the globe. And yet a homestay is exactly what it is -- gorgeous as the property may be (the photos on the website speak for themselves), the welcome we received from Howie and Jerri made our experience so much more than just a stay in a beautifully curated museum of objects d'art.

Being lovers of architecture ourselves, we were regaled with stories about the property -- the hidden TV, the rare orchids, the occasional transplanted Americana etc. The place is clearly a labor of love, and with hip, overly design-conscious hotels a dime a dozen, the personal touch made for a much cozier experience.

Howie and his lovely wife, Jerri, were the ultimate hosts. Always ready with a tall drink, a funny story, good recommendations whenever you needed them. We were always comfortable, entertained and well-fed. They also gamely took on the challenge of hosting our 10 month old daughter and were such experts at entertaining her that it was hard to believe she was the first infant to overnight at their home.

We seldom yearn to return to the places we have visited, preferring instead to explore new destinations. But this beautiful home and the lovely hosts may have just changed our minds about that.

Date of stay: August 2012
Trip type: Traveled with family
4  Thank shupeshupe
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 20, 2012

Stunning. Refined, classy, elegant and the perfect romantic get-away. Howie is passionate about Chiangmai and has created an architectural masterpiece. Simply first-class.

If you can afford this type of Lucullan experience, book it. Bring the one you love.

Fabulous

Date of stay: June 2012
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Corybantic
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 27, 2012

I'll begin by saying that I'm a little jealous that I'm not the first to write a review here, and I'm also a little put out that the first two reviews are so thorough and well-written. Everything that they say is true: the place, Howie's Homestay, and the people, Howard and Jerri, are welcoming, beautiful, and unique.

Every effort has been expended on making the estate into the perfect expression of Howard and Jerri's conception of beauty, luxury, and peace. Some examples of this include the tiles in the washroom, which were made from Italian glass infused with copper; a set of pillars in the garden which took five years to construct using only one individual builder to ensure consistency; and a light and sound system integrated seamlessly into the grounds and structures which facilitates total control over mood and atmosphere.

Howard and Jerri will also expend no less effort ensuring that you feel welcome and at home among friends. They will guide you to the best food, the best scenery, and the best services.

If you're trying to decide between this and one of the luxury chains around Chiang Mai, there really is no choice. Just go to Howie's. The omelette alone is unforgettable!

Room tip: There's only the one, and it's magnificent!
Date of stay: March 2012
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
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2  Thank ssyang
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 26, 2012

Review for a three night visit March 4-7, 2012.

A stay at Howie’s HomeStay is a step into a fantasy Lanna world of Northern Thailand courtesy of the vision of owners Howard and his lovely wife Jerri and brilliant architecture and design of Bill Bensley.

There are several superb descriptions of the property, so I will confine my review to the guest experience. For details and photos of the property, visit www.howieshomestay.com.

Those looking for an exceptionally unique experience will not be disappointed both in the property and the hosts. I have stayed at many luxury resorts around the world, but this is perhaps the most unique property where I’ve had the pleasure to take temporary residence. Howard and Jerri certainly provide the most unique overall hospitality experience.

To be clear – this is a homestay, not a commercially developed resort. Built as a labor of love to be lived in, enjoyed, experienced, not simply a commoditized branding of exclusivity. Howard and Jerri built an estate they love for them to live in and share with friends. Now they are providing the unique opportunity to stay as their guests and be entertained and enchanted by them.

Entering the property via a wooden walkway over water and through a gate is a transformation into a serene refuge. Every dimension – sight, sound, light, texture, etc - seems effortlessly balanced and natural. One hallmark of the entire property is the impeccable taste in every detail – the extraordinary teak wood, decorative pieces, arrangements, colors, textures, fabrics, lighting. Bold and innovative ideas executed with precision, decorative contrast and aesthetic distinction. Nothing is boring. Nothing is ordinary. Nothing is mediocre. Elements of nature seem to re-introduce themselves to your senses because they are not secluded from living spaces.

Guests stay in their exclusive teak pavilion located in a secluded enclave that provides privacy but doesn’t give a feeling of isolation. Enormous windows on three sides of the pavilion combined with high ceilings provides a uniquely open integration between interior and exterior spaces. During the day with the curtains drawn, the pavilion feels like it opens and extends out into the surrounding green, integrating harmoniously with its surroundings. The pavilion provides a remarkably fluid flow between interior and exterior spaces. At night it becomes an entirely private and quiet abode with the curtains let down.

Extraordinary rare and beautiful woods are found everywhere – floors, walls, ceiling – complemented with exquisite decorative pieces. The remarkable aesthetic appeal is contrasted with high tech features – highlighted by Howard’s crafty hidden television that rises from a beautiful wooden casing at the end of the bed. The television has a swivel that can be turned and watched from the sofa. All electronics are controlled via the click of a button from the bedside master control panel.

Doors open to a glass-enclosed bathroom that views a private garden where one can sunbath, shower or take a plunge bath in privacy. I particularly liked the beautiful metallic copper-esque mosaic tiles. The bathroom gives an overall feeling of being in nature, while providing protection from the natural little creatures outside. Taking a rain shower in the early evening with candles and dimly lit fixtures in the garden was simply magical!

Peace resonates throughout the property. I awoke early a few mornings and did my Ashtanga yoga practice in one of the lovely yet simple salas. Sun rising over the gently rolling hills, enveloped by a mystical mist – a perfect environment for peace and serenity. The mix of green gardens, flowers, water across the form of pool, pond and gently flowing streams. Balance is a key element of the property – green & flowers, water lines, structures, open spaces.

CREATE YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE OR LEVERAGE HOWARD & JERRI FOR HELP

Don’t be taken in by Howard’s schpiel ‘I’m just a working class guy from Boston’. Howard is wise, intelligent and remarkably creative and visionary for a man with an obvious natural talent in engineering and logical thought. Somewhere between Boston and Chiang Mai he developed a keen sensibility for aesthetics. Beneath Howard’s strong exterior is a sensitivity that reveals itself over successive conversations and in the remarkable attention to aesthetic detail seen throughout the property. I have patented the name for him: ‘The Godfather of Chiang Mai’. He knows everyone in the Chiang Mai area and can make anything happen.

Jerri is beautiful and charming and has a dignified feminine grace so rare to find these days. Her completely natural personality conceals the sophistication of an accomplished dancer and choreographer. She also possesses what seems to be in Thai’s very DNA – a wonderful warm and natural sense of hospitality.

As hosts Howard and Jerri have a unique, gifted sense of being present when wanted and invisible when privacy is preferred. Prepared with knowledge of the region that can only come from personal connections and years of experience living in the area, they can organize exclusive engagements ranging from dinners to art/antique reviews to adventure tours. Want lux and exclusive? Done. Want casual down to earth exploration? Not a problem. If it’s worth doing in Chiang Mai, they know it and can arrange it. Guests have total freedom to design as much quiet or activity as desired. They are your personal, real-time Luxe Guide.

No stay at Howie’s HomeStay is complete without (at least) one of Howard’s homemade Western omelettes or one of Jerri’s Thai omelettes. Coupled with a mouth-watering croissant from a local bakery and you have a heavenly breakfast complete with a spectacular view over the pool and foothills in the distance.

Also not to be missed is the heavenly Thai massage conducted in a beautiful spa pavilion on the estate. Guests are free to choose type of massage, aromatherapy oil (for oil massages), firmness, music, temperature – in short, every aspect of the massage experience.

Points for improvement were minor. Some additional closet real estate in the guest pavilion would ease competition for the limited hanger space. Improvement with some simple functionality in the guest bathroom including increased ventilation, lighting & mirror placement, etc. Howie’s HomeStay is perfect for couples but not ideal for children – too many nooks and crannies for little ones to get into trouble.

For those looking for an exceptionally unique experience and willing to explore the unconventional path outside the domain of commercial luxury properties, this private gem and its hosts will enchant you.

Date of stay: March 2012
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
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3  Thank James F
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 12, 2012

Paradise comes in many guises. Howie’s HomeStay is certainly one of them. Total indulgence. Total comfort. Attention to every detail. We didn’t know what to expect. We’d seen the gorgeous pictures, talked to Howie and made our plans. As promised he met us at the airport, entertained us with stories of the area on the 30 minute drive to the house. From the road it looks like nothing, but once inside the gates a trip to an exotic wonderland awaits. I can’t begin to describe the acres of gardens, the hundreds of hidden sculptures, the bronze elephant trunks protruding from the grounds, the enormity of the mirrored outdoor dining pavilion, the moat-like lake that surrounds the house and the too numerous to count private shaded pavilions. And that’s just outside.

Howie's’ HomeStay is a series of individual structures of varying sizes. The one we used the most was the the dining room and kitchen area. Mounds of fresh fruits were always available, a particularly helpful server was ever ready with fresh juices, cool water or anything stronger that we wanted. Howie is a real nutter when it comes to collecting so every surface is crowded with different collections. Wooden pigs, bronze dragons, ritual masks, dancing figures. You name, you’ll find it. The much more formal living room pavilion is a pleasure to view, but seemed too formal for us to flop down on in our casual gear. Howie and his charming Thai wife are very relaxed folks.

The main event for us was the private guest pavilion which would have served the King of Siam very well indeed. A massive traditional high ceilinged room with Thai silk drapes, embroidered cushions, masses of flowers, more of those collections and a bathroom to die for. Add in the traditionally furnished porches, the sunken garden, the walkway across the lake and it all adds up to a once in a lifetime experience.

Want to feel like a rock star? This is the place for you. We loved it. And once we head out to the Far East again we’re definitely going back.

Room tip: With only one suite available you'll always stay in the best. Fabulous place.
Date of stay: September 2011
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
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8  Thank Peter A
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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