Charras Bhawan: Where Heritage Meets Luxury

January 29, 2024


Entrance to the lobby; Pawan Restaurant

Behind the rhythmic sway of palm trees on the serene shores of Khao Tao lies a gem steeped in heritage and luxury: Charras Bhawan Hotel & Residences. It unfolds like a narrative from the pages of history. The estate, marking a century, stands as a living homage to its matriarch, Khun Yaa Charras Sanidvongs Na Ayudhaya, fusing her aristocratic lineage with the delicate brushstrokes of Thai tradition.

Driving away from the animated bustle of Hua Hin, the journey to Charras Bhawan is a passage through time. Down Highway No. 4, veer onto the less-trodden 3325 towards the tranquil Khao Tao village. Here, on the beachfront is this intimate enclave of nine bungalows, endearingly termed ‘kao-hong’ by locals. In this hidden paradise, luxury is whispered, not declared. The understated elegance of the décor, the sumptuousness of the linens, and the perfectly plated meals are all part of the experience designed to usher you into a world where time slows down and the finer things in life take centre stage… because you deserve them.

Each of the nine bungalows split into suites is a private retreat. The décor, an assemblage of family heirlooms and hand-picked treasures, creates a narrative of a storied past, making every stay a chapter in its unfolding legacy. Family heirlooms mark time with silent narratives and guests are treated not as transitory visitors but as house guests. The ambience is one of cultivated elegance with an eye for detail. From silver jugs and refreshing towels on arrival to freshly pressed juice and Spode tea & demitasse cups, the little touches stand out. Instead of magazines, hardbound classics await, with authors like Tobias Smollett, Thomas Alexander Browne and Agatha Christie inviting you to disconnect from the digital hum; reading regains its old-world prestige, encouraging guests to savour each word. Habitual scroll of the phone feels oddly out of place, but if pelting down the digital highway is what you do, the wi-fi is more than up to speed. The landscaping is an artful dance between English garden discipline and the wild heart of the tropics, leading you to a beach. Here, your only neighbours are the soft murmur of the waves and the genial smiles of local fishermen.

charras bhawan the front row3

The colonial-style, two-bedroom Villa Vallaya

Visiting Villa Vallaya: We first checked out the only pool villa on the estate – the colonial-style Villa Vallaya; it once housed Khun Yaa’s entourage. Towards the back of the property, it is the most private of them all. A fair-sized pool fronts the two-bedroom villa; the rooms separated by a veranda with loungers. Inside, the interiors speak to a sophisticated palette – warm wooden accents and bursts of teal and yellow. High vaulted ceilings and large windows offer a sense of spaciousness, allowing natural light to brighten every corner. The silk adds its edge, and the understated luxury extends to the bathrooms, a testament to modern luxury and convenience. Marble finishes, dual vanities, a sunken tub-cum-jacuzzi and ample space combine to create a spa-like environment. The jade green tiles connect back to the matriarch’s preference for the shade. In all this, small touches like the crystal compote bowl with its ornate silver stand that doubles as a catch-all for jewellery or the rattan beach mat that invites you to spend time by the sea stand out. The compote bowl had definitely graced the family breakfast table once, I thought to myself, and here I was, using it for my pearl earrings!

Let’s get Dandy – Villa Cagney: In direct contrast, Villa Cagney is named after Khun Yai’s favourite actor, James Cagney. The first-floor, two-bedroom, Dandy Suite that we checked-in to next is part of the largest house on the estate. Built along the beachfront, this century-old period building abuts the hotel pool and Pawan restaurant. A weathered wooden balustrade guides you to the first-floor private veranda with its outdoor tub and loungers. Teak planter’s chairs add to the colonial charm, inviting you to take in the views. Once again, strategic renovations have preserved many of the architectural details. A shower stall off the master bedroom with weathered hardwood floorboards towards the back is a well-preserved fragment of the old house, a piece of history carefully retained.

This suite itself is a harmonious blend of contemporary elegance and traditional charm. As I walk through the space, I am immediately drawn to a large painting of a black dog, an arresting piece that adds a dash of artistic boldness – a statement against the otherwise muted tones, commanding attention and sparking curiosity.

These rooms too are bathed in natural light, streaming through large French doors. The high vaulted ceilings, adorned with sleek, dark wood beams, enhance the sense of openness, while the gentle whir of a ceiling fan adds a touch of tropical comfort. The floors are laid with polished hardwood, their golden hues complementing the crisp white bedding and the plush, neutral-coloured furniture. Accents of grey and yellow in the soft furnishings add a subtle pop of colour, echoing the painting. Throughout the villa, there’s a sense of understated luxury; from the elegant drapery to the sophisticated decor, each detail is thoughtfully selected. The blend of modern amenities with artistic and historical elements creates an inviting space. It’s a place where one could linger.

Dandy Suite in Villa Cagney

Dandy Suite in Villa Cagney; verandah

A Culinary Ode to Traditions: Pawan, the culinary heart of Charras Bhawan, offers an authentic Thai dining experience that marries the casual elegance of beachside gastronomy with the rich flavours of the region. Breakfast is a joyful fusion where East meets West: a spread that ranges from the vibrant tastes of Thai morning staples to the hearty familiarity of continental and English fare, all prepared to start your day with a smile. Lunch and dinner offer plenty of delightful options with indoor and al fresco seating. On our first evening there, we get the best table in the house: fronting the beach with the dramatic sunset and a near-empty beach for company. The Thai menu straddles the fine line between comfort food and fine dining. Your other option as night falls is upstairs – a dramatic Red Room adorned with family heirlooms, including a cherished image of King Rama IX from when he graced this family home. Here, dinner is an ode to European refinement, featuring straightforward European comfort food reminiscent of the finest upscale eateries scattered across Switzerland. The menu, though concise, is executed with precision, offering a selection of dishes that are as comforting as they are sophisticated.

Another standout is afternoon tea that is transformed into an exquisite Thai-inspired ritual, served in the sprawling gardens under the sheltering embrace of an ancient tree. The experience is crafted to perfection, with sparkling white linen napkins and tablecloths setting the stage for an afternoon of indulgence. As the staff lays out the spread and retreats into the background, you’re left in a serene bubble of privacy, where time seems to stand still, and the cue to depart comes from you. The service is impeccable, ensuring that the clinking of fine china and the whispers of the ocean are the only interruptions to your reverie. In this secluded corner of the world, the bustle of modern life fades away, replaced by a surreal sense of timelessness, where the hours are measured by the rhythm of the sea. When you finally choose to rise, as if from a delightful daydream, the staff reappear with seamless efficiency to clear away the remnants of a tea service that feels less like a mere meal and more like a page out of history. As we leave, I spot a family in the far corner enjoying their tea.

Pawan restaurant

Pawan restaurant

Charras Bhawan isn’t just a place to rest but to reconnect — with nature, with loved ones, and with stories of a family whose roots run as deep as the ancient trees lining the shore. It’s an invitation from the Sanidvongs family to find joy, celebrate togetherness, and create memories that will beckon you back, time and again, to this seaside haven where every moment is a treasure waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re basking in the sun-drenched gardens, savouring the culinary artistry of Pawan, or simply soaking in the timeless spirit of the Bhawan, your stay here is more than just a holiday — it’s a passage into the heart of Khao Tao’s community and the warm embrace of the Sanidvongs family’s century-old legacy. Here, where every stay writes its own story in the sands of time. To book your experience, click HERE.

Red Room; Pawan restaurant

Neetinder Dhillon
With over two and half decades in the media, The Front Row founder Neetinder Dhillon has plenty of stories to tell. As the former editor of several lifestyle, travel, inflight and B2B magazines, she has been in the front row keeping a close eye on news, trends and all things luxe. She subscribes to Pico Iyer’s concept of luxury: In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.

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