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Wed 21 Nov 2007 10:56 AM

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'Why shouldn’t I be the one to build it?'

Chanut Piyaoui returned home to Thailand in the 1940s determined to build a hotel. She ended up building an empire.

'Why shouldn’t I be the one to build it?'
Thanpuying Chanut Piyaoui.
'Why shouldn’t I be the one to build it?'

Post-Second World War was a time of hope and promise. It was an age of rebuilding, and opportunity was everywhere for those with dreams and determination.

It would be in these exciting times that "Thanpuying" (a title bestowed by His Majesty the King of Thailand on Thai women who dedicate their time to the community through social work) Chanut Piyaoui would discover a passion that would fuel her life's work and make her a pioneer of Thailand's famed hospitality industry.

Dusit hotels incorporate Thai culture, art, architecture and decoration.

The year was 1946. The war was over and the Kingdom of Thailand had a new monarch. Thanpuying Chanut was sent to study abroad in the United States by her parents. After completing her studies she chose to travel around America. During the course of her travels, she became very enamoured by the hotels she visited and the quality of the service she received. She saw modern facilities, beautiful décor and outstanding service and thought, "Why not in Thailand?"

"Travelling around the United States in 1946, I found that I really enjoyed staying in hotels there. The staff seemed so friendly and cheerful, and it was always a happy, relaxing experience. These images stayed in my mind after I returned home," she recalls.

Upon returning home, Thanpuying Chanut set about completing the task she had set before her. She wanted to create in Thailand what she had seen in America but with a distinctively Thai touch.

Everyone knows that creating a successful business is difficult in every era. But imagine how difficult it would be being a woman in1940s Thailand trying to create a successful business in a country where that industry didn't even exist? These are some of the obstacles that lay before Thanpuying Chanut as she worked to build her first hotel. But still she remained focused and undaunted.

Fortunately for her, she had the help of her parents who rendered not only financial assistance but, more importantly, moral support. They believed in her and instilled in her the tenacity to chase her dreams no matter where they led.

"My father owned a saw mill and my mother ran a rice mill," recalls Thanpuying Chanut. "They worked very hard their whole lives and, at a very early age, I learned from them that if you pursue your dreams in life with patience, persistence and determination, you can make them come true."

In 1949, she opened the first Princess Hotel, a small establishment on Oriental Lane, which had the distinction of being the first hotel in Bangkok with a swimming pool.

The hotel was also the accommodation of choice for the flight crew of Pan American Airways (Pan Am) for several years. This was at a time when commercial air travel was still in its infancy. Nevertheless, Thanpuying Chanut jumped at the opportunity to join Pan Am's "80 Days Around the World" program in order to see the world.

The trips provided valuable information and insights in the hotel trade that she could take back and incorporate into her own business as a means of improving it.

This experience would prove to be the genesis of her professional life's greatest undertaking - building an international five-star hotel in Bangkok that would seamlessly combine contemporary comforts with traditional Thai culture and hospitality. Although her dream appeared to be an impossible one, she remained diligently devoted to the massive undertaking.
Finally, in February 1970, after years of careful planning, study, reworking, and attention paid to countless details, Thanpuying Chanut's impossible dream was finally a reality - Dusit Thani Bangkok opened. And it was more than just an accomplishment. It was a masterpiece.

The hotel's name was chosen in large part because of its location across from Lumpini Park and the statue of King Rama VI. In 1918, King Rama VI created a utopian miniature city, built to scale, which he named Dusit Thani.

The hotel's greatest contribution and most lasting legacy is not the fact that it was the country's first high rise or its first five-star hotel. Its true genius, rather, lies in the fact that it created an entirely new genre whose influence is felt even today.

The trademark of all Dusit hotels through the years has been the way they incorporate Thai culture, art, architecture and decoration into their design. Plus, they have crafted a standard of hospitality that has been an industry benchmark since the Dusit's flagship first opened its doors.

After the Dusit Thani's many years of great success in the 1970s and 80s, Thanpuying Chanut formed the Dusit Group so that the business could continue to expand. The Dusit Group has recently unveiled its new name; Dusit International.

Dusit International comprises five hotel brands: Dusit Thani Hotels & Resorts, Dusit Devarana Hotels & Resorts, dusitD2 hotels + resorts, Dusit Princess Hotels & Resorts, and Dusit Residence Serviced Apartments.

Now, under the Dusit International umbrella, there are 19 hotels & resorts, with 10 under construction and the goal to have 55 hotels by 2012. All these properties are located throughout Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, UAE with other properties slated to open in India (New Delhi, Goa, Rishikesh, Pune, Amritsar and Jaipur) and Egypt (New Cairo).

In May 2000, the 50th anniversary of Coronation Day, His Majesty the King bestowed the highest royal decoration in the kingdom - Knight Grand Commander (second class, higher grade) of the Most Illustrious Order of Chula Chom Klao - and the esteemed title of "Thanpuying" to Chanut Piyaoui.

Throughout all the years of her success, Thanpuying Chanut has always remembered those less fortunate than herself. She has contributed generously to numerous charitable causes and various royal projects either personally or in a professional capacity.

Dusit has also been listed among Asia's top 10 hotels in MEDIA magazine.

Dusit Thani Bangkok hotel is now 37 years old this year. It is no longer the tallest building in Bangkok or the country's lone five-star hotel. It is still, however, Thanpuying Chanut's crowning achievement in a life filled with many incredible successes.

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