Weekly Local Biography

  Jitraporn Satamaya

In life’s journey down the road towards ‘enlightenment’, some of us are closer to the universal truth than others. One such is Jitraporn Satamaya, resort general manager at the River House in Chiang Rai. She is a person whose real worth was recognised by the man who interviewed her for her first job in Bangkok, and who finally talked her into this position in Chiang Rai.

Jitraporn was born in Chiang Mai, the fourth child in a family of seven to a government officer and his teacher wife (who had to give up teaching to look after the brood of seven). Her initial schooling was done in Chiang Mai, but when it came to tertiary education she went to Bangkok. “I wanted to see more of the world and to further my study of poetry.”

To this end, she passed the entrance qualifications to Silpakorn University and entered the faculty of Arts. With seven children this was a struggle for her family. “It was a hard time for my parents. My eldest sister was working and assisted my parents financially.”

She worked assiduously and her grades were such that she won a scholarship for the second and subsequent years, emerging after four years with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in poetry. I asked Jitraporn if this was just Thai poetry (which incidentally her father used to read to his children in the evenings) or western as well. “It was both Thai and western. The structure is different, but the way the poet thinks is not different. It’s about life. One word can cover many meanings.”

One would have imagined, with this artistic leaning, her future would then have been in the hallowed halls of academia, but it was not. “What I learned at university was just background, a back-up of knowledge. Poetry is (still) something I like.” But it was not her future.

She passed by the Thai Farmer’s Bank building, something ‘clicked’ and she said, “I will work in the bank!” And she did. There was a vacancy in the International Department, and she was interviewed and began immediately.

She proved her worth in the Thai Farmer’s Bank, staying there for 15 years in Bangkok, only to leave after her immediate superior asked her to come and assist him in his family investment company. This she did for two years, but left to return to Chiang Mai as she wanted to start her own business, and wanted to get away from Bangkok traffic! Later in the interview she did say that she enjoyed personal freedom, and was happy to work on her own, so this venture fitted well with that too.

Her own business was in handicrafts. “I designed and made samples, using cotton fabrics to make household items. These were to be sold through gift shops in Bangkok.” This was another very successful period in her life. Working from home, she ended up with a labour force of 10 full-time workers and 15 part-timers. This she did for 11 years, and in fact, the business is still going - the hallmark of any successful entrepreneurship.

However, the bank officer who had carried out her first interview with the Thai Farmer’s Bank, so many years before, contacted her to say he was going to build a resort in Chiang Rai (The River House) and wanted her to be the general manager! He had watched her progress, both within the bank and afterwards, and just as he had spotted her talent many years previously, was still sure that the talent was there.

But this was to be quite a decision. Stay in her own business where she was solely in charge, or join The River House Resort organization, working in a field that she did not know? Jitraporn rationalized her decision thus, “He is a very nice man who helped me all along in the Thai Farmer’s Bank. It was my chance to repay him. My dream had been to work in Chiang Mai in my own business, and I had done that. I knew that The River House was his dream, and I wanted to make his dream come true.”

So she threw herself into someone else’s dream. The resort was under construction and she would come up every month to review the progress. She became involved in the interior design and went for a course in hotel management at the Dusit Thani in Bangkok. She was not really coming from a base of experience, but coming from a background of a strong work ethic. “I try my best,” said Jitraporn. “I just want to be successful in everything I do.”

So now she is the GM of a resort that has been open for 18 months. She lives in Chiang Rai, in the resort, and knows just how demanding this type of career can be. “It’s really hard work. It’s a small resort (36 rooms), and the job takes all of my time. I cannot get away without worrying about the place. But I am single, and I like to work.”

She does have a hobby to offset the stresses of work and this turns out to be more than a hobby. It is bird watching. “I have been a bird watcher for 15 years. First of all in Bangkok, it was just to get away (from the city) and to understand nature. But then I found that it helped me to understand myself, and then (to understand) other people as well.”

That hobby and quest for personal understanding has taken her to Australia, which she described as a paradise for bird watchers, and Russia. She likes to travel, “To anywhere in the world for bird watching!” She has even taught the staff at the River House to identify the Chinese and Russian winter visitors (birds, not tourists!).

Jitraporn is a wonderfully composed and serene woman, and undoubtedly an asset to The River House Resort in many, many ways. That’s why she was chosen for the position!