Minimalism and babies, I fear, are two concepts certain to collide. Speeding out of a chaotic Bangkok, in a taxi crammed with enough infant paraphernalia to keep Mini Smith going for a fortnight, we three were headed – just for the weekend – towards tranquillity, designer architecture and all things stylish at the Hôtel de la Paix Cha-Am Beach, near Hua Hin. Two hours later we arrive, gasping in awe of the colossal marble stairway leading up to the resort, but also in nervousness at the thought of tackling it with a pushchair. Within seconds, however, our mountain of luggage (and pushchair) has disappeared and we are being led up to check-in heaven: an expansive reflection pool and ocean views welcome us in.
‘There’s music coming from the walls,’ whispers Mr Smith as we’re led past futuristic structures of mesh and stone towards our room. Sure enough, gentle vibes are seeping from somewhere. A couple of staircases later we enter our Horizon Room, and are again met by mellow music. This time it’s emanating from the Apple TV system. Mini Smith immediately flails her arms around, signalling approval.
The thing about designer minimalism, I begin to realise after surveying our spacious room, is that aside from looking fabulous, it’s actually rather baby-friendly – there’s simply less to grab, poke, pull and destroy. As Mini Smith scoots across the beautifully bare floor and high-fives the sleek concrete walls I wonder why we’ve bothered to childproof our once fashionable home with an unsightly explosion of rainbow-coloured play mats. In the meantime, Mr Smith is eyeing the ‘study area’ subtly hidden behind the bed. In a matter of minutes he’s fitted the travel cot rather snugly under the lengthy slab of wood. Out of sight, out of mind…
I heard a rumour there’s an adults-only Chill Pool here. ‘I suppose I better try it out, darling,’ I sigh, rather unconvincingly, as I usher my significant others in the direction of the ‘other’ pool. Flanked by the cocktail-shaking Red Bar and sunloungers, it is the perfect spot to swim in solitude. After a time, however, I wonder how the other Smiths are getting on and pack up my magazines.
Thankfully, it turns out the Active Pool is not going to disappoint us. Ocean views and the neatest of lawns provide a soft backdrop and pretty, pruned hibiscus hedges still grant me lots of privacy. ‘Ahh, look, Mummy couldn’t bear to be without us,’ Mr Smith quips as he catches me sneaking behind a hedge and onto a sunlounger.
After a dose of sun-kissed snoozing, Mr Smith informs me there’s a Thai couple having their wedding photographs taken on the beach. I bolt upright and move in closer for a prime spectator perch. Three photographers, two stylists-cum-petal throwers and a handful of assistants: this is better viewing than any Thai soap opera. I take a sneaky snap of my own, mainly because I’m loving the stylist’s electric blue drainpipe jeans and fluttering hand fan (for himself not the bride, might I add). Any plans of joining the hotel’s afternoon excursion to the nearby Khao Luang cave sanctuary are quickly forgotten. Why leave when there’s live entertainment right here?
Eventually, I pry myself away to join Mr Smith for an early evening apéritif at the rooftop bar, Clouds Loft. As Mini Smith sets about making friends with the affable bar staff we lounge on day-beds, sipping on Sundowners, a delectable mix of vodka, ginger, passionfruit, watermelon, basil, martini and ginger ale.
An hour later we return to Clouds Loft for dinner and try our luck getting Mini Smith to fall asleep under the stars. We’re not sure if it is the soothing sounds hailing from unidentified hotel orifices, the pushchair-friendly paths or simply all that fresh sea air that does it, but she drifts off in record time. Now we can get on with enjoying a cosy dinner for two. Highlights include the prime Australian beef tenderloin and a trio of juicy scallops sitting in cracker bread boats on purple waves of herb sauce.
It might not be the most obvious of settings, but we settle into our bathroom for a nightcap. Mr Smith flicks on the intimate lighting, music and quite possibly the most impressive rain shower known to man as I marvel from the bath tub at the heavenly vision of water and light falling in front of my eyes. This is, unarguably, the best bathroom we’ve ever been in.
Another day, another wedding shoot. This time it’s an antipodean beefcake and his glamorous Asian beauty. Again, there’s an entourage of stylists and photographers. And more costume changes than a John Galliano collection parade. After tucking into a hearty breakfast we return to our room suitably stuffed and Mr Smith sprawls across the bed. ‘It’s not time for a nap yet,’ I gently chide. ‘I’m not napping,’ purrs Mr Smith, ‘I’m relaxing.’ It’s hard to argue with him and we’re soon snuggling.
When naptime finally does roll around I tiptoe from the room and head to the spa for 90 minutes of uninterrupted ‘me’ time. Carrying around a small child for the past nine months – make that 18 if you factor in pregnancy – has left my limbs screaming for refuge. Thankfully, they find it here. The signature massage – a fusion of long Balinese strokes, deep-tissue Swedish techniques, acupressure and traditional Thai movements – proves the perfect tonic for a weary mama.
Ah, Hôtel de la Paix, thank you; not just for allowing us an unexpected romantic respite but for proving that minimalism, high-end design and babies can live happily together after all. I can’t wait to ditch the multicoloured mats as soon as we get home.