THE BANGKOK TREEHOUSE
Updated: Jul 9, 2021
It would be generous to say that the dock at which the taxi dropped us off was ramshackle. Chunks of concrete had broken off and fallen into the murky river. We would be lucky if the rusted steps to the boat landing supported the weight of our bags, let alone the four of us. A pack of mangy dogs huddled next to a mound of debris. The foul smelling air along the bank of the Chao Phraya River that morning didn't help my assessment of our situation. It was difficult to determine the source of the odor. My son thought it was the nearby mound of trash. Backed up sewer drains between the road and the pier was my guess. The power plant that stood guard at the bend in the river about a half kilometer away could have also been the culprit. Needless to say, this was not the inviting scent of incense or the familiar aroma of fried street food that we had come to expect in Bangkok. This seemed a far cry from the eco-friendly hotel that we had booked. My expression, may signaled my reservations about our reservations, because Christina smiled and quickly pointed across the river. On the opposite bank stood the Bangkok Tree House and Organic Restaurant, our lodging for the following few days. Unreachable by car, or at least not easily reached, the Bangkok Tree House stands on the water’s edge half hidden among coconut palms and papaya groves in Bang Krachao, an area of the city known as the lung of Bangkok.
With my apprehension barely attended to, the kids, Christina, and I boarded a ferry. Joining us on the river crossing were a dozen motorbikes and enough other passengers that capsizing was a legitimate fear. As I watched our luggage getting loaded onto a narrow motor boat, I wondered to myself if we’d ever see our bags again. Although I trusted the good intentions of our, aquatic bellhop, I had a lot less faith that his tired looking boat would make it across the river.
ARRIVAL: Minutes later the ferry dropped us off at the a pier on the far side of the river. The bustle and dust of the noisy city faded into the background. Even the grime of the ferry’s diesel exhaust seemed to free itself readily from our clothes. The stench that greeted us on the eastern bank was replaced on this side by the sweet aromas of fruits and flowers. Much of the area in that corner of Bang Krachao is a marsh. To get from the dock to the Tree House we walked three hundred meters along one of the elevated board walks that wind through marsh. After a few minutes we arrived at our destination. Joey, the owner, greeted us with refreshing drinks. Izzie and Ian were excited to be shown the unlimited ice cream cooler.
GREEN: As Joey and the staff showed us to our room, I asked about the environmental features of the Tree House. Joey said that they strive to reduce their carbon footprint in many ways. The buildings are sleek and are constructed of a mix of materials. Much of the building material is bamboo. Bamboo, I knew from grad school projects was a quickly replenished material with excellent strength. The Tree House also used discarded material where possible. For example, the pier was made with reclaimed wood and used plastic drums. Lights in the public space, our host tells me, are powered only by wind and solar. Many other eco-friendly tactics were employed throughout the property.
NESTS: The first thing that I noticed is that the hotel is not actually in a tree. Instead, the buildings stand on stilts above the marsh. Upon entering our room, it is quickly apparent that the concern for Mother Earth extends to the lodgings. The guest rooms, referred to as “nests” are elegant in their simplicity and supplied locally with natural linens and organic soaps. Our son was fascinated by the glass floor on the bathroom that gave an unexpected view of the marsh below. The beds are clean and comfortable. There is even an option to sleep on the roof (at the time of our visit, unfortunately, the roof sleeping sections were not yet finished).
TASTES: After getting familiar with our nest and reuniting with our luggage, we wandered over to the restaurant for lunch. Continuing the environmentally friendly nature food served at the Tree House is organic, seasonal and prepared via carbon neutral methods. Our lunch, for example, was prepared using solar cookers. A choice between three prix fixe menus minimizes food waste. Although carbon and waste is minimized, taste is not. The meals that we had there over the next few days were bursting with local flavor and color.
LOCATION: ang Krachao’s abundant fauna and wildlife is a welcome contrast to the gritty, choking, concrete city that most people know. The sounds of song birds and cicadas mute the roar of the city. As we discovered during a morning walk, you are more likely to come across a monitor lizard than a exhaust spewing tuk-tuk. This is not a section of Thailand's capital that receives a lot of tourists. Perhaps that is why the locals seemed genuinely pleased to see us. The Bang Namphueng Floating Market is a short walk or bike ride from the Tree House. It is not as big as the more famous floating markets like Damnoen, but it isn't as over crowded with tourists either. At Bang Namphueng, we found so many food stands offering mouthwatering delights, it was hard to decide what to eat. Fortunately we had plenty of time to decide because the market also had activities that the kids enjoyed. Izzie especially liked painting pictures of local flowers. Ian had fun on the hand pushed carnival rides. Visitors to Bangkok usually want to visit the great temples, palaces and entertainment districts that for which the city has become known. It is possible to stay at the Tree House and still venture to the major attractions. A journey from the Tree House to the heart of Bangkok, via foot, boat and the BTS Skytrain takes about an hour. For anyone who has not seen the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Sut Hat and the other wonderful sites of the city, it is worth the trip. Most of Bangkok, with its clogged traffic, lively night markets, stunning temples and abundant aromas, can sometimes, almost overwhelm one's senses. The Bangkok Tree House in urban oasis of Bang Krachao, gives visitors to the capital a chance to exhale. The Bangkok Tree House is not for everyone. If you’re squeamish about a few bugs or open air showers, then you might want to think twice. I, for one, am very much looking forward to staying there again.