Far from the madding crowd

Thailand May 11, 2016 01:00


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Ville De La Vie, a small resort in the heart of the Khao Yai countryside is blissfully peaceful and pet friendly too

Tucked away from the fast-developing valley around Khao Yai National Park, Ville De La Vie resort blends the faded colours of traditional Tuscan villas with the circular stone cottages of pre-Christian times. The welcome is amiable, with two super-friendly Labrador Retrievers and eight horses joining the owners, a couple of retired journalists, in treating guests like their long-lost friends.
 “Once you step into Ville De La Vie, you leave many things behind,” begins Teerapaj Jonvong, a former reporter turned resort owner.
The valley around Khao Yai has experienced rapid growth over the last 10 years with well-heeled families snapping up the once bucolic farms and turning them into vacation villas and resorts. Weekenders regularly drive up from Bangkok and these days Thanarat Road is lined with hotels, restaurants and shopping malls, their car parks full of Porsches, BMWs and Ducatis.
Ville De La Vie is different.
“You won’t hear the bikes and cars from here,” Teerapaj says, “only occasional barking and neighing”.
Billed as the secret garden of Khao Yai, Ville De La Vie is tucked away in Wat Tham Khaowong district – halfway along the small thoroughfare that links Mittraphap and Thanarat roads.
We check into Ville De La Vie over a long weekend. Cars are not allowed at the resort – guests get around in electric buggies, traditional carts and on foot – so we leave our vehicle in the car park and follow the Labrador Retrievers, Mocha and Piak Poon, into the pet friendly resort. 
Ville De La Vie – French for “City of Life” – might have followed the Tuscan village design so popular in this part of the world but the pretension ends there. 
The resort has 10 private cottages and four en-suite poolside rooms for larger groups. The circular cottages – with high ceilings, tiled floors, small balconies, arched doors and wrought-iron beds – are attractively rustic and while I think they resemble the circular pre and early Christian abodes, my nine-year-old niece thinks otherwise. “Smurf house!” she shouts with pleasure. 
“No two villas are the same when you look at the details,” says Teerapaj. From the wrought-iron door to the bedhead to the ceiling to the rooftop sculpture, they are different.”
As if to drive the point home, the villas have different names, among them Napoli, Istanbul, Marrakech and Provence. We check into the Venezia Villa for the first night before moving into Provence for two more nights, where we look out over a courtyard garden brimming with luxuriant plants. The circular-room, with fridge and flat-screen television on the wall, feels larger than the usual rectangular room. The king-sized bed is comfy and inviting. 
The bathroom too is spacious with a rain shower and toilet. A steam room will be added to each villa by November, Teerapaj says. 
The seminar hall, which resembles a church, is within easy walking distance of the villas. The restaurant is opposite. 
“We partner with an organic farm in Khao Yai. From rocket salad to Portobello mushrooms, the ingredients are fresh and organic,” says Teeranuch Yodnoon, Teerapaj’s wife, who gave up hosting TV shows to pursue Italian cooking.
The restaurant is not fancy but it is very pleasant, the perfect place for swapping travellers tales while feasting on freshly baked bread, local dairy produce, organic vegetables, Italian dishes and terrific coffee. 
Ville De La Vie is also equipped with a small saltwater pool. The four large poolside rooms easily accommodate four to six guests. Beyond the restaurant are the stables, home to eight small horses.
“If you come back to Ville De La Vie later in the year, the rain will have restored life to the meadows and wild flowers,” says Teerapaj.
High point: A small, charming place far from the bustle of Khao Yai.
Low point: The Wi-Fi Internet connection is weak
Pay for it: Visit the booking agents on the Internet or call the resort for the best deal. Tell the owner that you read the piece about Ville De La Vie in The Nation and receive a 10 per-cent discount. The offer is valid through October. Ville De La Vie is a pet-friendly resort. Guests pay an extra Bt500 (per animal) to accommodate their pets.
Find it: The resort is tucked away behind Chokchai Steak House on Mittraphap Road. 
Call it: (+66 95) 472 4526 and (+66 93) 824 8378
Browse it: VilleDeLaVie-resort.com.