A contemporary Ewok village
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Still one of Bangkok‘s best kept secrets, the Phra Phradaeng peninsula (aka Khung Bang Kachao) is an unlikely pocket of countryside just south of the city that makes for a refreshing escape from the concrete jungle. Despite being only a short walk and ferry ride from a BTS sky train station, the area has remained pristine thanks to the Chao Phraya River cutting it off from the rest of not-so-charming south Bangkok in an almost 360 degree circle. A handful of cheap homestays are available, but if you can swing it, eco-conscious Bangkok Tree House brings its guests “back to nature” without sacrificing comfort.
Opened just five months ago, Bangkok Tree House was apparently inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and is actually not too far out of line from 19th century transcendental-conservationist thought. Although the three-storey rooms (or “nests” as they’re called) aren’t actual tree houses in that they’re not constructed in or around actual trees, they do capture that feeling in a more contemporary sort of way. The whole place is tied together by a network of walkways and steep staircases perched high above lush vegetation. It reminded us of an Ewok village though perhaps with a little more class (no offence Ewoks).
Rooms are available in three forms, all of which come with air-con, multiple floors and verandas with river views. The standard “tree top nest” costs 3,670 baht per night while the “honeymoon nest” is apparently more “sexy” and will run you 4,470. The cleverly named “view with a room” bags you an open-air rooftop bed area where you can sleep under the stars for 5,270 baht. Expect these rates to jump slightly beginning October 31, 2012, but if you act fast, the resort is offering a “buy two nights and get the third night free” promotion until August 31. Rates may seem pricey, but the resort is selling a whole experience rather than just a place to stay.
We checked out the standard “tree top nest” and found it to be one of the more compelling rooms we’ve seen in a long time. The downstairs area — which is already high off the ground — houses a spacious bathroom with long, shiny sinks and tasteful shower rooms that undoubtedly accomplish the designer’s vision of creating an inviting and comfortable space that also allows for a connection with the natural world. Apart from the hardware, just about everything is made from bamboo.
One of the only drawbacks we could see is that second floor bedrooms are on the small side, though to be fair this is successfully offset by other factors, and larger rooms are available for a price. The elegantly minimalist interior with soft and sophisticated yellow-green walls, bamboo flooring, plenty of natural light and frameless beds set on raised platforms reminded us of a Japanese-style Zen meditation hall. A notebook computer for connecting to the resort’s free WiFi is among the only in-room amenities, but if seeking the lap of luxury you would be better off sticking to Chakrabongse Villas.
The room’s giant sliding doors opening to sizable patios are great, but we would love to see screen doors and windows added as another option to the glass. With that minor gripe aside, we found the overall design to be nothing short of stunning, and that was before we had seen the outdoor rooftop lounge areas that come standard atop every room. Due to the open-air verandas with minimal fencing and steep staircases connecting each floor, those with small children in tow should probably look elsewhere.
Along with the whole Ewok tree house novelty and Zen-style atmosphere, one of the resort’s selling points is its commitment to environmentally sustainable practices that go above and beyond what you’d expect. Much of the resort’s electricity is solar-generated, meals are prepared with state-of-the-art carbon-free cookers and dry toilets are available in some rooms. You can forget about plastic and paper here — water is only available in reusable containers and receipts are handwritten onto leaves.
Upon entering the grounds and reading a sign that says “Bangkok Tree House removes one kilo of trash from the Chao Phraya River for every booking”, we weren’t quite convinced. Having reviewed thousands of resorts and hotels in Southeast Asia we’ve seen first-hand how the “eco-friendly” label is often irresponsibly thrown around. After meeting the owner and seeing first-hand what he’s up to, however, we feel confident not only that his heart is in the right place, but also that he’s putting his money where his mouth is.
As for common space, the resort boasts a spacious two tiered open-air lobby/restaurant for relaxing with the river breeze. What looks to be an outstanding menu features local, organic produce (much of it grown on-site) along with sustainable seafood and vegetarian/vegan options paired with carefully selected wines. From the well thought out menu, to the professional but relaxed way in which the owner and staff carry themselves, to little touches like bamboo rod ceilings reflected in mirror topped tables, the dining area is nothing if not tasteful. Plus, free homemade ice cream for all!
Bicycles are provided free of charge to guests along with maps and no shortage of instruction on how to explore the area’s extensive network of raised bicycle paths through the forests. This cycling paradise also features a lovely park complete with nature trails, a Siamese fish gallery/garden and one of the Bangkok area’s finest weekend markets at Bang Nam Phueng.
To reach Bangkok Tree House, take the BTS sky train to Bang Na and leave the station through exit number 2. Walk straight at the end of the stairs and either catch a taxi to San Phawut pier (ta-ruea San-Phawuet) or walk the little more than a kilometre to the pier by taking the first left onto San Phawut Road, which will take you past a clutch of great street food carts and markets before ending at the pier next to Wat Bang Na Nok.
The pier you want is the one on the left if facing the river, from where mint green skiffs transport passengers across for 4 baht from 05:00 to 21:00 daily. Once on the other side, walk immediately to the left and follow the raised concrete path some 300 metres to Bangkok Tree House, or phone ahead if you would prefer to have someone waiting when you arrive. Adding to its natural allure, it’s impossible to reach Bangkok Tree House by car.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.