Written by Weeri

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You have more than one life: this man is the living proof

If you don’t believe in a God or reincarnation, then you only have one shot at life. After all, there is no life after death. However, during your one stint in life, you can have more than one life. This man’s story is the living proof.

The French owner Maamar and his dog from Spain

THE INTRO

My girlfriend Mandy and I were on our last days from our 3-week road trip along the North-East of Thailand. We had a disappointing stay on Koh Kood, Thailand’s 4th largest island.

We longed for the idyllic beach resort with a sea view. Instead, we chose an air-condition-less room with an unventilated bathroom.

Imagine the smell after a few days of rainy season humidity.

After this experience, we realized this was probably our last shot at staying at a luxury resort for a price we could afford. My prayers were met as if a deity of choice could hear us. And we got a free life lesson as a bonus.

THE RESORT

When Mandy showed me this resort for our one-night stop, the first thing that came to me was: “This is too good to be true.” Only 540 Baht (€14) per night in a boutique resort with a swimming pool? Usually, for that price point, we got an okay room with an outdated bathroom and a bed that probably has been slept on by more than a thousand and one people.

This time, we were in for a surprise.

The Barong resort is located 800 meters from the beach near a small coastal village, Ban Phe, in the Rayong Province. The resort has a 10-car private parking that barely fits our 4-door pick-up.

We noticed a huge difference from other Thai hotel experiences when we arrived at the front desk. The receptionist had the brightest smile, which is not uncommon for Thai people. However, she paired that smile with solid English and professionalism. She clearly understood the standards of Western hospitality.

The rooms were clean and modern. The beds felt new and were the best of our 2-month stay in Thailand. The 1.2-meter deep pool was tiny. I could make it from one side to the other and back in one breath. When you’re the only one using the pool, that’s all you need anyway.

When we entered the resort, we saw entrecote and rib-eye steaks advertised on a chalkboard for around €15,00.  My experience with steak in Thailand is that it’s not the same as in Europe. Mostly, this is due to the lack of searing, therefore not forming a crust around the steak. In other words, there is not enough Maillard reaction going on.

So, Mandy and I decided to go out for dinner—a decision I would learn to regret the next day.

THE OWNER

After a solid sleep in a perfectly air-conditioned room, we wake up with a quick dive at the pool. It’s still Thailand’s rainy season, so we can’t enjoy much poolside bed action.

However, during our 15-minute drying-up time next to the pool, we saw a foreign man with an intimidating presence. He appears as one you wouldn’t want to start a fight with.

I wonder if he’s the bartender or a handyman. His clothing doesn’t immediately connect him to the resort. However, he is cleaning behind the bar.

When we check out, Mandy and I get a cup of coffee before heading to our last destination before our road trip ends. The bloke-ish bartender asks us what kind of coffee we want. A short espresso or a cappuccino?

He continues to explain that he personally picked the source of coffee beans from the North of Thailand. He traveled to the South and the North to compare the coffee beans and chose a specific organic coffee bean farmer that met his quality standards.

By now, it’s clear to us that we are not talking to just a bartender. He introduces himself to us as Maamar, the proud new owner of Barong Resort.

HIS STORY

Maamar starts by telling us that he recently bought this resort from one of his French friends. He first came to Thailand when he was 19. For kickboxing. He stayed for the love. Classic.

After having two kids with his Thai wife, they broke up. Maamar moved back to France, where he grew up. First, he worked as a bouncer at a nightclub. Then, he started a coffee shop.

He operated his coffee shop from 4 in the morning till 10 in the evening. Every morning, he was there to serve his regular customers. Working guys. He says you’d be surprised how many people will work then in a southern French coastal town.

During the weekends, he first has to deal with drunkards in the mornings and evenings. His bar serves not only coffee but also all kinds of cocktails, wines, and beers.

Maamar interrupts his story and asks us how the coffee was. We smile, he smiles. Before I can say what I think about the coffee, Maamar offers us another one. The first one was on him, he says. As he turns around to make a second round of coffee, he continues his story.

After operating the bar for 20 years, he’s had enough. Enough of the gruesome working days, enough of working seven days a week., enough of the shit he has to deal with as a business owner. And he had enough money.

Now, it’s time to relax, he says. He could buy the Barong resort from his friend with the money he saved from owning a bar—a retired French man ready to retire for good.

In a couple of months, Maamar worked his magic on the resort. First, he kicked out regular French retirees, who would only come to the resort’s bar and use its facilities but didn’t have a room. Thai people don’t like loud foreigners, Maamar says.

Of course, this new rule was not popular among the regulars. Maamar’s Algerian background and French upbringing made the fight with some French retirees personal.

Accusing Maamar of not being a real French ‘brother,’ he became a bit emotional. Maamar says that the typical French person who escapes to Thailand hasn’t served and won’t serve France like he did and will do. 

Maamar adds that he had also served the French army and had been a police officer before he opened his bar. If France needed his help now, he would be available. Something you wouldn’t hear from the French retirees, he says.

But the past is the past, and the future is unknown. Now, it’s time to have fun, relax, and run a great resort. And so he does. All in his philosophy, using all his life experiences.

Under Maamar’s influence, a local girl got an opportunity to become the most friendly, smiling, and professional receptionist we’ve met in Thailand.

He kicked out bar staff that wasn’t up to switching service quality. In return, he got good and great French wines.

He put his favorite French food, like steaks, with local organic beef, on the menu. He instructed the Thai chef to cook a steak properly—high heat grill and topped with pepper sauce.

After two months in Thailand, I craved only one food—a good steak. Now, I regret the decision to go out for dinner. On the other hand, it gives me an extra reason to come back to this unique resort.

THE CONCLUSION

Under his rugged appearance, there’s a passion-driven man who loves people and nature. Maamar pairs his eye for detail, business knowledge, and life experiences to follow his path. It looks like he’s living life as he intends to.

He is the living proof that we might die once, but we can live many lives. You can live in multiple countries. You can have more than one career path. You have to find your way through all the shit that life throws at you.

If you ever feel like there’s no way forward, think of Maamar. He found a way. So can you.

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