A luxury nature retreat in the middle of the city, Bangkok Tree House is an ambitious attempt to integrate a purpose-built hotel resort into its river and jungle surroundings
Getting back to nature in the middle of an urban metropolis may seem impossible, but it’s what the newly opened Bangkok Tree House is aiming to do. Opening in May 2012, Bangkok Tree House is a unique eco-hotel built above Bangkok’s riverbank and surrounded by lush tropical forest. [Click any photo for bigness. There is a complete Bangkok Tree House Photo Gallery if you want even more pix].
The whole resort has been created from the ground up and purpose-built in order to preserve the local environment and intagrate into it as much as possible.
The result is one of the most unusual and inspiring hotels I’ve seen, an attempt to fuse new buildings into the environment rather than impose them on it. The architectural style is quite reminiscent of Bauhaus with a cube like feel – something that will become softened with time as the forest greenery takes hold on the trestles covering the side of each room and starts to mask its original shape. In a couple of years the Bangkok Tree House will look completely different to today.
There’s no roads to the Bangkok Tree House – visitors arrive by longtail boat from across the river from the pier on the other side. (Just call the Tree House and ask them to direct your taxi driver to the pier). The Reflect restaurant is the first thing to be seen after stepping onto the floating pontoon. The restaurant sets the tone of what’s to come, showcasing the extensive use of bamboo and other natural materials to great effect.
Beyond the restaurant lies the rest of the resort, suspended over the riverbank so the water can come and go with high and low tide. There are eleven rooms, or nests, in total, including a Family Nest and a Honeymoon Nest.
The already iconic View With A Room is an open-air bedroom suspended above the jungle treetops with stunning views, and it catches a beautiful breeze thanks to its height that keeps away the mosquitos and reduces the heat. (Guests who book this room do also have an indoor, aircon bedroom to retire to as well if they don’t want to sleep out under the stars). It’s important for prospective visitors to understand though that there is no fumigation or any other measures used to keep insects away – the whole point of the Tree House is to be part of the forest rather than impose on it. As such, just like it says on their official site, “the Bangkok Tree House is not for everyone”.
The View With A Room is surrounded by a self-purifying swimming pool that uses natural agents rather than chlorine to stay clean. This wasn’t completed during our visit, and I think it will take
a while for it to get fully sorted out, but it’s an interesting concept. Solar and wind power also help offset the resort’s energy usage, and there’s an ongoing program to collect trash from the river – over 200 kg has been picked up already.
Each nest is not just a bedroom, but a three storey eco-house of your own. Thanks to the large sliding window doors and use of hardwood floors, there’s a real feel of space and peace inside the nest. It’s definitely a great spot for simply relaxing and doing nothing.
The ground floor is the reception and dressing area, with sliding doors out to a very spacious outdoor shower (with two showerheads) and an indoors toilet complete with slightly un-nerving glass floor which looks down onto the riverbank so you can see the river water rise and fall with the tide.
From the entry area there are hand-built wooden stairs heading up to the bedroom.
The bedroom has air-con and a computer equipped with free wifi and hundreds of movies and television programs if you want them. The sliding doors open out onto a small balcony with another ladder leading upwards.
On the roof of the nest is a sturdy canvas stargazing and sunbathing bed to recline on.
There’s been a heavy emphasis on using recycled and and natural materials, and the ingredients for the vegan and pescetarian menu served in the hotel’s open air riverside restaurant are both grown on site and sourced locally. There’s even a parabolic solar mirror on the restaurant roof to catch sunrays to cook dinner, although at the moment it’s proving tricky to keep it constantly in motion. The food has some interesting twists on Thai dishes as well as classics and the complimentary Western breakfast is a superbly assembled mix of scrambled eggs, whole meal bread, plain yoghurt and truly huge fruit platter with real coffee. There is also free water and Thai coconut ice-cream available 24 hours a day from the fridge located in the library. Perfect for midnight munchies.
As you can imagine, the Tree House is somewhere to come and relax and do very little – there’s not a huge amount to do in the surrounding area, although a floating market 15 minutes cycle away could be an interesting morning excursion. Simply exploring the waterways and fruit orchards of the surrounding area – known as Bangkok’s “Green Lung” – is definitely worth doing by bike. It’s also possible to have a picnic and visit Ancient Siam, the theme park a short journey away that showcases all of Thailand’s most important temples in replica. And of course there’s all of Bangkok to explore. There are some thoughtful touches to minimise stress too for guests – bikes are free for use by guests throughout their stay, along with free wifi, free movie access in your room, free breakfast, free cellphone rental with Thai number during your stay. And did I mention the free 24 hour ice cream?
This considered approach comes from owner Joey’s previous experience working within the other hotel owned by his family, the Old Bangkok Inn. One of Bangkok’s original boutique hotels located in the heart of Bangkok’s historical Rattanakosin royal district, the Old Bangkok Inn has won numerous accolades for quality of service as well as accommodation and Joey is bringing this same approach to the Tree House. Dividing a stay in Bangkok between the two properties would be a superb way of seeing the contrasting faces of the city.