How often in life do you lean in for something great, and WHAMMO, it's ten times better than you ever imagined? That is Howie's Homestay. Everything you encounter during a magical stay there is better than what you possibly could have expected. I think Howie enjoys lulling people with the name "Homestay" in the title, and then wowing them with an experience beyond that of the nicest hotel. There's a reason Howie rhymes with Wowie.
Here's how I would describe it: take the design aesthetic of an Aman resort (but again, so much better because it's Bill Bensley), add architectural marvels and gorgeously curated antiques, situate it thoughtfully in a gardener's lush paradise, plant distant mountains in the view, then populate it with your favorite aunt and uncle. Then invite your family, and only your family, for a stay.
In contrast to one of the previous commenters, we found this to be an absolutely wonderful place for (respectful) kids. You can warn them that you're spoiling them for life, that no Four Seasons will ever match up to what they will experience, but by all means don't miss a stay at Howie's because you are traveling with children. You just have to see the way that Jerri and Howie deal with children, allowing them perfectly to be children while simultaneously holding them to a high standard of behavior AND making them feel loved and welcomed.
As all the commenters have remarked, Jerri's cooking is matched only by her world-class hospitality. While we parents winced at our children's culinary peculiarities, she smiled more and more, constantly rising to any challenge they threw out. Not only that, but she delighted in entertaining the children one afternoon with a Thai cooking class. We wished we had her patience and her grace.
And where to begin with Howie? As with everything there, Howie lures you in with the most self-effacing background story, and then the tapestry unfolds. I think we saw about one fortieth of it, assuring that we will come back to learn more. This is like the house, or the garden. Did architect and client come together because of this shared philosophy on living, that a house, a person, a garden should reveal themselves gradually and with great care? I'll let Howie do his own revealing to each of you lucky enough to make it to his Homestay. Suffice it to say that my wife and I would like him to be our adoptive uncle.
The one sentence I found myself saying to everyone I told about Howie's was this: everywhere your eye comes to rest, it finds another delight. From custom cast bird's mouths on the ends of the rainspouts, to a pair of antique blue lions (Howie's favorite color) guarding the kitchen, to perfectly placed Thai window carvings and finials, to the most beguiling water feature that my children could not stop playing with, there is something to make you smile in wonder at every turn. I honestly regret taking time away to go into Chiang Mai.
The one foray you have to make with Howie is to visit his favorite nearby roadside restaurant. Imagine a place with concrete walls and low slung roof, no front wall, an open stove out front and worn wooden benches at tables, a place you would never have dared to stop unless you knew what Howie knows. Now imagine a perfectly curated lunch there with Howie, as each family member tried something new and delicious. Why couldn't this have been our first stop in Thailand? And that is it, the summation: Howie is the most masterful guide to Thailand; you really ought to see him first and in so doing, awake to so many of the possibilities in this beautiful country.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Beautiful and unique Thai dream house in the Himalayan foothills outside Chiang Mai featured in Architectural Digest, now welcomes guests to the one bedroom Teak Pavilion. A singular accommodation with 8-meter teak ceilings, floor to ceiling windows that open onto tropical gardens plus outdoor bathroom with sunken bath can be yours. Total privacy, home cooked Thai dinners served by the palm-fringed pool, daily massages, car w/driver are all included. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Howie's HomeStay Chiang Mai Province, Thailand