There’s something about Pattamabhorn “Ann” Nokhong’s steely resolve and never-give-up attitude that commands respect and admiration. With a life riddled with one derailed plan after another, only one thing has remained constant — the managing director of Felicity Asset Co. Ltd., has always managed to pick herself up, and kept on going in the face of gut-wrenching ordeals and arduous uphill battles.
From saving her family’s mall, to establishing Rayong’s first ever international chain hotel, today she is reputed as the woman who brought a touch of international glitz to this otherwise coastal province. In her swank Holiday Inn & Suites Rayong City Centre hotel — Ann’s five-starred hotel property, and the tallest building in all of Rayong province, rising right next to her Passione Shopping Destination — we meet the driven face behind both local landmarks, who talks to us about overcoming challenges, taking charge of your own happiness, and keeping your dreams alive.
Experience can go a long way in shaping who you are.
Born in Si Racha to the founders of the Laemtong malls — shopping destinations in Rayong and Chonburi that were especially popular during the 90s — a retail environment is far from new for Ann. “I remember I’d be running around inside the malls and helping out since I was in 4th grade,” she tells us, recalling a childhood spent watching her own mother at work. “I went to work in all departments and sat across my mother in the office. I’d see her working and negotiating, and it all seemed to absorb into me through osmosis, ever since I was a child.”
Her mother wasn’t the only influence she had growing up. Now overseeing over 400 staff at her various properties, a look into Ann’s past hints at the leader she is today. She describes taking charge of the Girl Scouts group and Red Cross Youth at Chonkanyanukoon, the state school in Chonburi where she studied. “I really liked doing these kinds of things — being a leader, alongside many activities and performances. My parents were strict and did not really let me go hang out with friends, so for as long as I could remember I was by their side during all weekends and summers, up until I was done with university.”
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Even after high school, when she was an economics major at Thammasat University, Ann would still drive home every weekend to be with her family. “I was close to both my parents, but even more so to my mother,” she tells us, and when her plans to continue with a master’s degree abroad went awry during Thailand’s ‘Tom Yum Goong’ economic crisis, she chose to dedicate her time and energy to supporting her parents’ business. “After the 1997 crash, the whole country collapsed. My family did too, and we were under a lot of debt, so I continued to work for my family. One of the things I had to do back then was to negotiate with our creditors.”
Today, she attributes a lot of her work ethic to her mothers’ influence. “One thing that she taught me was to not be too ambitious or greedy. She said to never bite off more than I could chew, to the point that it would put me through distress and trouble. She’s always taught me that you will be happy if you don’t get into things that are much bigger than yourself. I think this has made me into a person who is cautious with every step that I take. I always do my research and think everything out very thoroughly. I try to achieve a balance of not making big, risky leaps, and it really takes having a steadfast stance to do so — even when tempting opportunities present themselves.”
You are ultimately in charge of your own life.
For someone who always took her mother’s cautious teaching to heart, Ann’s decision to leave her family business fifteen years ago — and subsequently the common purse — was nothing short of radical and shocking. To the acute businesswoman, however, the decision only made sense. With differing ideals from her brother, Ann no longer wanted to stay in the backseat, and was ready to leave her family’s empire of malls in the Eastern regions — even if it meant leaving the safety of her family fortune for what could very well be nothing at all. “I thought about it for a very long time before I finally had courage to do so. I started to feel that it wasn’t me anymore, and I’d lived with tormenting thoughts for no less than five years. The day will finally come though, when you have to make that decision. You’ll think no matter how life turns out, at least let me be the one who is defining my own life. I didn’t want to live according to what others wrote out for me. I wanted to choose a life for myself.”
You’ll never know unless you try.
Once her father saw that she was serious about leaving, he gave her Laemtong Rayong — or, in short, a property that came with a debt of 700 million baht. While many would have given up at what seems like an uphill battle, Ann chose to tackle the challenge head-on, seeing the mall as a chance to prove herself. “Now that both my parents actually trusted me to oversee the mall, I only thought of it as an opportunity and I would try my best. At that time, I just felt that if I tried, at least I would have two outcomes; either that I succeeded or that I didn’t. But if I chose not to try at all, there was only one outcome… failing.”
Just keep moving forwards — there’s no need to be dramatic.
To say life changed would be an understatement. Ann went from being a small gear in a big, big scheme who simply took orders from family, to a CEO with 24 rai of land on her shoulders. Though immensely stressed, and faced with the need to learn everything from scratch, Ann overcame each obstacle one by one — and in eight years, what started off as a debt-ridden business turned into assets worth 6 billion baht. Her journey involved completely rebranding Laemtong Rayong into the more internationally-focused Passione Shopping Destination, as well as giving birth to the prestigious Holiday Inn & Suites Rayong City Centre — currently the tallest building in Rayong province.
“The day my hotel started coming up, I was still fighting countless obstacles, even more so as a new businesswoman who had to prove herself.” She admits. Despite all the odds, she shares a rather positive perspective on tackling issues. “It’s pointless to pressure yourself because you are not going to shrivel up on the floor and die. There’s no need to be dramatic about it. Just keep working towards your goal. The main key for me is to keep encouraging myself, as I believe that if you really try hard enough, there will be a moment when people will see what you are doing and will understand.”
Sitting around won’t make your dreams come true.
“This hotel was a dream of wanting to create a good hotel for the people of Rayong, because originally there were no international chains in the province,” Ann tells us, and it’s true. Her Holiday Inn, which she’d recently launched two years ago, is the very first and only global hotel chain to have a presence in Rayong city. “I wanted to build a nice hotel that was of an international standard. And it sounded very dreamy, coming from a woman whose past would ensure zero possibility of it happening. But I held on to my dream — you must chase it, and not just sit there.”
The act of making her dream a reality was no small feat. She had left the family business, split up with her husband, and had to raise her two daughters — Tanyatorn “Foei Foei” and Tanya “Fern Fern” — on top of everything else. While being a single mother is by no means easy, Ann is quick to affirm that these circumstances have not made living more difficult for her. “I may have had a married life that was not so memorable, so separating means living on my own terms. I can write out my life without any obstacles and hurdles. I’m more at ease,” she tells us, reminding us that at the end of the day, our happiness is in our own hands. “It makes you feel like you can move ahead faster. Plus, you also have more time for yourself.”
Home is where the heart is.
Though she enjoys travelling in her free time, Ann places utmost importance on family, and that includes chatting and staying up to date with her daughters lives. She confesses that she still isn’t sure whether sharing her problems with her girls is the best thing to do, but believes there is no use in hiding her stress from them, because “children can sense it.” She even admits to being surprised by some of her elder daughters’ insights, and explains that her youngest has a cheerful disposition that can always make her smile. “I think talking and encouragement is really important in a family. I’m very close to my daughters and always try to spend time together.”
On style? Go for what’s suitable.
As someone who must lead while on the job, Ann opts for looks that are simple, cool, and sophisticated — often veering away from anything too feminine while at work. “Most importantly, it should just be something suited to my age!” she jokes with a laugh, adding that jewellery is a key element in completing a person’s look.
“Jewellery is about how to wear a piece so that it enhances your personality. I work in hospitality now, as well as the mall, and wearing something that enhances your image helps you look better. It’s not just about wearing a lot either. That’s why I like Gems Pavilion. It’s a brand with character and one of my favourite pieces is my Art Deco diamond bracelet. The design is cool, and not girly. It’s suited to me.”
Happiness should come first.
For someone so passionate towards her work, it comes as no surprise that Ann’s next dream is already in the works: another hotel brand, even fancier than the current one she owns. Despite having come a long way from where she first began, she still keeps her mother’s teachings close to heart, and strives for a healthy work/life balance. “I still think that happiness should come first, so people should work in the amount that’s right for them in order to live happily. I’m really trying to keep work in check though, remembering to tell myself to stop obsessing! I try to look at other things and always believe that every problem has a solution. I’m lucky and am happy that I can still smile when I wake up. Do I have problems? Everyone does, but it’s how you approach them. Will you let it kill you, or will you solve it? I really do believe that it’s your attitude that makes or breaks you.”
Find out more about Pattamabhorn “Ann” Nokhong in our September issue, available in all leading bookstores in Thailand.
Photographer: Apichart Chaichulla
Stylist: Panchanitch Rattanawilai
Makeup: Ithigorn Luksameejunporn
Hair: Kampanat Wongsalung & Pantip Budprab
Editorial Coordinator: Rattanachai Chaipornsantikul
Location: Holiday Inn & Suites Rayong City Centre
Jewellery: Gems Pavilion