I was exhausted. Business in Europe, the flight to, then through Bangkok. I was starting to imagine things that weren't there. For example anyone who actually cared what happened to the bewildered looking man trying to check in from his SAS flight to his Thai Airways transfer to Krabi. Could it be this difficult. Oh yes. Mercifully the details vanished until I came to in the care of Thai Air, always courteous and thoughtful, about twenty minutes before landing at Krabi International. Still time for a drink (strong) and a sandwich (delicious).
My goal was something I had never tried before in Thailand, a rental to recover in and from too much exposure to the world. The photos of the Villa Pimmada looked enticing, the owner Soontorn Leoni sounded reassuring with perfect English and answers to all my questions. I was taking the entire villa meant for 8 so he was curious and wanted to be sure I knew what all the costs and services involved. A maid for the cleaning and general help, a houseman for clothing and shopping, car rental with or without a driver or just the bikes that came with the villa. Did I want to eat out or in? A cook would be provided anyway but of course a menu would need some discussion at some point. Anything else that I might want to see? It was very pleasant to set the scene for what I was looking for. My corner of paradise if only for a few days.
Krabi International is a curious airport to arrive in, mainly because although you may arrive at one part of the airport and you would normally expect to be swept up in the security and other welcoming officialdom it is not like that at all, because the part of the airport you are in is not the actual main airport at all. You need to do some asking to make sure just where your luggage might turn up in which of the two main arrivals areas. Of course I was in the wrong one, in a steamy 30 or so degrees of tropical heat and beginning to weave around just at bit. A hand grabbed me and guided me off in another direction: "this way, this way", but where to? I helplessly asked, as did five or six other passengers who were being herded off to another featureless passageway. Several years of travel in the East have taught me that this could be a good thing, or perhaps not. I heard one couple talking in Norwegian and since I know some Swedish I asked if they knew where we were going. They didn't. Precisely at that moment a firm but friendly hand was on my arm, a big smile filled my vision and I was being introduced to Soontorn Leoni. "You are coming to the Villa Pimmada, correct?"
From which point everything went away as far as problems, luggage, what happens next type of things and that fabled magic carpet whisked me away, through offficials, airport exits to waiting limo and off to my home for the next week.
Ao Nang is approximately 30 minutes from Krabi so at that time of night one would have thought the roads would be empty. Far from it. They were full of traffic, people, bicycles (motorised or not) but carrying never less than two people: roadside cafes and restaurants, hawkers and all the never ending life of the far east, night or day. You have to love it as it just washes over you. Scents and sensibility.
By the time we arrived at the villa I was ready to call it a day, so apart from the welcoming basics, lights, layout how to use the service call I was alone in about 30 minutes to appraise my new home. It was large, much larger than I had thought from the pictures and furnished and finished beautifully in a half-Thai but with Scandinavian influences. Huge glass doors slid pack to open onto the patio and pool which looked just too inviting so before doing anything else I stripped off and jumped in. It was fantastic. The well-stocked fridge and bar provided a beer and some nuts. I was set for bed and that is where I went.
My week-away lasted for just six more days and started at seven the next morning. I am still not a very good time zone hopper so I roll with it until I roll over. The cook was already in the kitchen putting together plates of fruit which was all I wanted. Pineapple, rose apples, dragon fruit and other exotic things Thailand is so profligate with. Since our previous meeting the night before had been so short Mr. Leoni asked me to join him for a Thail breakfast when I felt ready which was around tennish. Perfect timing apparently because like most Thais he ate fairly often during the day in various places. We tried his favourite breakfast restaurant and shared a typical Thai noodles, soup, chicken and vegetables starter for the day. Having got all the formalities sorted out we went back to the villa where I was introduced to the maid, the cook, the valet, the driver and the pool guy. And then left alone to get into my routine which was exactly what I did. The next six days were just an incredible and relaxing holiday. I hardly needed to ask anyone for anything, it all just appeared or disappeared as required. The villa is exceptionally comfortable with all modern conveniences (TVs in all rooms WIFI etc etc) and even in-house massage, tours by speed boat, underwater diving, general tourist trips (I recommend the visit to the Royal Orchid houses, about 15 acres of orchids you will never see again) and much more. Transport is either using the bikes or car at the villa. Ao Nang is a tourist town but small and still quite fun. Of course the spread of people is wide these days but it is safe to wander around the streets even late at night.
Mr. Leoni is highly knowledgeable and well-connected so if you want suggestions or ways to fix visits he is incredibly accommodating and helpful. A good example is my sudden yearning to do some sailing. The next day I had a rental catamaran arranged for me and spent a memorable 7 hours visiting the islands near Ao Nang. If you want more than the beautiful pool to yourself the beach is a short walk (about 300 metres) away. White sand and very quiet. You will not be bothered by anyone usually. I would especially like to recommend the Hilltop Restaurant if you want a very special evening.
Leaving the Villa was difficult, it really felt like home. Or rather home without the hassles. A wonderful visit and many thanks to Soontorn Leoni and his lovely wife Jeab.