+ Bill Bensley
Renowned architect Bill Bensley, who has designed award-winning luxury resorts around the world, tells PAUL EHRLICH where he finds his Eden
My favorite place to kick back and enjoy myself is Mae Rim. I’ve been coming here for many years. North of—and a world away from—busy Chiang Mai, Mae Rim sits at the foot of a mountain range adjacent to Doi Suthep−Pui National Park. This sleepy farming village is home to some of the friendliest people in the world. When I jog in the morning through the orchards and rice fields, everyone stops and says, ‘Sawasdee!’ Even farmers driving their pick-up trucks will slow down and greet me.
My partner and I stay with friends who have a beautiful Thai home here. We started designing it about six years ago and the work is almost done. We have our own guesthouse, which is more like an estate. It’s surrounded by lush gardens, which I’m often digging up and replanting.
The air here is clean, the temperature is cool year-round, the food simple and tasty, and the antiques and artwork plentiful. I love going into Chiang Mai and rummaging through the furniture and ceramic shops. I often justify my shopping vice, saying it’s for work-related projects. But most often the pieces wind up in our Bangkok home. I also try to find time to visit what I think is the most beautiful temple in Thailand—Wat Pra That Lampang Luang, which is nearby.