Find a sense of peace within close proximity of Bangkok.
Hotel Insider: Bangkok Treehouse
Finding the Bangkok Tree House was easy enough; we hailed a cab at Saphan Taksin in central Bangkok and drove along the Chao Phraya River until we got to the pier in the suburban, south-eastern district of Samut Prakarn. Following the map and dragging our luggage behind us, we walked into a nearby wooded area and on to an elevated path that took us directly to the hotel. My first impression of the property was of a haphazard village of winding wooden walkways and glass-and-bamboo cabins suspended on stilts over the river. At the open-air lobby-cum-restaurant, we gratefully accepted cold towels and lemon-grass drinks from smiling, casually dressed Thai staff. After a quick check-in, we were led to one of the wooden cabins.
The hotel is about a year old and sits with its back to the city's "Green Lung". Built by a Thai entrepreneur whose love for his city is rivalled only by his passion for green living, the property is "inspired by Thoreau's Walden". An ancient temple and a floating market are short bike rides away (bike rental is free with every booking). The Chao Phraya is quiet along this stretch, the peace occasionally broken by a speeding long-tail boat. A small ferry (10 minutes; 4 Thai baht [50 fils]) takes visitors to shopping malls and convenience stores on the other side.
We had the "Bee Hive" (others have names such as "Tree-Top Nest" and "View with a Room"), which sleeps three. The ground level had a living area with a table and an outdoor shower and toilet with a bamboo curtain for privacy. Steep stairs led to the bedroom, furnished with a low king bed, a spare bed, a computer (for Wi-Fi access) and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the treetops. On the roof was a massive sunbed, excellent for a snooze or soaking up the views.
There is no room service but it was a pleasure to dine in the open-air restaurant with the river gurgling beneath us. The best bit is the free ice-cream - Thai milk tea (cha yen) frozen in tumblers and stacked in the community fridge, a real treat after a hot day spent exploring the jungle. When our son inevitably dropped one of his sandals into the river, one of the cleaners, giggling uncontrollably, expertly fished it out with a bamboo pole.
The food, prepared on solar cookers, was unbelievably wholesome. The hotel has a "no meat" policy; vegan meals are available. Breakfast was simple but hearty: local fruit (rambutan, mango, lychees and banana), eggs, khao tom (rice porridge), coffee, tea and fresh fruit juices. Lunch and dinner comprised of inexpensive three-course meals (250 baht [Dh30] per head) featuring such lovely things as crab with mango jus; a "fisherman's lunch" of brown rice, fried fish, soup and an eye-wateringly hot but tasty prawn preserve; and pak choy in a vermicelli salad. Dessert was ice-cold lychees, and mango and warm sticky rice with sweetened coconut milk.
Sleepy and utterly isolated. Because we visited in hot and rainy July, the only other guests were two American backpackers, who arrived by long-tail boat and kept to themselves. Next door was a house occupied by a local family with three terriers that jumped up and barked excitedly whenever they saw us. The resident monitor lizard appeared at noon every day to bask on the tiny jetty.
Lounging on the roof, watching the ships silently sail past. The candlelit dinners in the restaurant were memorable, enjoyed amid the rain, chirruping crickets and fireflies.
The bathroom faced a public path instead of the jungle, so the curtains had to be kept closed.
A spartan, riverside bolthole for those wanting solitude after the chaos of Bangkok. It's not the safest of places for small children, though, with steep stairs and wide gaps in the rails along the elevated paths.
A "Tree Top Nest" (sleeps two) costs from 6,000 Thai baht (Dh716) per night, including breakfast, Wi-Fi, bike rental, ice cream (available all day) and taxes. Bangkok Tree House, 60 Moo 1, Petch Cha Hueng Road, Phra Padaeng, Samut Prakarn, Greater Bangkok 10130, Thailand (www.bangkoktreehouse.com; 00 66 82 995 1150).