Editors' Picks

Howie’s HomeStay

Countryside setting, architectural gem, palatial

1096, Mae Raem, Chiang Mai 50180, Thailand

(66) 81-882-8345

See Website

At a Glance

A Boston businessman’s turn as luxury hotelier offers real estate–obsessed sybarites the opportunity to play house—or rather, palace—in the idyllic Thai countryside.

Indagare Loves

  • Sprawling swimming pool facing Himalayan foothills
  • Jerri’s delectable Thai cooking
  • Bill Bensley’s dramatic but entirely livable architecture


A gilded temple rises above the dense emerald foliage in the distance, plainly visible from the massive, black-bottom infinity pool, plush sun loungers and pillow-strewn opium beds placed around this compound. Housing seven-pavilions, with Thai winged rooftops, the property is surrounded by two dozen, distinct tropical gardens. A museum’s worth of mostly Asian artifacts and valuable antiques get displayed throughout Howie’s HomeStay, which is all yours for the duration of your reservation.

Hosting guests was not in Howard Feldman’s original Chiang Mai plans. The longtime expatriate and his Thai wife, Jerri, built a multi-million-dollar export business out of Bangkok. This allowed them to hire Bill Bensley, the Harvard-trained ‘starchitect’ behind several trophy hotels across Asia. Over several years, Bensley built their Thai dream house on five acres. It’s located down the road from Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, but with superior views of the undulating jungle landscape.

After six years in residence, Feldman got the itch to build again, on a larger piece of land they own just down the road. To attract prospective buyers for a test-drive of this one-of-a-kind designer residence, Feldman opened his mother-in-law’s favorite suite in December 2011. It was immediately embraced as a retreat that works for families who want to take full advantage of Howie’s unsurpassed local intel, as well as for couples seeking indulgent tranquility among tropical splendor. After all, you are the only guests in residence and Howie’s goal is to treat his guests just as he and his wife like to be treated on their own global gallivanting.

The accommodations now extend to include the three-bedroom Family Pavilion (so altogether Howie’s can comfortably accommodate around a dozen guests. Under vaulted, 25-foot gilded teak ceilings, pillow top beds are made with Howie’s preferred 500-thread count sheets and floor-to-ceiling windows confer views of Bensley’s signature water gardens, with fish ponds and whimsical fountains. At night, hand-sewn linen blackout curtains cosset the bedrooms in sleep, inducing darkness while crickets and frogs performed their nocturnal opera.

A bountiful lunch chez Feldman might be som tam Thai papaya salad and rice noodle pad Thai, a specialty of the house. Jerri regularly cooks these family recipes for guests, and she also offers Thai cooking lessons in the enviable show kitchen surrounded by Burmese Buddhas, Thai woodcarvings and British colonial water jars. “We love to eat and we love guests who do as well. Everyone ends up feeling personally connected here at the dining table,” Feldman observes between bites.

Depending on guests’ preferences, the couple indefatigably shares “the real Thailand through our insider’s perspective” which may include Buddhist temple tours, nature treks, and Chinese herb market visits. Guests access these cherry-picked activities with Feldman’s carefully selected guide, car and driver, all built into the nightly rate. Also included are all meals, laundry, a generously stocked mini-bar and some of Thailand’s tastiest chocolate chip cookies, homemade by Howie himself.

Who Should Stay

Anyone craving an experience of ultra-deluxe expat living, straight out of Architectural Digest. Couples or families seeking time together without the distraction of others. And travelers who wish to experience a destination like the most in the know locals.

Who Should Not Stay

Travelers who want a private hotel experience. While Howie's only accepts one group of travelers at a time (be it a family or couple), visitors are expected to have breakfast and dinner with their host. Couples, particularly those looking for a romantic experience, might appreciate the privacy of one of Chiang Mai's larger resorts.

Written by Cynthia Rosenfeld

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