9 reasons we loved the Chestnut Hill Eco Resort. And one we didn’t!

Created by Colin Clapp

Last Updated: October 19, 2017

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Chestnut Hill Eco Resort near Hat Yai, Thailand and would happily visit again if we were in the area. (We tend to prefer exploring and trying new experiences before repeating even good ones).

Background: The reason for our trip

At the time we visited the resort, June 2017, a key focus in our life was ‘building our online business’. Work had become a time consuming priority (as part of rebuilding our lives as minimalists and digital nomads) and we needed a rest. Thus our trip objectives were quite simple.

  1. Find a relaxing place we could enjoy a relatively short break
  2. Complete our first ‘visa run’ from Malaysia to Thailand and back again. (We’d arrived in Malaysia in March and our first 90-day visa was due to expire shortly).

There were also the standard family requirements to fulfil; Elly is a vegetarian and Little Miss (then 3) needed the obligatory ‘things to do with kids’ list included. Consequently, Elly conducted some research and was very excited to discover:

  • An eco resort actually existed so close to where we were!
  • We could get from Penang to Thailand and onto Hat Yai overland in about four hours!
  • It was a very affordable short break!
  • We could enjoy vegetarian food (just like we had been doing in Penang)!
  • It was family friendly!

So here goes. Our nine reasons why we loved the Chestnut Hill Eco Resort. (We may interchange the terms ‘eco resort’, ‘eco lodge’ and ‘eco village’. People often use different search terms for the same thing and the differences in meaning can be subtle!).

1. The Chestnut Hill Eco Resort REALLY is an eco village!

We are not experts in ecotourism, or sustainability, but we are conscious consumers who maintain a pretty minimalist lifestyle and choose natural and organic products and services wherever possible. And through that lens we could only judge it as we saw it.

So the first reason we enjoyed our stay was because we could see the resort were working extremely hard at protecting the environment as best they could. In developing nations such as Thailand, where initial impressions of widespread litter and pollution can taint your travel experiences, this is so wonderful to witness.

The resort makes itself accountable to ecotourism on it’s website and in literature you can find around the property. For example, (with respect to English not being their first language!) when describing the ‘Chestnut Eco Concept’ (on their website) they clearly state:

“…we responsibly creating a place which care for natural resources and conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local communities by putting effort to make a difference. We care to minimize impact and support good cause of building more environmental awareness among the travellers.”

How can Chestnut Hill call themselves an ‘Eco Resort’?

They answer their own question of ‘How are we an Eco resort?‘ with a list of fourteen statements about how they can justifiably lay claim to such a title. You can read the list in full here but examples we saw included:

  • A commitment to recycling with large baskets showing the results of their efforts.
Chestnut Hill Eco Resort recycling efforts

  • Re-using rainwater whereer possible. There was something quite nice about ‘popping downstairs’; i.e. underneath the hut, to get your drinking water from the rainwater tank.
  • Building in harmony with nature. (“Many of our cottages are built from reused wood or from fallen trees. We leave large tropical trees untouched even though we build next to them.”)

This last one (which is first on their list) is the verifiable commitment that left the biggest impression on me. For example, the way the outdoor cafe blended into the environment, allowing you to relax while still feeling as though you are deep in the forest. I was most struck seeing the trees coming up through the elevated concrete floor. Pouring concrete around the trees like that would have took some real heavy work! (See the second rocking horse photo later for a close up of the trees coming through the concrete floor!)

What is an ‘Eco Lodge’?

Any location can claim to be ‘green’ and try to attract the eco tourism dollar but not all hospitality providers deserve such a label. If you’d like to know more about what constitutes an eco-lodge, eco-resort or eco-village, I recommend you check out the Green Global Travel blog post ‘What is an Eco Lodge? A Guide to Green Accomodations‘.

The author, Bret Love, gives an expert’s view point as well as provides many more in depth links to the subject. Not to mention reviews on hundreds of eco tourism destinations around the globe!

Based on how we felt about our experience, as well as what we heard, saw, tasted, touched and smelled during our stay, we feel the Chestnut Hill Eco Resort is certainly worthy of it’s name.

2. Delicious and healthy food and drink options

Arriving mid-afternoon, dinner was to be our first experience of the resort’s catering.

Elly is an experienced holistic health and fitness practitioner committed to natural and organic food wherever possible. As a result, we’re not easily impressed when it comes healthy food options. Especially in Asia.

But the resort got off to a good start when we discovered there was no MSG in any of the food!

For dinner we chose from an ‘al a carte’ menu as this was not included in the package. The dishes are nearly all locally sourced and ranged from 50-200 Thai baht in cost.

Little Miss and I still indulge in some meat and fish so we were gratified with a few different options such as beef, chicken, sea bass and mackerel. Plus seafood (prawn) which was listed differently than fish!

It seemed like the menu was anything but static as they even updated it while we were sitting there on one occasion. The paper was still warm from the printer when they gave it to us!

Of course there were delicious vegetarian options and in a further update to this post, Elly will elaborate and add some more pictures of the food. But here’s one to be going on with…

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort food - salad

There were also Western options (e.g. steak, pasta) and whilst not expensive by Western standards, they were definitely more pricey than the local offerings.

Some desserts were available for those with a sweet tooth. These included a delicious banoffi pie (which we did try) and homemade ice cream (which we sadly missed out on!).

Breakfast at the Chestnut Hill Eco Resort

As a ‘Westerner’, my traditional breakfast habits have nearly all been tied to cereals and/or oats. For as long as I can remember this now means porridge all year round. Even in Malaysia!

So when our first Thai breakfast arrived, a massive helping of hot rice soup and salted boiled eggs, I confess to being a little out of my morning eating comfort zone. I’m not normally a fussy eater but I can’t say I enjoyed this particular local fare.

Fortunately, an alternative was not far away. After the staff had left us in peace to enjoy our food, I noticed a ‘sideboard’ with some coffee cups. On closer inspection, I found plenty of bread, an accompanying toaster and a couple of varieties of delicious home made marmalade. Not to mention an abundant supply of ‘pour your own’ coffee!

Breakfast on the second day, a Sunday, was a little more appealing to my palate. On offer this time was chicken fried rice, fried eggs, watermelon as well as several other dishes I didn’t recognise. Again, when I needed my Western fix, I could go for the coffee and toast.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort breakfast

Drinks at the Chestnut Hill Eco Resort

The onsite cafe was very popular and not just with the resort residents. While we were there, it appeared only a few people were actually staying in the resort’s accomodation. Yet the the cafe appeared to do a steady stream of business all day long. Our guess is these customers were a combination of locals as well as tourists from nearby Hat Yai.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort Lae Pa Cafe - level

The drinks menu consisted of many fresh fruit juices and smoothie options; always popular with us. There were also some teas on offer as well as the usual Asian hot and cold coffee options and beer.

On a whole, we found the food and drink healthy and tasty. Yes, we had to make a few adjustments to our normal breakfast tastes, but nothing that left us feeling hungry.

3. Wildlife is all around you!

The frogs come alive at night around by the restaurant ponds and the constant noise is a reminder you’re definitely in the wild. (We never found out whether they were frogs or toads?)

Although we didn’t see them every night, a particular highlight came on our first night. One large frog (bigger than my male adult hand) kept poking its head out of the water. It’s body and legs were clearly visible below the water line and I was mesmerised with a sense of anticipation that it might leap out of the pond at any moment!

Of course our amphibian friend preferred to tease us but I guess that is what made the experience so memorable!

We saw several lizards during our two-day stay. Sometimes you hear them before you see them  in the dried leaves lying on the ground. The trick is to be present enough to stop and wait for them to move enough to create an attention-grabbing ‘What was that!?’ rustling sound. If you are lucky, they will pop out from their cover and you can see them scurry away!

Our experience of Asia to date indicates geckos will never be too far away from your accomodation buildings. Especially at night where they tend to hang out high up on the walls and ceilings above.

The Chestnut Hill Eco Resort gecckos were no exception although maybe they were a little more brave! One tiny little fellow decided to give me a more ‘up close and personal’ experience when it decided to inspect my iPad!

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort friendly gecko

4. A choice of short walks

With Little Miss in tow, it was nice to have a few short walks as an option. In summary I would say there are only three marked walks outside the resort*:

  • The village road walk
  • The village jungle walk (Yellow trail)
  • The jungle walk (Red trail)

(*This doesn’t include the ‘walk’ down to the river inside the resort).

The village road walk

We blinked and missed seeing the village on our drive into the resort. It is probably several hundred metres from the resort and right at the bottom of a short hill that takes you up to the entrance. (The village is tiny. We are talking only a few hundred metres of roads and a collection of small buildings that make up the homes and ‘shops’ if such a thing existed there).

To start this walk, exit on the single road that leads in and out of the resort. Then follow the few twists and turns that eventually take you into the ‘village’. Direction wise, the walk down to the village is easy with the chance of getting lost virtually non-existent! It is a short trip and you simply follow the road.

Watch out for the steep bit!

Be aware the actual entrance into the Chestnut Hill Eco Resort is at the top of a very steep section. It’s not a long section at all, but is much steeper than what I believe everybody would find comfortable. If you’re a generally fit person, it will not be a problem. (I carried Little Miss on my back both up and down) but I would imagine for some it will be a problem.

As the road flattens out and you approach the village, keep an eye out on your right for what looks like the ‘yellow’ jungle trail route (which is an alternative way back to the resort).

When you reach the first buildings you’re effectively on the edge of the village. From here you can either follow the road a few hundred meters (it eventually meets the main road back to Hat Yai) or look for a gap on the left where you can walk through the ‘forest’.

Taking the forest route brings you out onto a small road that leads up to an organic farm. If you continue along the village road, as we did, you’ll come to a left turn a few hundred metres later as well as a signpost for the organic farm. From what we experienced this was pretty much the extent of the village; the discovery of a watering hole (see below) prior to reaching the entrance to the organic farm ended our village walk!

The village is very small so whatever routes you chose it’s hard to get lost. (There were probably a few other roads, but I didn’t take them in at the time).

The village jungle walk (Yellow trail)

As an alternative you can also reach the village via the ‘yellow’ trail jungle walk. This route allows you to enjoy more of the surrounding nature plus you get the bonus of avoiding the steep entrance/exit. Even if it does take a little longer to complete.

Instead of exiting the resort by road, you effectively go ‘out the back gate’ into the jungle. The trail starts with a little saunter downhill before you eventually cross a stream. As you leave the stream, you’ll be following a trail intermittently marked with red and yellow arrows. At this point the yellow and red trails share the same track. (Note there was an absence of signs leading up to this point leaving us questioning exactly which track we were on).

Carry on walking (gently uphill) until you reach a bit of a brow and find a clear left-hand fork. From here the left-hand fork trail is exclusively yellow and (should) loop back to down to the village.

I say “should” because we didn’t personally do this particular walk. However, we could clearly see it on the map given to us by reception and, as already mentioned, we could see where it comes out in the village to join the road at the bottom of the hill.

The jungle hike (Red trail)

Our incentive for taking the ‘red’ trail was the promise of a watering hole at the end of it. The friendly reception staff provided us a map and, with some broken English, assured us it was about an hour’s hike out and the same back again.

As mentioned before, the lack of signs at the beginning of the trail had confused us and, unfortunately, (all my fault!) we split up trying to work out where we were! Thus only Elly got to ‘enjoy’ the Red trail in it’s entirety.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort red trail hike watering hole

From what Little Miss and I experienced together, the trail was not that well marked and a few times I had to guess which way to go. The ‘pathway’ was also narrow in a few places with some potential drop-offs that I was glad to avoid.

I always felt comfortable on the terrain, even if it was a little slippy in places. But I’m glad Little Miss was on my back and I wasn’t having to deal with a plodder!

More positively, Elly did make it to the end and was able to enjoy a short but sweet cool-down. (Picture to follow). Fortunately, Little Miss and I were to discover an alternative spot to cool down the following day.

5. Watering holes

Watering holes are always enticing to our family. Especially as Little Miss has been at home in the water since birth.

If the ‘red’ hike is too far for you, or the yellow one will likely get you all hot and sweaty, a refreshing dip is still possible! Yes! You can cool off a bit closer to home down in the village.

On our village walk, Little Miss and I had followed the ‘main’ road until something of interest appeared. This turned out to be the junction with the road signposted to take us to the organic farm.

Though we didn’t properly reach it, we were pleasantly surprised to stumble across a locals’ watering hole. Here we found at least a dozen kids splashing about and thoroughly enjoying themselves! Likewise the men in the village seemed to be keeping watch while giving the ‘watering hole’ an alternative purpose; Sunday afternoon beers!

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort village watering hole3

It didn’t take much persuasion for Little Miss to strip down to her knickers and join in the fun! Likewise, I didn’t need much arm-twisting to join her.

We had a memorable old time. I love these spontaneous ‘living life’ moments, especially when you get to hang out with locals. Further proof, if any is needed, that a smile is often all you need to have everyone mixing harmoniously.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort village friendly locals2a

6. The Chestnut Hill Eco Resort library!

Well, they called it a library. All I can tell you is that it has hardly any books and is the first library I’ve visited where the books are by, or about, ONE single person! Namely Jiddu Krishnamurti, an Indian born philosopher, speaker and writer. Check him out on Wikipedia.

In my experience, it is not a library as I’d expect most readers would recognize one. But despite the lack of books, the space had a peaceful feel and was certainly set up for some quiet reading and reflection.

Split over two levels, the ‘downstairs’ area is the part you see from the signposted library ‘entrance’. It is not really an ‘entrance’ though, more an open area with a few table and chairs scattered around.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort library - lower level1
Chestnut Hill Eco Resort library - lower level2

We couldn’t see any books but it’s where you get your first introduction to Krishnamurti and his philosophies. Printed on several hanging banners that surround the seating areas.

To reach the ‘upper level’, you need to climb a short set of stairs, then take a few steps to the right across a deck to the building entrance.

Again, (without wanting to make too many assumptions on your behalf), I feel it would be somewhat of a stretch for most people to think they were in a library!

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort library upper level

The room was very dark and empty when we there, but I’ve given it ‘library’ status as it’s where we did discover a couple of glass cupboards and some full book shelves. It’s also when I realised they were all about Krishnamurti.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort Krishnamurti bookshelf - library

If you warm to Krishnamurti and the library leaves you yearning for more, head over to reception. Here you will find twice as many books dedicated to the great man.

7. Hammocks

Say no more! Anywhere there are hammocks it’s always a plus.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort hammock time - Little Miss
Chestnut Hill Eco Resort hammock - Colin

8. The Chestnut Hill Eco Resort ‘playground(s)’

Mmmmm, similar to my perception of the ‘library’, it’s pushing it a bit to describe this place as having a single ‘playground’, let alone plural. However, the wooden sign begged to differ.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort playground

The ‘playground’ consisted of a swing, a sort of ‘swing bridge log’, a set of musical pipes and a few old tyres.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort playground beam
Chestnut Hill Eco Resort playground - music & tyres

We’ve included the playground in this list of things we enjoyed because it had a swing. Something Little Miss usually likes to play on. However, it would be fair to say, in the short time we were there, she didn’t express that much interest in this ‘playground’ experience. With some hindsight, she is less into swings and more into climbing. Meaning her relative disinterest at the time may have had nothing to do with the lack of ‘playground’ variety on offer at the resort.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort rocking horse - Cafe
Chestnut Hill Eco Resort rocking horse - Restaurant - Little Miss

NB. Little Miss had a very happy time during  the short time were there.

9. Accommodation

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort accomodation exterior view

Our accomodation was effectively a single room hut with a sink and ensuite toilet/shower plus a small balcony. The structure was a combination of bricks, cement and wood and had a really nice solid feel.

The room was big enough for three single beds and that was ample for our small family. We found the beds very comfortable, albeit low down, plus there were sheets and towels included. (Note there are no storage facilities though, so if you like to hang up your clothes or use a bedside cabinet, you may be disappointed!).

Chestnut Hill accomodation interior

We found the toilets and bathrooms to be clean although the nature of the setting means the toilets will invariably be visited by bugs at certain times of the day. When this was an inconvenience, we simply used the shower to wash them away.

Also be aware the remote setting and the eco-nature of the resort means you can’t put your soiled toilet paper down the toilet. Instead it needs to go in a bin which is subsequently emptied into somewhere more appropriate for human waste.

Personally, this was a new experience, but other than needing to break a lifetime of toilet habits, I really enjoyed the rustic bathrooms. Probably due to the fact they did have warm water. Lovely bonus even if it’s not really needed!

We were located a little way up a small hill so the stilts meant the resort could put a large rain water tank underneath our floor. The tank was accessible and provided our daily drinking water (as well as our washing water). We literally filled our drink bottles direct from the tank.

The location added a feeling of privacy, and from what we could tell, most of the family accommodation was similarly located. The balcony out the back, with it’s tranquil views over the valley, only added to the serenity of our stay.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort accomodation balcony view with Little Miss

At the top of the hill (a few steps above our hut) we discovered a meditation/silent room set in the middle of a patio area offering beautiful vistas on either side.

Back down the hill, nearer to the reception and restaurant areas, we also found some larger accomodation including ‘dorm’/‘bunk’ rooms. Together with a large activity room with toilets and showers inside, the resort looks nicely set up to handle larger groups and small retreats. There was even a ‘hidden’ car park meaning an abundance of vehicles wouldn’t detract from the overall feel of the resort.

The shower facilities for these rooms were outside in small blocks and offered fantastic views out over the jungle valley.

Chestnut Hill Eco Resort outside meditation room

1. What we didn’t like about the Chestnut Hill Eco Resort

Mosquitos!

Summary

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and would happily visit again if we were in the area.

If you’re reading this, you are reading the first ‘edition’ of this post, which is already over 3000 words. But according to our notes, there are still more positives we could describe; e.g. the accommodation and the massages. Please check back in for future updates as I’m sure we will improve the post in due course.

Getting there

Will update this shortly.

Contact details

I will add to this shortly.

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Colin Clapp

Chief responsibility and joy is being a loving and supportive partner and dad. If I mess this up, (as I do from time to time), I do my best to learn and grow. My blogs and vlogs are one way to help me do that. You can also find me helping other bloggers to 'Make Friends with Google' (aka SEO) at https://onlinemarketingdone4you.com.

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