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Uthai Heritage Hotel: From Old Schoolhouse to Boutique Hotel off the Beaten Path

Uthai Heritage Hotel: From Old Schoolhouse to Boutique Hotel off the Beaten Path

/ Uthai Thani, Thailand /

/ Story: Kor Lordkam / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Courtesy of Supergreen Studio /

Like going back in time, a new boutique hotel has opened in beautiful small town Uthai Thani, one of the last few unspoiled places in the countryside. Named “Uthai Heritage”, it’s an off-the-beaten-track place of accommodation nestled in a peaceful neighborhood untouched by urban development.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Formerly the home of “Uthai Withayalai School”, the property was tastefully renovated as a boutique hotel in a class of its own. It was meant to be an alternative travel destination for those wishing to escape the popular tourist traps. An amazing hidden place people often miss, Uthai Thani lies to the north of Kanchanaburi and west of Nakhon Sawan, a major city 250 km north of Bangkok.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

By way of introduction, the school was fully operational from 1957 until 1995. The difficulties that ensued from a decline in economic activity and environmental neglect resulted in it gradually falling into disrepair. But the owner was determined to keep the two-story buildings on the property in working order by checking and repairing regularly.

The owner felt a sentimental attachment to the wooden schoolhouse. After everything has changed, he thought it wise to give it a complete makeover, transforming it into a boutique hotel. In a way, it contributed significantly to the preservation of the historic identity of his neighborhood and, at the same time, attracted new tourists to the area by providing affordable hotel accommodations.

It was a metamorphosis of purpose that saw most of the classrooms transform into hotel rooms while others were remade as reception halls and venues for social activity, including a café and nearby cozy swimming pool.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Architecturally speaking, the renovation project was thoughtfully devised to ensure the old wooden structure remained intact. At the same time, a solid framework of steel was added for long-term strength and durability performance.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

To showcase the small town’s history and cultural identity, old building parts were kept in perfect conditions, including door and window shutters as well as the old school flagpole and the signboard at the front. At the same time, they were meticulous about making the strengthening structure and materials fit right in with the original wooden buildings.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Uthai Heritage Hotel

The overall effect is impressive. For increased privacy and soundproof qualities in the rooms, the walls are built of brickwork and plastered to form a neat, smooth surface. The new boutique hotel boasts the simplicity of a U-shaped floor plan with lush green lawns at the center hemmed in by native plants and well-designed corridors and connecting spaces.

Time has left its imprint. A friendly message on the stairway wall calls to the mind fond memories of old school days.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Because heritage matters, the old flagstaff remains where it has always been as storytelling artifact. Where necessary, new units of construction are added to the existing building plan to support and facilitate new business operations. They include new hotel rooms and hallways providing access to places on the premises.

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Uthai Heritage Hotel

Uthai Heritage Hotel
Parts of the original framework are preserved for their power of historic and cultural storytelling.

It’s a comfortable place, allowing people to feel relaxed and at home. Air conditioning is there, although it’s used very little by guests who prefer reconnections with nature and the sound effect produced by rain and leaves rustling in the breeze. If a journey in time is your cup of tea, you’ve come to the right place.

Uthai Heritage Hotel
Like a journey through time, the U-shaped schoolhouse transforms in to an attractive boutique hotel with lush green lawns hemmed in by native plants.

Uthai Heritage Hotel


Architect: Supergreen Studio


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Chez Mou: A Home Hidden In the Frame of an Old House

Chez Mou: A Home Hidden In the Frame of an Old House

/ Bangkok, Thailand /

/ Story: Sarayut Sreetip-ard / English version: Peter Montalbano /

/ Photographs: Sitthisak Namkham / Styling: Jeedwonder /

The renovation of this hundred-plus-year-old rowhouse in Charoen Krung Soi 44 is more than a home improvement: for Mou Lumwatananont, it’s a homecoming she’d never imagined.

Chez Mou: A Home Hidden In the Frame of an Old House

“My mother was born here, but we moved out before I was two. After building it up from 2 storeys to 2½ storeys, my aunt continued to use it as an office,” the owner began to tell the house’s story.

“However, that business ended many years ago, and it has been only two years since we began making plans for renovation and conversion to fulfill our long-time dream of a guest house and a café.”

This area’s former prosperity is apparent in traces of European colonial-style architecture and bustling alleys that now welcome international tourists and backpackers to the charm of its storied history.

Mou and architect Pok (Wachirasak Maneewatanaperk) from sea.monkey.coconut share views on the value of preserving history through architecture.

Chez Mou: A Home Hidden In the Frame of an Old House

 

The architect explained, “Renovating this great old building, I didn’t want to change a lot. But I discovered it had already changed.”

“An upper floor had been added, and it had been expanded outback as far as it could go. The entire second-storey wooden floor had been covered with another material.”

In line with building preservation guidelines, the architect decided to make clear distinctions between old and new.

They kept intact the front wall and brick walls all around, chiseling off interior mortar to show weight-bearing structures, including wood wall beams fitted into brick arches, and keeping the charming mortared patterns of the original roof.

 

Chez Mou: A Home Hidden In the Frame of an Old House

The lower floor is chic travelers’ café, a wooden stairway stretching up to guest rooms above. Visitors might wonder about the functionality of the steel poles they see set at intervals throughout. It is the by-product of the makeover process, as the architect told:

“This area is a walled-in rectangle, and without changing outer walls and structure at all, we’ve created a new house within the frame of the old one, sinking micro pilings into the root foundation and installing all new support pillars.

“It was important to keep the new structure separate. Concrete flooring was poured on the ground level and separated by a foam at the joints where it meets the original walls.

“These “expansion joints” keep outer and inner structures from being attached, so if the floor subsides, it won’t pull a wall down with it. On the second level, we’d intended to keep the original wood flooring, but found irreparable termite damage, so we had to replace it.”

Chez Mou: A Home Hidden In the Frame of an Old House

Chez Mou: A Home Hidden In the Frame of an Old House

Explaining the challenges of the construction process, the architect added, “At the back of the house, we changed to steel and drywall construction to install walls and latticework.

“Building here was difficult because of the limited space. Fronting on a narrow street made delivery difficult. There was nowhere to stack and store materials, so all work had to begin inside.

“When the inside was done, we brought in the materials stored outside and switched to working on the front. There was a lot of planning involved to make it possible for the craftsmen to be able to work at all.”

Chez Mou: A Home Hidden In the Frame of an Old House

Chez Mou: A Home Hidden In the Frame of an Old House

Row houses lasting more than a hundred years naturally tell stories with marks from sun and wind, just as with marks left on our lives by travel.

Leaving to study and live in England for more than twenty years, Mou could never have expected the winds would slowly blow her back to her origins with a new feeling, one born of love and dreams.

The word “Chez” is French, meaning “at,” or “at the home of,” hence the name: Mou has opened her home to welcome friends at “Chez Mou,” where stories are told by marks on bricks and sweet smiles.

Here is a place full of feeling of release from travel, and full of a bittersweet, gentle fragrance.


Architect: Wachirasak Maneewatanaperk of sea.monkey.coconut (www.facebook.com/sea.monkey.coconut)


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Sekeping Kong Heng: A Boutique Hotel Treasures the Charm of Ipoh

Sekeping Kong Heng: A Boutique Hotel Treasures the Charm of Ipoh

/ Ipoh,  Malaysia /

/ Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Sitthisak Namkham /

In the old town of Ipoh, a stylish boutique hotel named Sekeping Kong Heng not only blends into its historical surroundings, but also contributes to restoring all its former glory.

boutique hotel

boutique hotel

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The history of Ipoh dates back to 1880 when Hakka immigrants arrived for work in tin mines and made a permanent home here. As mining industries continued on the decline, the once exuberant town was losing its luster.

A pleasant twist of fate, the waning days of Ipoh attracted the attention of many designers, who banded together to keep the old-world charm from disappearing. Giving it their best shot, they succeeded in bringing Ipoh back in the limelight.

Among the projects aimed at restoring glory to Ipoh was Sekeping Kong Heng, a small boutique hotel designed by Ng Sek San, an internationally renowned Ipoh-born architect.

The charming small hotel is tucked away on the upper floors of a three-story Colonial-era shop-house complex in the old town. The first floor is reserved for a famous local coffee shop known for a variety of Chinese-style coffees and Ipoh’s favorite dishes.

Its food menu includes the noodle dish called Hokkien Mee, satay, and spring rolls. Its existence guarantees that hotel guests will never run short of delicious foods and beverages.

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boutique hotel

boutique hotel

boutique hotel

To check-in, know that the entrance to the hotel lobby is located on a small alleyway. Sekeping Kong Heng offers three types of accommodation — standard rooms, a family room and glass boxes.

With its location, hotel guests can expect the authentic Ipoh experience. They wake up each morning to the heavenly smell of coffee being brewed fresh in the shop below. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. The same applies here. Come breakfast time, expect to eat with locals and like locals do. Time well spent is time spent exploring this and other alleyways a stone’s throw away.

The boutique hotel’s time-honored appeal blends seamlessly with Ipoh’s old-world ambience. It’s obvious the Ipoh-born architect has intended to keep this part of town like it has always been.

In the process, the hotel’s existing structure is left intact. A loft-style twist adds contemporary feel to the hotel’s interior, while patches of greenery adorn the exterior walls keeping the building cool.

The open-concept design provides easy access connecting the café to retail shops and a flea market nearby. The architect’s thorough understanding of Ipoh’s lifestyle is manifested in the way the boutique hotel is neatly restored. Sekeping Kong Heng now contributes in its small way to breathing new life into the old city.

boutique hotel

boutique hotel

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boutique hotel

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Architect: Ng Sek San of Seksan Design Landscape Architecture and Planning


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Ipoh: A Journey Back In Time

Ipoh: A Journey Back In Time

/ Ipoh, Malaysia /

/ Story: Samutcha Viraporn / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Sitthisak Namkham

Foods, retail shops, and buildings that evoke wistful affection for the past are three things that have drawn us to Ipoh. It’s nice to be back to find those gorgeous old hotels and cafes’ doing very well indeed.

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A lone Ipoh tree, its namesake, thrives in the front yard of the town’s train station. In times past, sap from the Ipoh was the main ingredient in making poison-tipped arrows that kill.
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Old meets new. Creative wall painting ideas add life to the distressed interior of an old-town cafe popular among visitors.
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A mixed variety of buns comes crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Ipoh is situated just 200 kilometers by car from the capital Kuala Lumpur. And it’s not just those visitors. Malaysians from across the nation are drawn here in droves.

The old town sits on the west bank of the Kinta River. Here colonial architecture abounds, the most important landmark of which is Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab.

The white Neo-Classic piece of architecture on Club Road is dubbed Ipoh’s Taj Mahal. In front of it stands a lone Ipoh tree, the town’s namesake.

In times past, sap from the tree was used as the main ingredient in making poison-tipped arrows that kill. Cross the street, and we come before the majestic Town Hall and nearby Postal Service Building. Beautifully kept Neo-Classic details in shades of white indicate they were products of the colonial period.

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koh161017-126
The train station is a beautiful piece of architecture. Pardon the appearances. The Majestic Hotel located inside is closed for renovation.
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A well-kept postal service building is a graceful sight across from the train station.

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The Church of St John The Divine.
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The St Michael’s Institution

The city’s main drag leads further north to the historic Church of St John The Divine. At one time, it was regarded as the largest house of worship in Malaysia when it was completed in 1912.

The structure was crafted of building materials known for the best qualities in years gone by. The exterior walls showcased bare brickwork made of coconut-shell fibers mixed with sugar and egg white to create strong binding agents.

There is a school, known as the St Michael’s Institution, standing right next to it, as well as a mosque, called Padang.

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A journey down memory lane. Well-preserved row houses line the peaceful thoroughfare of old-town Ipoh.

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Small old-styled shops dot both sides ofPanglima Lane, or Concubine Lane,famed for its cobblestone look.
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Walls covered in satirical graffiti abound in public places across town.
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One of Malaysia’s oldest restaurants, the FMS, stands graciously on the corner.
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Vine-covered shop facades speak to an unhurried lifestyle in this nostalgic part of town.

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Left: Tenaca Nasional, Malaysia’s main energy provider, also has an office here in this magnificently kept building. Right: Distressed walls along a shopping arcadeevoke nostalgic feelings on a journey down memory lane.
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Retailers showcase interesting arrays of handicraft goods on the covered passageway of Sekeping Hong Heng, an Ipoh neighborhood.

Heading south, we come to a commercial district on Jalan Sultan Yussufand Jalan Dato Maharajalela Roads. The area known for old-world charms is home to beautiful restaurants, including those dubbed the oldest of Malaysia.

There are a few Japanese-owned photo studios that have been here since the 1930s. Rumors had it that they were here to gather intelligence during those thrilling days of yesteryear. Convincingly enough, the Imperial Japanese Army came ashore in 1941.

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The Old Town White Coffee, a cafe’ chain ubiquitous across Malaysia, has its origin right here in old Ipoh.
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Downtown restaurants are packed when the day is done. There is nothing like mouthwatering collections of recipes, for which Ipoh is famous. Take-outs are available, too.
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It makes my day to drop into a local delicatessen offering Chinese-style flaky buns rich in creamy fillings, Xiang Bin.

It’s impossible not to mention the good foods that have attracted visitors to Malaysia, and Ipoh for that matter. White Coffee, the famous cafe chain, was born here.

The same applied to pomelo, dubbed the king of citrus fruits, and Chinese-style flaky buns with creamy filling. Find them at any local delicatessen. Whilst here, look for the greatest taste of the country – Hunan chicken with rice served with bean sprouts the authentic Malaysian way. It’s heaven on earth.

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A memorial in honor of war victims stands in front of the train station.

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Baan Gongsi: The Fusion of Chinese Heritage with Traditional Thai

Baan Gongsi: The Fusion of Chinese Heritage with Traditional Thai

/ Bangkok, Thailand /

/ Story: Supachart Boontang / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Soopakorn Srisakul and Arsom Arch Community and Environment Co., Ltd. A division of the Arsom Silp Institute of the Arts /

Baan Gongsi, the home is built based on Chinese heritage in architecture mixed with defining features that are characteristic of the traditional Thai style home. The perfect visual blend is the brainchild of Pongsakorn Tumprueksa and Nattanan Pokinpitak of the Arsom Silp Institute of the Arts.

Baan Gongsi
The two-storey home, which is the main building on the premises, features large double doors designed for air circulation by natural means. The interior space is kept cool all day because heat doesn’t build up inside it. There is hardly any need for mechanical air conditioning.

Known as “ Baan Gongsi ”, the handsome home embraces the concept of extended family living along with peaceful coexistence with nature. Thais of Chinese descent, the homeowners Thianchai and Noree Niyom want to perpetuate a traditional lifestyle that values family sharing and mutual benefits. Thianchai’s sister also lives in the same compound.

Baan Gongsi
A garden slate walkway leads to an elevated pool hemmed in by Applied Chinese architecture. Distinctive, slightly upturned roof design makes the main building and surrounding annexes appear lightweight.
Baan Gongsi
The center court pool stretches across the entire length of the veranda. It provides plenty of room for exercise. Meantime, the interior spaces are kept cool by breezes blowing in over the pool.

The design of Baan Gongsi features a Chinese architectural feature known as “Court House,” which relies on a central courtyard as the main engine driving air circulation by natural means.

The well-conceived design ensures the home fits in well with the hot and humid climate of the region. Its floor plan showcases a cluster home design similar to that of the typical Thai-style home of olden days. The main villa and nearby annexes are set around the center court. The sprawling design allows a healthy dose of morning sun to pour into the interior living spaces. At night the courtyard is aglow with moonlight.

Baan Gongsi
Long roof overhangs protect the buildings from harsh afternoon sun. Diamond-shaped tiles at the far end blend well with Chinese-style roofing on either side of the pool.
Baan Gongsi
The slightly upturned Chinese-style roofing is crafted the old-fashioned way. The design makes use of large structural wood timbers for primary support of the roof tiles.

The center court is referred to as “Heart” of the cluster home design. It brings joy into family life and supplies every part of the house with fresh air. There is a stone paver patio by the ancestral home that serves as a venue for morning tea.

Nearby the center court swimming pool means the health benefits of good exercise are there for the taking. Overall, it is a piece of architecture designed for the salubrious lifestyle of an extended family.

Baan Gongsi
The second-floor balcony looks out over the pool and the landscape beyond. The wood deck is reminiscent of Thai-style home design.

From a security perspective, Baan Gongsi is well crafted and based on an interesting access floor plan, which ensures privacy is protected.

Well thought out plan offers smooth transition from one area to another. There is a Welcome Court with patches of greenery where guests are met upon arrival, followed by a stone paver patio leading to the Moon Door, which is the house’s main entrance. From there stone paver walkways provide access to the main villa and nearby annexes. The center court itself lies protected by a lacy canopy of mature trees making this visit a warm and enchanting experience. Because it is nestled in the city center, the home relies on plenty of lush greenery to protect it from noises and air pollution.

Baan Gongsi
The interior boasts contiguous living spaces that stretch from the dining area to seating spaces to the library and all the way to the veranda beyond.
Baan Gongsi
The bathroom comes with contemporary design. The shower room is semi-outdoor reminiscent of traditional Thai-style home. Floor tiles with antique patterns complement the soft white color on the walls.
Baan Gongsi
Lush greenery adds a touch of nature to the central courtyard.

Real wood is one of the most outstanding features here. What makes it aesthetically pleasing is the gracefully upturned roof that is characteristic of Chinese architecture. All things considered, it has been a wholesome destination where nature and culture coexist in peaceful harmony.

Baan Gongsi
The Moon Door is adapted to sport a more contemporary look. The main entrance into the cluster home setting also serves as a defining feature that embraces respect for nature and traditional wisdom.
Baan Gongsi
The home’s front view design showcases the gracefully upturned roof style characteristic of traditional Chinese architecture.
Baan Gongsi
The peaceful stand-alone house of Buddha serves as a reminder of Thai architecture of olden days.
Baan Gongsi
[left] Concrete footing protects timber piles from humidity that could pose a threat to the home in the long term. [right] Primary roofing support is crafted the old-fashioned way utilizing of large structural timbers. The cutout at the top of the pole allows the ridge beam to rest securely for extra durability.

Owner: Thianchai and Noree Niyom

Architect: Arsom Arch Community and Environment Co., Ltd. A division of the Arsom Silp Institute of the Arts


 

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