Set along the banks of a lazy river and located just 25km to the west of Ayutthaya, the small rural community of Ban Lan Khe provides the perfect opportunity to experience Thai family life amid a tranquil setting. Whether looking for somewhere to enhance your travel experience, enjoy nature or simply unwind, this could be just the place for you.
As the songtheaw pulls away, I'm left at a quiet junction overlooking a lush sea of green rice paddies that stretch before me. Having spoken earlier that morning, Mrs Tim suggested we meet by Wat Ranjolakeh, near to the school where she works.
Walking along the road and over an old wooden bridge, I see the temple down to my right. Mrs Tim is already there to welcome me. After a cool drink and friendly chat with the ladies at the local shop we go to take a look at the temple where a 260-year-old Buddha sits inside.
Later, we head to a jetty where Mrs Tim's husband is waiting; here an old woman paddles her boat among the stilt houses lining the riverbank. Gliding over lilies, Mr Tan takes the boat a short distance upstream to his place, a bright yellow building with a homely atmosphere. Feeling instantly at ease, we chat for a while on the breezy jetty before I take a swim in the cool river that has been tempting me since I arrived.
At four o'clock, Mrs Tim appears on the horizon, arriving home in a boat laden with grandchildren and other members of the family -- time to make some spicy som tam. After several introductions, giggles and shy smiles, I'm given a crash course in Thai cooking in the open-air kitchen.
As the heat dies down we take a boat ride along the river, stopping to collect water mimosa, morning glory and lotus flowers to be used later on for cooking. Conical bird nests sway in the trees as fishermen try their luck along with kingfishers, herons and other wading birds. The sun passes below the horizon as we drift through the village, an assortment of houses with some leaning at impossible angles. A lone monk sits at the end of a jetty accompanied by his dogs, the end of another day in this timeless place.
Back at the house we feast upon a meal prepared by Mrs Tim that includes soup, fresh fish, spicy pork, omelette, local vegetables and a variety of homemade sauces. Talk is easy over dinner in the company of such gracious and pleasant hosts and it's soon time for bed. Accommodation is in a simple loft that sleeps up to five, with mattresses on the floor and air-con if required. Larger groups of people can be placed in other houses around the village. The shared bathroom, basic with cold-water shower, is also spotlessly clean.
As the sun begins to rise at 06:00 its worth getting up to see local monks paddle boats from house to house for the villagers to pay merit. Being a member of the family, you will be invited to take part in this important daily ceremony and given an opportunity to give alms of food and flowers to the monk who pulls up at the end of the jetty.
After a hearty Thai style breakfast it's eventually time to leave.
I walk with Mrs Tim along the riverbank, past mango and banana trees to the local school where I say a quick hello, before heading back to Ayutthaya feeling well rewarded from my time spent here in this special place.
To arrange your homestay simply phone Mrs Tim.
Ban Lan Khe Homestay
T:(081) 251 8058
700B per person per night. Includes evening meal and breakfast. If there is less than five people there's a surcharge of 100B each for the boat trip.
How to get there
From Ayutthaya take a bus from the local bus station to Sena. Buses leave every 30 minutes between 05:30 and 18:30. The journey takes around 45 minutes and costs 15B. To reach Ban Lan Khe from Sena, either take a songtheaw (departs every half hour, costs 10B and takes 15 minutes), or arrive in style on a Harley Davidson trishaw, located around the bus station (costs 50B). A taxi direct from Ayutthaya to Ban Lan Khe will cost around 400B. The best time to arrive is between 15:00 to 16:00. The Homestay will help you getting back to Sena, from where you just take the bus back to Ayutthaya.
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By James Barr
Last updated on 19th May, 2015.