For the current owners of 137 Pillars House, the story began when they sought a brief but peaceful respite from the frenetic Thai Capital. The Northern town of Chiang Mai came to mind for its laid back pace. “We have always been attracted to its culture and history but it had been such a long time since we had visited Chiang Mai,” noted a family member during a recent interview about the historic building’s elegant transformation. “So we decided to just pack a couple of bags and buy a plane ticket. First we thought we were going to escape from Bangkok for couple of days, but we stayed more than a week, visiting Buddhist temples and admiring Chiang Mai’s amazing buildings”.
They did eventually return home but Chiang Mai lingered in their memory. In 2002 the family began to hunt for a single, simple row house with long-term intentions to retire in Chiang Mai.
The importance and wealth of a property owner in Chiang Mai was often recognised by the size of their Lanna style Thai houses, and in particular how many pillars (sao) the house had…the more the pillars, the more important you were. Visiting journalists, impressed by the history and beauty of the house, were curious to as why the Borneo house did not have a name. On one occasion a publisher wanted to write about ‘the house with the most number of pillars’. So Jack Bain decided to count the number of pillars which came to 137… and as noted in the old map of Wat Gate, there is reference to ‘Baan 137 Sao’, which translates to 137 Pillars House.