Nichapa (Kung) Mahuemuang Armstrong
Maeping Mango Riverside Resort is a dream fulfilled for Nichapa Mahuemuang Armstrong.
Nichapa – who in the Thai way is also known by her nickname, Kung – grew up in Kamphaeng Phet, in the little village of Paktong, on the Asia Highway about 20km south of the provincial capital.
She is one of six children. Her mother ran a food stall in the local markets; her father was a rice farmer.
After graduating from high school in Kamphaeng Phet she left home to go to university in nearby Nakhon Sawan, where she earned a degree in accounting, and then in Bangkok, where she gained a diploma in business and finance.
Nichapa went on to work for two international IT companies in Bangkok, initially as an accountant and later as a logistics planner, arranging the movement of parts and products to and from Thailand and other countries.
In 2006 she met David Armstrong, a media executive from Australia.
Over the next two years Nichapa, an accomplished cook, talked about her dream: to return to Kamphaeng Phet, build a house by the Ping River and open a restaurant serving traditional Thai country food.
Gradually the plan acquired shape: to build a resort of a design inspired by an architectural style seen in and near Bangkok of the early 1900s (distinctly Thai but with European influences); a restaurant and bar; and a home.
Nichapa bought a block of long-neglected riverside land in 2008, being picked ahead of other potential buyers making a similar offer because she was a local girl coming home.
The land was connected to the road by a rough, overgrown track that required a four-wheel-drive vehicle in the rainy season. Neither water nor electricity was connected to it.
Work on the project, however, waited until David had retired from his media jobs.
They were married in a Buddhist ceremony in Bangkok in 2012.
The next year, Nichapa turned her attention to her dream, working with architects in Bangkok to get the traditional design she wanted, engaging a construction manager in Kamphaeng Phet and then starting the building work.
Nichapa supervised the project.
Late in 2014 when the basic construction was finished, the manager moved on to other jobs. But there was still a lot to be done: roof and floor tiling; painting; lighting; doors and windows; built-in bought-in furniture; building a rock retaining wall on the riverfront and outdoor dining areas; creating a garden; building a concrete lane, with street-lighting, to the property; connecting water and electricity; installing pumping systems; fitting out the kitchen. The list could go on.
Nichapa became a full time project manager, hiring and supervising the work teams, buying all the equipment they needed – from big items such as water pumps to small items, like nails and cans of paint.
She discussed exact needs and technical specifications with store attendants and equipment company representatives and negotiated prices.
She lived in a tiny room about two kms away and worked from breakfast time to sunset.
She was a regular figure in home ware, hardware, paint and furniture stores in Kamphaeng Phet, Bangkok, Nakhon Sawan, Sukhothai and Chiang Mai.
When she had spare time she would spend it with Jean, her daughter from a previous marriage, who is studying at university in Bangkok.
David Armstrong was a journalist, editor and media company manager who worked in Australia and Hong Kong.
He was editor-in-chief of The Australian and of the South China Morning Post and is now an Adjunct Professor with Sydney’s Macquarie University. His wife, Deb, passed away in 2001 and in 2005 he came to Thailand to run the Bangkok Post company.
After he retired from that position he was appointed chairman of the Phnom Penh Post company.
In 2012 he became a permanent resident of Thailand.
During the construction, David divided his time between Kamphaeng Phet and Bangkok, where he was an honorary adviser to both the British and Australian chambers of commerce.
When he was in Bangkok, Nichapa would post Facebook photos of each day’s progress and they would discuss it each night.
In May 2015, Nichapa and David moved into their new home on the Maeping Mango property. This means the resort has full-time onsite management. Nichapa and David are both directors of Maeping Mango Co., Ltd. Nichapa manages the resort and restaurant.