By Adam Purcell
A STACK of international design magazines, post-it notes tacked to many of the pages, is the first indication that M.L. Laksasubha Kridakon, affectionately known as Mom Lak, is an ideas junky. Piled high on a coffee table in her beachside home, the magazines suggest hours spent poring over the pages, each image carefully considered before being marked as official inspiration.
Mom Lak’s schedule, however, doesn’t permit for such lengthy perusals. As the owner, manager, and glamorous face behind Hua Hin’s award-winning Baan Laksasubha Resort, a secluded beachside retreat at the heart of which lies her home, Mom Lak is the lifeblood of the resort’s success – on call 24/7 to tend to guests’ needs, motivate staff, and shape a personalized resort that, devoid of any international branding, offers a five-star accommodation experience without sacrificing any of its own unique Thai character.
In between all this, she’s also a loving mum, a doting daughter, and member of both the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok and The Rotary Club of Royal Hua Hin.
The daughter of Khun Abha and M.R. Suttiswat Kridakorn, a diplomat, Mom Lak has been travelling the world since the age of two, when her father was posted to the Thai embassy in Paris, France.
“My upbringing was very interesting,” she says in the kind of well-spoken, semi-American accent normally associated with third-culture kids. “We’d move on average every three to five years. So from Paris we went to Buenos Aires, Argentina for five years; then to Sydney, Australia. It was a great experience for me, and gave me a great chance to learn how different cultures operate.”
In Australia Mom Lak began following in her father’s footsteps by studying Political Sciences at the University of Canberra, and when she returned to Thailand in the early ’80s she began working for the UN. For seven years she conducted research for the social development division, which focused on women’s roles and specialized youth schemes, and this fostered in her a real love for helping to make a difference in people’s lives.
During this time she also met Dr.Kortsak Chutikul, an up and coming star in foreign affairs whom she married in 1987. A daughter, Abhasiri, and son, Thira, soon followed, and then, in 1991, Dr.Kortsak received his first ambassadorial posting which took the family to Czechoslovakia – just after the Velvet Revolution had restored democracy, and just before parliament peacefully dissolved the country and formally separated it into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.
“Now those were definitely interesting times,” says Mom Lak, breaking into a wide smile. “So many big changes for the country.
"They were very happy times too,” she continues. “I forged a close friendship with Mrs Livia, the wife of President Vaclav Klaus (a special bond which still exists today), and my father was Ambassador to Hungary, meaning my parents were just a five-hours’ drive from Prague and they’d visit the kids most weekends.
“Life was just perfect. Two beautiful kids, great friends, parents close by. Just wow.”
But then tragedy struck.
“Good things never last,” Mom Lak says, wistfully. “My father went to a European Ambassadors’ meeting in Brussels and he never made it back to Budapest; when he returned to Prague to pick up my mother he was terribly ill. Post Velvet Revolution, medication in Prague was sparse, so, after a frantic two weeks of doing border runs to Germany to get medication for him, I arranged for him to be taken by Air Ambulance to London. But when he arrived it was too late for him to be saved.”
Losing a father is a huge blow for anyone, but for Mom Lak the loss hit her twice as hard – more than just a dad, he was also a source of much inspiration.
“Dad really taught me how to live my life as a humble person,” she says. “And despite all the hi-so hobnobbing, and close ties with luminaries from many countries, that’s what I’ve always aspired to do.”
Mom Lak, the great-granddaughter of HRH Prince Nares, certainly isn’t your typical hi-so Thai. There are certain class indicators when we meet her – a Louis Vuitton Handbag clutched under her arm, a magazine award for best dressed woman on top of a cabinet – but as anyone who’s ever met her can attest, she’s the human equivalent of tea and toast – warm, down to earth, and instantly comforting.
“Life is not about being trendy or having the best handbags,” she says, waving her Louis Vuitton with a chuckle. “The value of a person is not what you see on the outside but what’s projected from the inside. Being humble, being morally correct, being willing to help others and make a difference – that’s what my father taught me. That’s how he raised me. And following this is what makes me happy.”
A huge chunk of happiness was torn from Mom Lak’s life the day her father died, replaced, instead, with a gloomy void which cast a dark shadow over her usually bright demeanor. In the darkness she worried about her mother being alone, and she worried about the future. But, then, a ray of light: the chance to establish herself as a successful businesswoman.
“In 1993 I returned to Thailand as a single mum to take care of my own mother, and not long after returning I was contacted by Mrs Livia who told me she missed me and that she had a great idea for a business venture – importing Czech crystals into Thailand.
“So she introduced to me to various crystal manufacturers, my mum and I opened a shop in Bangkok on Sukhumvit 33, and we began importing crystal products reflecting the Rama V period. Business was good, and I spent a lot of time flying between Thailand and the Czech Republic.
“After a year or so I saw that my mum was much happier and I began reflecting again on what I wanted to do. I mean, I love designing products, but I hated sales. I had dreamed of owning a pre-school of my own since my kids were young – a place where I could really make a difference. So at the end of 1994 I did just that: together with a teacher from Bangkok Patana, I opened the First Steps preschool on Sukhumvit 43.”
The First Steps preschool began its operations that year with 30 pupils. When Mom Lak sold it 16 years later, in 2010, it had 140 pupils and a reputation for being an essential stepping stone for any child about to enter one of Thailand’s best international schools.
“Running the school was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” she says. “I felt like I was really making a difference to the kids’ lives and I guess I can proudly say I was – some of the kids from way back then have contacted me to tell me how much their time at First Steps has influenced them and their lives. This is really lovely to hear.”
During her time at the school, Mom Lak wasn’t just influencing other people’s kids, of course, but also her own. Juggling the roles of being a soccer mum for her son, and a source of guidance for her daughter, she played tough but fair, and nurtured the same kind of traits in her kids that her father had instilled in her.
“I didn’t want my kids growing up in a hi-so bubble so I ensured that they were kept thoroughly grounded,” she says. To do this, she insisted that, instead of spending their time after school glamming it up with friends in posh coffee shops, they should actually get behind the counters and do some work themselves.
“My daughter got a job in Au Bon Pain and I was so proud to see her in there, mopping the floors, picking up trash, and closing up shop just like anyone else. I thought this was the only way I could really teach my kids what life is about; give them the kind of street smarts they’d need to survive in the real world.”
Take a look at her kids now and it’s certainly been a case of mission successful. Both graduated from university in Australia and Abhasiri, 25, is now a therapist for autistic children at Merak Clinic in Bangkok, while Thira, 23, pursues a career in drama and film. Throughout the kids' lives Dr.Kobsak has remained a supporting factor, too, initially providing their education at Bangkok Patana School.
So how does Baan Laksasubha Resort fit into the picture, especially considering Mom Lak’s ties with the school, the crystal shop, and being a full-time mum?
“Well, the prime beachfront lands the resort stands on originally belonged to my great grandfather, Prince Nares [who, fact fans, actually gave Hua Hin its name]. I inherited the land when my father passed away in the early '90s, and in 1994 I built our family home here.
“As for the resort – well, I like to think of myself as a serial entrepreneur and I always like to do two things at one time, that way I stay balanced.
“So, in 2007, when the crystal shop wasn’t doing so well and we decided to let it go, I found myself looking for a new challenge. We had six rais of land available next to the house here in a prime location, so I thought, why not use it to build a hotel? So just like I did with the school, I jumped right in, got to work, and built the resort you see today.”
Superbly located in the heart of Hua Hin’s main beach, Baan Laksasubha features 16 villas set within beautifully manicured gardens lovingly tended to by Mom Lak’s mum, a sprightly 80-year-old whose green fingered tinkering results in beautiful works of floral art.
At the sand’s edge, the resort’s Oceanfront Restaurant serves up a wide range of international and Thai dishes (including a delicious pork green curry), while the Beachfront L bar, located next to an infinity pool, serves a decent selection of beers, wines, and cocktails.
“In building the resort I’ve tried to take the best bits of western hotel philosophy and blend it with Thailand’s world renowned hospitality,” says Mom Lak. “And I’m constantly looking at ways of making things better too – hence the big stack of design magazines.”
One thing’s for sure, there’s one key factor of Baan Laksasubha’s success that the resort’s competitors will never find inside the pages of a design magazine – Mom Lak’s heart and character. This kind of magic can’t be bottled, packaged, or sold. It can only be fostered through time, care, and love. And if Mom Lak’s dad were around to see her resort today, he’d be a very proud man indeed.
Baan Laksasubha Resort Hua Hin, 53/7 Naresdamri Road, Hua Hin Tel: 03 2514 525-3 www.baanlaksasubha.com