Absorb the heritage
Set in a beautifully restored 150-year-old house in the Chanthaboon old town, Baan Luang Rajamaitri stands as an inn, a museum and an award-winning example of community-driven historical preservation.
A Chanthaburi native who lived from 1876 to 1956, Luang Rajamaitri was a businessman, aristocrat and philanthropist credited with importing Eastern Thailand’s first rubber trees and funding the educations of young men and women eager to learn. He received accolades from King Rama V, and a statue of him now stands at the entrance to Nam Tok Phlio National Park.
In recent years his descendants joined preservationists to spruce up the family’s 150-year-old house as part of the larger cultural regeneration efforts going into the old town. Now jointly owned by some 500 stakeholders from the community, the inn received an award from UNESCO in 2015 for creating “an innovative new social enterprise model of urban heritage conservation.”
The beautiful Sino-European style building features original teak floors and support beams along with delicate woodcarvings on balcony railings. The restoration was impressive because it highlights just how fine the original work had been. In the ground-floor museum you’ll find a photo of the house taken before the restoration featured among antique ceramics, 19th-century trade documents and photos of Luang Rajamaitri with his family.
“Such class”, we thought, after ascending the stairs to find hand-blown glass lamps hung from high ceilings and local magazines and maps on a landing, where a spiral staircase leads to a platform for a view over the river. The house could easily be the set for a historical period film. Given all of the antiques, unfortunately children are not allowed to stay here.
Each of ten rooms has a slightly different aspect but they’re all outfitted with antique wood chairs and more of the old photos and documents. In the “rubber tree” room we enjoyed reading a 1931 dispatch on the state of the rubber industry, written by a representative from the Anglo Siam Corporation based in Singapore.
With high ceilings but only 15 to 23 square metres of floor space, most rooms have beds laid out on the floors of lofts accessed by steep wood stairs, a design that left just enough space down below for sitting areas, desks, fridges, coffee/tea facilities and flatscreen TVs. Small bathrooms come with modern appliances contrasted by antique wash basins forming the floors of curtained hot-water shower stalls.
The room was spotless and we enjoyed relaxing on the river-view balcony, kept private by wood partitions on either side. Balconies attached to cheaper rooms on the front side of the building are smaller and do not have tables, and you should expect more noise from passing motorbikes if staying in one of these. The two priciest rooms are set on the ground floor and have four-poster beds along with much larger balconies set right above the river.
Though we adored the design and feel of the inn, it’s not the most comfortable place to stay in Chanthaburi. Beds are hard—really hard—and with only two soft pillows provided for the two us, we woke up with some neck pain. Adding to that was considerable light flowing in through a thick, brushed glass window at the top of the wall, which made it difficult to fall asleep.
There’s also a sense of staying in a museum that might cause guests to tread lighter than they otherwise might, and indeed a sign on the stairway requests guests to “walk softly”. On the other hand, the WiFi and air-con worked perfectly and we liked the various types of lighting available.
Rates include a terrific local-style breakfast served on a wide riverside terrace. After enjoying the Chinese-style rolled noodle soup with fried pork neck, known as kuay chab, we realised that it came from Ba Mai, a decades-old noodle shop located across the lane. Staff was polite and approachable, but the inn mainly attracts Thai guests and English did not seem to be a strong point.
The hotel does not have on-site parking—guests with vehicles can park at the nearby Kuan Im Shrine if there’s space available, and if not you should expect a decent walk down from the nearest main road.
The other notable place to stay on Sukhapiban is Tamajun Hotel, a larger spot offering cramped rooms starting at around 1,500 baht. We didn’t think its comic book style wall murals made up for a lack of windows, furniture and space. Kasemsarn Hotel is a better alternative if Baan Luang Rajamaitri is full, as is often the case.
Address: 252 Sukhapiban Rd, Chanthaburi
T: (039) 322 037 ; (088) 843 4516;
Coordinates (for GPS): 102º6'50.31" E, 12º36'45.11" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Room rates: 1,500B to 4,000B
What we were quoted as a walk-in.
|Standard double room||1,550 baht||1,550 baht|
|Superior double room||1,800 baht||1,800 baht|
|Deluxe double room||3,090 baht||3,090 baht|
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.