Com­ing home to bangkok

Time­less prom­ise of lux­ury

World Travel Magazine - - Where To Stay Bangkok - BY SHEE­TAL RAS­TOGI

We didn’t ex­pect that the COO of the brand that ren­o­vated a for­mer North­ern head­quar­ters of the East Bor­neo Trad­ing Com­pany once played golf with Bob Hope––al­most break­ing his nose––and prefers rid­ing ele­phants to horses dur­ing polo matches. This gives you a win­dow into the exclusive and in­spir­ing world of 137 Pil­lars Ho­tel & Re­sorts and COO Christo­pher E. Stafford.

When we caught up with Christo­pher in Bangkok, he shared a few sto­ries about grow­ing up with lux­ury travel in Africa. An ex­trav­a­gant child­hood ex­posed him to em­bassy din­ners, ex­otic travel and great events when his fam­ily lived in Ad­dis Ababa. He par­tic­u­larly en­joyed the great his­toric ho­tels he vis­ited around the world es­pe­cially in Europe, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

With the fa­ther sta­tioned in Kuala Lumpur when the Shangri-las and other ho­tel greats broke ground in Asia, he de­vel­oped a pas­sion for de­tail and a won­der­ful feel­ing of true lux­ury. But he learned the busi­ness from the ground up with his first job as a bell­boy at the Park Av­enue Ho­tel in Gothen­burg Swe­den, his home­town, when he was only six­teen.

“I was fas­ci­nated by the com­ings and go­ings of fa­mous peo­ple and knew I wanted to be part of this amaz­ing world of hos­pi­tal­ity.”

Thai­land cap­ti­vated Christo­pher on his first visit. He con­fided that the coun­try wel­comed him at a dif­fi­cult point in his life and saved and in­spired him at the same time be­cause of the ex­cel­lent hos­pi­tal­ity he ex­pe­ri­enced. He be­gan to feel at­tached to a place in a way he never had be­fore.

“I have now been here seven­teen years. It is my home. My wife is Thai. I love this coun­try, its cus­toms, and its peo­ple––they have all been very good to me. I have learned more pa­tience, more about love and life in this coun­try than any­where. Thank you, Thai­land.”

In­spired by the unique his­tory of the 125-year-old Baan Bor­neo (137 Pil­lars House), a one-time North­ern of­fice of the East Bor­neo Trad­ing Com­pany,

Christo­pher be­lieves it com­bines all things lux­ury–– spa­cious­ness, na­ture’s time­less beauty, and the ar­chi­tec­tural won­der of the teak house which em­bod­ies the warmth of home in an ex­otic set­ting with a unique her­itage. Stay­ing true to this con­cept, he is in­ter­ested in build­ing a brand with a pure fo­cus on the tra­di­tions of lux­ury when the idea was just known as hos­pi­tal­ity, rather than the def­i­ni­tion of a busi­ness em­pire.

In Bangkok and Phuket, two lux­ury prop­er­ties have been de­signed with mod­ern build­ings and eco­log­i­cal tech­nol­ogy in mind. Each of the new prop­er­ties fea­tures a Jack Bain’s Bar and the exclusive Leonowens Club for their in­vited mem­bers, form­ing the his­tor­i­cal con­text that links 137 Pil­lars Ho­tels & Re­sorts to each other.

The Bangkok Trad­ing Post Restau­rant

re­flects the brand’s her­itage, harken­ing back to the days when the East Bor­neo Com­pany was a tim­ber trad­ing com­pany. Break­fast and cof­fee at the Bangkok Trad­ing post is pop­u­lar amongst neigh­bours in the res­i­den­tial set­ting of the ho­tel and is also pop­u­lar amongst the Ja­panese ex­pats liv­ing in Bangkok.

137 Pil­lars Suite Bangkok’s Sukhothai Suites are per­fect for both busi­ness and leisure trav­ellers with a huge bath­room fea­tur­ing a colos­sal bath­tub ready to soak the day away with care­fully selected

Thai Pan­puri bath ameni­ties in jas­mine and mint fra­grances. Af­ter­wards, en­joy your view of the res­i­den­tial Sukhumvit

neigh­bour­hood from your huge pri­vate

bal­cony or sprawled on a daybed.

Quite sim­ply, Christo­pher ar­tic­u­lates the brand in three words––hos­pi­tal­ity

pas­sion­ately cu­rated––and en­deav­ours to give in­di­vid­ual and gen­uine at­ten­tion to each guest to cre­ate a chance at a longterm re­la­tion­ship with their cus­tomer base.

Their her­itage is firmly es­tab­lished in the an­nals of his­tory at the Baan Bor­neo. When 137 Pil­lars House opened in 2011, the team be­came mes­merised at their strong feel­ing of con­nect­ed­ness to the Chi­ang Mai ho­tel.

“I knew then that with the greatness and kind­ness of our own­ers, the Thai staff and our in­ter­na­tional staff that we could build a cul­ture.”

They de­vel­oped this feel­ing into the 137 Pil­lars Roadmap based on trust and hope to cre­ate a time­less cul­ture that de­liv­ers on an eter­nal prom­ise of lux­ury. Set up to some ex­tent on old tra­di­tions, but more im­por­tantly on stay­ing rel­e­vant in the mod­ern era.

And what’s more rel­e­vant than a good time? Lux­ury and fun seem to go hand in hand. When we asked Christo­pher for a hu­mor­ous mo­ment from his three decades in lux­ury hos­pi­tal­ity he had plenty to choose from, but his en­counter with Bob Hope was our favourite.

Seems the even­ing started play­ing night golf with the celebrity in the gar­dens of the Bali Hai Moorea, Tahiti, when Christo­pher was the Gen­eral Man­ager. Later, Christo­pher and his wife had din­ner with the Hopes in their suite, when his wife ac­ci­den­tally pushed the cur­tain off its hinges, and the rod landed on Bob Hope’s fa­mous curved nose.

Bob said, “Care­ful Madam! This nose is in­sured for 600 mil­lion dol­lars!”

Other than har­row­ing aprés night­golf­ing din­ners with fa­mous celebri­ties, Christo­pher says his big­gest chal­lenge turned into a tri­umph when he along with his old friend, David Keen of Quo De­sign Group, con­vinced the own­ers of the ben­e­fits of ex­tend­ing the brand. To­gether they cre­ated a per­sua­sive ar­gu­ment to make the req­ui­site in­vest­ment for the long term.

One of these in­vest­ments in­volved con­tract­ing Well­ness Con­sul­tant, Roger Moore, to de­sign a blend of holis­tic and well­ness ther­a­pies to en­hance their abil­ity to de­liver a higher level of ex­pe­ri­ence in the spa, in­cor­po­rat­ing the en­tire well­ness spec­trum. A unique Sleep Ther­apy will be de­ployed in all their suites thus, be­yond the heav­enly bed, they will also cre­ate con­di­tions for bliss­ful sleep.

Bangkok’s NITRA Spa & Well­ness

fa­cil­i­ties will in­cor­po­rate na­ture and Phuket will fea­ture a rain­for­est el­e­ment within the spa ex­pe­ri­ence. Their prod­ucts are or­ganic and lo­cally sourced with ther­a­pists trained ex­ten­sively to cater to the in­di­vid­ual, adapt­ing treat­ments ac­cord­ingly. They are also ex­tend­ing this in­di­vid­u­alised pro­gram to their fit­ness fa­cil­i­ties re­plete with per­sonal train­ers and state-of-the-art equip­ment.

And last but not least, Christo­pher hu­moured us by an­swer­ing some rapid­fire ques­tions––

Cur­rent reads? A Life’s Work, The King of Thai­land, Un­der the Mango Tree

by Maxwell Michel, and The Power of 48

by Richard Greene

Last down­load? “Our Last Sum­mer” from Mamma Mia

In parting, he con­fessed to be­ing a hope­less ro­man­tic and in love with Greece. Thank you, Christo­pher, we en­joyed learn­ing more about the pas­sion be­hind your in­spir­ing jour­ney that helped to de­velop the 137 Pil­lars Ho­tel & Re­sorts brand in Thai­land. Please stay away from cur­tain rods, and we wish you well in your next polo match.

137pil­larsho­tels.com

From left, Rat­tanakosin Suite - Liv­ing Room; Christo­pher E. Stafford, COO 137 Pil­lars Ho­tels & Re­sorts Op­po­site, Nim­itri Restau­rant

From left, Bangkok Trad­ing Post Restau­rant in­te­rior; Sukhothai Suite - bath­room

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