Feb 08 2012
Despite being a gateway to picturesque Thale Ban National Park, Ko Lipe, and Malaysia's Langkawi Island, the sleepy town of Satun in Thailand's far southwest remains quite off the mass tourism radar. The town itself is surrounded by scenic limestone cliffs and mountains, has a good local night market, and is home to a unique and peaceful mix of Thai and Muslim Malay cultural influences. It also happens to be home to one of the region's most compelling and artistic boutique guesthouses -- Ang Yee's House.
A standout among the otherwise unimpressive and often crumbling hotels in Satun, Ang Yee's makes a visit to Satun worthwhile. The owner grew up in the building across the street, and after spending some 16 years as an artist, bartender and rock-climbing instructor in Krabi and Ko Samui, he returned to his hometown to turn his vision of a guesthouse and art cafe into a reality.
Approaching Ang Yee's at night, the first thing I noticed was a giant blood red painting of a Chinese style laughing Buddha shimmering in subdued light on the wall outside. The entrancing red lights of the open air bar area lured me further, and once I took a seat in the impressive cafe and garden area, I felt like I was either dreaming or someone slipped some special mushrooms in my tom yum. Whatever it was, I liked it.
The entire guesthouse is a work of art. It's a tad odd and occult but tasteful and exceptionally creative with an atmosphere that's soothing and inspiring all at once. Soft red lamps and quiet yet evocative acoustic music set the mood. Unique Asian-inspired paintings and stained glass windows occupy carefully chosen sections of the dark maroon, amber and purple walls. Ancient tea pots and Buddha statuettes are arranged on spacious shelves. Classic Italian-style crystal chandeliers hang from the high ceilings along with red lanterns. Upstairs, dozens of candles and potted plants cast spooky shadows on deep red walls and dark wooden floors and doorways. The entire place smells of rose petals.
The guesthouse occupies a centuries-old wooden building down a quiet Satun lane. A distinct spookiness pervades the building. It's the kind of place where one wouldn't be surprised to push back a book case and find a hidden passage to some other worldly labyrinth, or notice that the eyes on some of the old portraits seem to be looking in a different direction every few minutes. Indeed, the guesthouse would be a highly suitable venue for a costume party.
Don't let the spookiness factor deter you, however. The guesthouse only offers six rooms, each unique in its own way, but all feature big, comfortable beds with elaborate, artsy bed spreads. Each room has a small desk and some have spacious balconies, but don't expect any TVs here -- they would kill the mood. All rooms share two bathrooms, but with each being a little garden utopia unto itself, I doubt you'll mind.
Rooms are available with fan or air-con and cost 300 to 550 baht -- exceptional value. There's a full bar and restaurant on site, WiFi is free, they rent out bicycles and motorbikes and offer Thai massage at reasonable rates, and they'll be happy to help you find your way to Malaysia, Ko Lipe, or just about anywhere else you wish to go.
Satun might not be on your short list of top travel destinations, but do yourself a favour if you are passing through -- head for some of the most unique digs I've ever come across. Grab a seat at the bar, or out back in the garden, and let yourself drift away into Ang Yee's world for a while.
Ang Yee House
21/23 Tirasatit Rd, Satun
T: (080) 534 0057