16 May Saravuth – To float without fear, the birth of Loy La Long
In the film Redemption there is a phrase on the wall
“Fear holds you prisoner, hope can set you free.”
I didn’t want to be a prisoner anymore.
For more than fifteen years I worked as a creative director for a big advertising agency, waking up every day and convincing you that you are not complete. You are happy for a short moment and then you are waiting for a new version and I’m the one doing the commercial for these new versions again and again.
The courage to break free
Every time I was stressed at work I took the public boat back home instead of the car. I remember, I loved seeing the banks of the river. One day I saw a rental sign on an old wooden house. I passed it three times till I memorized the number and kept it in my mind.
Imagine, one late Sunday afternoon, you feel you don’t want to go to the office anymore. So it popped up in my head. Why don’t I call the number and visit the house? See if there is anything I can do. I didn’t want to be a prisoner anymore.
What I found
I walked through a noisy neighborhood of Chinatown and entered the compound of a temple. It was quiet, the house was hidden inside a temple. It was abandoned and when I walked into the hallway and even before seeing the river, I stood there and thought, if I can afford it, I will take it even without a project. I phoned the owner, two days later the contract was signed and within two weeks my girlfriend resigned from her job.
Going against the tide
Everyone said: “you can’t do a hotel inside a temple compound!” My family disagrees with me, even today.
They say I can’t run a hotel in a neighborhood like that because it’s not beautiful.
Who will come? Nobody will support you but I thought “why not?” I didn’t care.
Call it stupid confidence, like in advertising, when you believe the idea is going to work but you don’t have any support from your team and yet, you go for it. I knew that at least it would work for us, my girlfriend and I love this place, it’s unique and we are happy here.
The fear of being different
People in Thailand like modern things but I think a lot comes also down to fear, the fear of being different. When you make things modern, you feel safe, because you’re the same as everyone else. I was walking around Charoen Chai the other day and I saw they demolished old beautiful buildings to build the MRT Station and I wondered, why don’t you keep it and integrate it into the station?
You can invest millions to decorate a place
but it takes courage to be different.
I admire those people like Florian from Baan Rim Naam the House by the River in Talad Noi. You know, Flo bought his furniture at the temple but in the end, at his place you feel happy, you relax. Through your worries and fear you sentence yourself to prison. For fifteen years I commuted between my office and home, why?
Work with what you got
I sold my condo to start Loy La Long. We had to work with that budget, nothing more. No debts, no stress. In advertising, everybody talks about concepts. Create the concept. Keep the concept but for my girlfriend and me the most important thing was that we love his place. Every detail we create, everything we deeply love we put it there and hope that the guests will love it too. That’s it, it’s quite free.
Loy La Long means you float freely. You’re floating without a destination, like a hippie.
What is really important?
When I held a hammer in my hands for the first time I thought to myself advertising isn’t necessary but building a house is. This is something you should learn. I had never even used a hammer, come on! It was time to do something for myself. It was time to learn.
Breakfast was calling
I tried to be a good employee but my heart was already at the house. I stayed in the job for another six months and one day I remember they assigned me a project that I didn’t want to do, so I politely refused and said, let someone else take care of this, I’m going to do breakfast for my guests. So I resigned and my girlfriend assigned me as the breakfast director.
The drift of peace
Many of my guests tell me that back in the days they were hippies but now they have money and are looking for a different place to stay.
I try to make my place feel like home.
Our guests are happy just by laying in the hammock and looking at the river without the rush of going anywhere. Keeping it simple.
The beauty of travel
When I traveled with my girlfriend, we liked to stay on remote islands in places where the husband built the hut and his wife cooked the food. We helped them around the house and if you wanted fish for dinner, they invited you on their boat to go fishing together. I like this kind of relationship. When we continued our journey they suggested other areas and people to visit or to stay with. There are a lot of stories, it’s more than a postcard, it’s about friendship.
For me this is the beauty of travel and I hope one day people can free themselves from fear and see the real beauty of the story instead of just a poster of a nice hotel.
Bangkok-based experience designer, blogger, tour guide and hobby anthropologist.
I explore and introduce you to the places, people and ideas that matter