Interview: Diana Beata Krüger
With a lot of passion and dedication Robin Jertjun Lourvanij fulfilled her dream of her own polo club “Polo Escape”. POLO+10 met the passionate polo player and horse enthusiast and talked to her about the development of Polo Escape, her restaurant Kuppa in Bangkok and organic farming.
POLO+10: Can you tell us something about your background?
Robin: I was born and grew up in Bangkok. My father is Thai and my mother is Australian. I have one brother and two sisters. For high school I went to Australia and graduated in Interior Design. After graduation I started to work for my father in the furniture and interior design business. While working for my father more than 17 years ago, I discovered my passion for coffee and tea. So, in 1997, I opened the first coffee roastery and casual dining restaurant in Bangkok, called Kuppa.
In 2004, when my sister and I received an invitation to try polo, I discovered my passion for polo. Three years later in 2007, with our growing passion for polo, we started Polo Escape.
POLO+10: What actually happened that you established this place?
Robin: Those days when we were young there was one riding school in Thailand, called The Polo Club, run by a German lady. My mother took us to this club, which now is the RBSC Polo Club. So we had some background in riding, in dressage, but not much. We were invited to play polo when King Power and B Grimm opened Siam Polo Park, the first outdoor polo club near Pattaya. In the beginning there were not many members. My sister Susy and I tried it – and we loved it.
POLO+10: What exactly did you love about it?
Robin: Polo horses are so easy. They are sensitive to movement and shifting of weight and pros can train them so well. It’s just a matter of riding well, learning the rules and hitting the ball. And it’s fun because it’s a team sport, you play with friends and we just got addicted to it so fast.
POLO+10: After this first time of playing polo you were looking for some property…?
Robin: In the beginning we didn’t plan Polo Escape at all. But after a few years, when VRSC and Thai Polo Club opened, my sister and I decided to look into building our own farm. At that time we had only four horses. As a child I told my mother that I would love to have a farm with animals when I get older – it was a childhood dream.
POLO+10: So it’s actually a dream, an ambition?
Robin: Yes. I always wanted a farm and I said to myself: it’s about time. I have three children and my daughter loves animals, too. We tried to find a place where we can have horses and animals and just realize our dream. We looked everywhere. Fortunately, a girlfriend of mine helped us. It took us nearly a year to find this place. After we finally found this place we said: ok, let’s do a little field and then we can play polo. We ended up going to Argentina with our friends – Argentinian professionals working for King Power. We just wanted to buy maybe six more polo horses. But we got carried away and bought twelve more, on our first trip! Then we decided to do a proper size field, because it costs a lot of money anyway to do a field. We had to do a lot of research for our polo farm and field, because we didn’t know much. We hired one of the best polo field experts to consult, because we wanted to do things right from the beginning. He managed to do a beautiful field and today everybody is happy with it. It probably is not in the best condition now, because it has been very dry. We’ve been having a lot of visitors, every week and every month, coming to learn and to play polo. We also have had tournaments during the hot season, so it has been used a lot.
POLO+10: Besides establishing this place and building it up, you are still running this restaurant in Bangkok, right?
Robin: Yes, Kuppa is supporting my polo. This business has been doing well and it’s steady. It may not be doing so well now because of the political situation.
POLO+10: How big is the impact of the political situation on your business and on the place here?
Robin: It is significant but we still are lucky. We are serving food and the people still have to eat. Kuppa offers casual all-day-dining so our market is diverse. Expatriates and locals all come to us. But a lot of people are suffering because of the political situation. We hope it gets better soon. Fortunately the situation has no effect on Polo Escape. We are far away from Bangkok, it’s safe out here.
POLO+10: How many visitors do you have here and where are your visitors from?
Robin: We have 24 rooms and we’ve been quite full for the last three months. Soon, we are going to get busy again because we have another tournament, the Axus Cup, coming up. Our visitors come from all over the world. Over Chinese New Year a lot of Chinese families are coming here for holidays. They are much more interested in polo nowadays. A lot of Chinese, especially from Beijing and Shanghai, are getting into polo. The Indonesian national team was here in the lead-up to the All Asia Cup. They actually won! We recently held the International Ladies Tournament at Polo Escape. We had a lovely group of lady patrons and pros from Kenya, USA, Malaysia, Argentina, France and Germany. Some of the world’s best, like Lia Salvo, Eva Brühl, Sunny Hale and Sarah Wiseman, came and played here.
POLO+10: How many horses do you have?
Robin: We used to have 102 horses. But that was too much and so we’ve been reducing the number. We’ve sold a few of our horses to Canada, India, Singapore, Philippines and Germany. Now we have 75 horses of our own and 12 belonging to a patron from Shanghai.
POLO+10: What is your vision for this place and for you in general?
Robin: I always felt I’m lucky and I hope I can maintain the place because it’s a beautiful place for us, for my family and friends. It’s like our home, but it’s very difficult to take care, because it is a lot of work. The more I continue to improve Polo Escape, the more there is of preparation work and maintenance work going on, but I enjoy it.
POLO+10: You also have the idea of doing some organic farming?
Robin: That is my dream too. We are lucky having so much water on our property. I want my people, my staff here on holidays to fish in the water. We put fish in our lakes and we wanted to grow vegetables so they don’t have to go and buy them. We can produce on our land. I’m trying to do everything organically to keep everything safe, because fertilizers or chemical insecticides go into our water. We already have bees and they make beautiful honey for our guests and us. Besides my wish to start with organic farming, my family, my children and friends are very important to me and I hope they all stay healthy.
Dear Robin, thank you very much for the conversation. We hope Polo Escape continues to work well and wish you good luck with your plans of organic farming. We would love to come around again.