Tucked high up in mountains, just outside the centre of Pai in Northern Thailand, The Reverie Siam is a tranquil, secluded retreat. It's small and cosy, filled with antiques collected by the owners from auctions, making it feel more like home then a resort. It's the kind of place you can wander around barefoot, in shorts and a t-shirt and sit comfortably for hours in an old armchair at the restaurant, drinking Hennessy on a balmy summer's evening.
Our villa is set back on the banks of the river, a pretty little building that feels almost provincial with its own garden and outside seating area. The bedroom is spacious with a stone floor and beautiful four-poster bed made up with floral cushions and a bedspread. Each room is uniquely themed and ours being the music suite, features an old violin and record player (sadly neither work, but they're beautiful objects all the same).
The bathroom is almost just as big, with a partially glass roof, creating a sort of green house over the giant, sunken jacuzzi bath. The huge windows along the side allow you to soak whilst gazing out into the gardens; it's a shame they don't open too so that you can be surrounded by the sound of cicadas and breathe in the warm, fragrant air, but its still the most indulgent of bathing experiences. Whilst we're close by to the other rooms, (the resort is designed as small village), it still feels entirely secluded, with tall tropical plants cocooning us in to our own little jungle, which after three nights begins to feel like our home.
The walk to the restaurant is through a maze of tall hedges, we get a little lost the first few times on our way back, but whichever way you turn, you'll discover a new hidden area: the natural swimming pool, shaped like a small lake surrounded by tropical plants, which laps almost right up to the doorsteps of some of the suites so that you can slip straight in for an early morning swim, or the sala by the rivers edge where you can lounge on beanbags for an evening cocktail or use it as a yoga platform.
There's a more traditional swimming pool too and in front of the restaurant, a wild garden, sprouting water lilies; at night you can hear the frogs croaking from beneath the leaves. The restaurant itself is open to the outside with tables set on a terrace and in raised room, where a local jazz band plays every evening, sometimes using the gorgeous antique piano sourced by the owners, Sebastian and his wife, from an auction in London.
The furniture is mismatched, each piece having it's own story to tell. As we sit down for dinner in two large, antique leather armchairs, we imagine their origin; perhaps in a gentleman's club or a stately home and now they're in a remote jungle retreat in the tiny, mountain town of Pai. There's something cosy and reassuring about knowing they've lived a life before, rather than having just been bulk produced in some desolate warehouse, and it reflects the ambience of the whole resort.
It's a place that's full of life; the service is refreshingly relaxed and unfussy, the staff members are all warm and friendly, there are no pretensions or rules, wine bottles are placed on tables so that you can pour it yourself rather than having conversation interrupted every five minutes with an over zealous water refilling your glass.
Even the food, a selection of Mediterranean style tapas and larger plates, is hearty and full of flavour; beer battered cod, hummus, cheese platters and thick cut chips. There are no Thai dishes on the menu yet, but they're working on offering a fusion of flavours in the future, and if you're craving Pad Thai, there are plenty of great local restaurants in the main town – a short walk away or an even shorter journey by the resort's luxury stretch golf car.
One afternoon, the hotel's expert guide takes us out to explore Pai's stunning surroundings. We start at the hot springs. “We want the real experience,” we tell him “not a man-made resort” so he drives us into the jungle to natural pools, used by the local villagers for bathing in the cooler months. Of course, tourists have slowly caught on and there's now a small entrance fee, but it's not crowded and we wallow happily for a while in the warm water.
Next is the last village before Myanmar, so remote that the villagers have to walk into the mountains to collect drinking water. The houses are traditional style, made from bamboo on stilts with dogs lying in the shade beneath and piglets running between the pillars. “When a girl is born into a family,” our guide informs us, “the family buys a piglet, which they then give to her husband's family when she gets married.” Our final stop is the famous Pai caves, where you can see incredible formations of ancient stalagmites and stalactites. A river runs through the centre, which we ride down on a little bamboo canoe to the mouth of the cave where, in the late afternoons, flocks of birds and bats fly in to roost.
Our stay comes to an end too soon; it's the sort of place you become quickly attached to and return to again and again. It's quietly luxurious, humble, honest and a little eccentric – so much more relaxing than most plush, over-preened five-star resorts and certainly more real.
The Reverie Siam is a member of Secret Retreats.