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Hotel Tip of the Week: Bangkok Tree House | Bangkok, Thailand

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We were recently invited for a sneak peek of the brand new Bangkok Tree House hotel on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, just beyond Bangkok’s city limit. What we found was an eco-masterpiece in the works, conceived by the son of a Bangkok hotelier now very much a world-class hotelier himself!

bangkok tree house hotelAfter a 30 minute ride on the Skytrain from central Bangkok and a 15 minute cab ride, we arrive to the pier next to the Bangna Nok temple and followed the instructions to call the manager of the Bangkok Tree House and he and the captain of the tiny speedboat arrive in two minutes. The manager is dressed to impress in all black, bringing the aura of luxury with him to this otherwise grubby pier. We load into the boat and are whisked across the river, and in three minutes pull up at simple bamboo pier overlooked by the hotel’s organic restaurant. As we carefully, perhaps clumsily, disembark, an older local man observes us from the comfort of his wooden fishing boat.

bangkok tree house arrivalHis boat is just a few feet from the one of the twelve modern tree house suites behind him, and the contrast between his leathery, wrinkled skin and well-worn fishing boat to the gleaming glass of this modern abode strikes me as relevant. This is the first hotel built on the river in this area of Bang Nampheung, which feels like an entirely different world to the jam-packed chaos, consumption and capitalism just over the river in Bangkok.

bangkok tree house at nightWe meet the owner Joey Tulyanond in the restaurant, which is temporarily serving as the hotel reception. Joey’s impeccable English reveals time spent abroad working in Washington, DC.  This was before returning to Thailand to open the Bangkok Tree House, an extreme departure from the traditional Thai style of his family’s Old Bangkok Inn in central Bangkok (click the link to see our review of the hotel).

What the two hotels do have in common is a strong adherence to a green policy, but Joey has taken this to an entirely different level. First, the hotel is entirely carbon neutral, and promises to collect a kilo of trash in the area for every booking to the hotel.  As we tour the property, we see the space where the pool will go in. The plan is to create a natural pool, which uses plant life to clean and regulate water quality, without using chemicals like chlorine. The pool, along with the entirely organic restaurant, should be up and running by late February, Joey explains as he escorts us to our bungalow. There will be three set menus available – one Thai option, one seafood and one vegan, all set at 490 baht. For now, only the delicious breakfast (included in room rate) is served here, he apologizes, sliding the door open to the tree house.

bangkok tree house breakfast by the riverThe bungalows are set over three levels. We enter on the ground level which is essentially a large bathroom with a toilet nook (complete with glass floor looking down onto the river) and a gorgeous outdoor rain shower (and a second shower) on the bamboo deck, made private by an unrolled, heavy bamboo curtain.  Upstairs, we see why our room is called the Ant room: there are giant 8-inch ants traipsing across the wall and the strikingly familiar wooden IKEA furniture inside. Each room is equipped with 32 inch computer monitor stocked up with hundreds of movies, documentaries and music to watch and play during our stay. The outdoor patio on this floor overlooks miles of mango trees, which are fun to look at from the comfort of the bed.

bangkok tree house bedroomUpstairs on the roof are two sun beds perfect for sunbathing. On hot days there might be nothing better than going down to the communal refrigerator (rather than one in every room, this communal fridge saves energy) on the ground floor and grabbing some of that bottomless ice-cream – one of Joey’s more creative (and tasty!) hotel policies. Running up and down the stairs to get that ice cream, however, requires full concentration, thanks to the architectural style that keeps the treehouse feel at the forefront of our awareness.

bangkok tree house bungalowWe start the morning by watching the waves of the river lap at the bank below our hut, thanks to the glass floor beneath the toilet in the bedroom. At the top of a set of staggered steps, there is a second pane of glass in the floor through which we see the river as well. Ascending to the roof requires stepping safely onto a piece of tarp that covers the shower space and below, and then swinging up onto a ladder and climbing that up to the roof.  The warm rain shower requires us to even undertake some of our very personal business outdoors – and we love this as much as we did on the island of Koh Lanta. In fact, all of this in no way inhibits the relaxing effect or luxurious feel of the hotel, and it is actually quite satisfying to ‘climb’ up to the safety of our nest for the night.

bangkok tree house bathroom & showerAs for filling the days, the Bangkok Tree House is not ideal for power shoppers focused on deals in central Bangkok. Guests are better off staying out here, renting (for free) the fashionably rusty bikes to explore. In fact, if you do not do cycle here, you are wasting your stay at the Bangkok Tree House.

The area surrounding the hotel, where the river meets the land, forms miles of lush green swampland, conquered by the locals by creating raised cement sidewalks that snake in and around amphibious neighborhoods of houses on very low land. The pathways all eventually connect up to larger roads with plenty of roadside restaurants (keep your eyes open for a fantastic coffee shop called Coffee Professionals on one of the main roads).

bangkok tree house bike rideWe lost ourselves in here for an hour or so, stumbling upon the Herbal Joss Stick house, privately run by an adorable husband-wife duo who immediately welcomed us and gave us a tour of the center. Also their family house, the wife hand makes herbal joss sticks, which are like incense to ward off mosquitos, and runs Thai cooking classes, while the husband does cycling tours through the area in his down time from teaching at a Bangkok university. You won’t find them online anywhere, however, (our limited language skills kept us from understanding how they host all these tourists), and the entire Bang Nampheung area feels almost completely undiscovered, save for the newly created Bang Nampheung floating market.

Stand Out Feature: Location

Initially, we thought that the location of the Bangkok Tree House would be an inconvenience, and too far from central Bangkok to attract enough guests. On the contrary, the location of the hotel is by far one of its most attractive features. At night, we felt safe all tucked up in our tree house watching movies looking out into the jungle on the river, and during the day we were some of the very few foreigners riding around typically Thai streets, quite a feat in Thailand, a country where almost everywhere panders to tourism. We felt entirely local, and yet good and pampered back at the hotel – the perfect combination for a relaxing escape anywhere.

bangkok tree house lookoutStand Out Feature: The Architecture

Inside our treehouse at night, the lights bounce off the glass and mirrors in a way that create those endless tunnels of reflected scenes, leaving us feeling in a sort of dreamworld, and then climbing up the staggered steps and watching the ebb and flow of the water below creates an atmosphere that make this an entirely unique Bangkok hotel.

Although the local architect Nuntapong Yindeekhun is nearly as off the grid as this hotel is (he is looking to leave architecture and get more serious about eco-farming!) his design is intelligent and modern, using natural and recycled materials wherever possible and creating a perfect balance of an awareness of nature with luxury.

bangkok tree house hotel bungalowRoom for Improvement

As of this review, the hotel was still entirely under construction, so we can’t go naming something to improve upon. We did develop a laundry list of concerns, however. This might include a bit more training for the staff, who are very friendly but still a bit awkward dealing with guests. The ‘ground’ floor of the bungalow gets extremely hot as there are no windows, just sliding glass doors, which, due to mosquitoes won’t be opened after dusk. A fan would be a welcome touch.  Joey plans on selling green products in the new reception area, and we hope this includes the joss sticks from the Herbal Joss Stick house, both for the mosquitos and to support local businesses. We  hope that the wi-fi reaches the bungalows, as promised on the website. Wi-fi was only available in the restaurant (and minimally at that) during our visit. Finally, not because of any extra large fish in the river, but for the flocks of new guests, this hotel is gonna need a bigger boat than its current little four-seater speedboat.

Overall

Bangkok is home to over 800 hotels – the budget cheapies of Khao San Road, comfortable mid-range hotels and uber-luxurious five-star properties reserved for the world’s elite…and then there is the Bangkok Tree House in a category and class of its own. There is enough luxury to deserve the $150 minimum price tag, but enough peace and quiet to marvel at its actual proximity to the buzz of central Bangkok. There is certainly not a lack of Bangkok hotels but finding the right one at the right price may be more difficult. By doing research not only are you narrowing your hotel options but you are also creating a budget that works for you.  If Bangkok is the city you are destine to visit, make sure to check out an exotic hotel such as the Bangkok Tree House Hotel. With Thailand’s amazing beauty and increasing modern appeal it is no wonder why so many tourists visit year after year.

bangkok tree house hotelLocation: Moo 1, Bang Nampheung, Samut Prakan Province; 66-8/1453-1100
Price: Doubles from 4,690 Baht / $150
LGBT Friendly: Not outwardly, but they did invite us…
Digital Nomad Friendly:
without in-room wi-fi, unfortunately not (yet)
Amenities: Complimentary breakfast, free wi-fi in the restaurant area, complimentary bicycle rentals, an entire digital library on an in-room media center, daily drinking water, pool, restaurant, free ice cream bar
Website: www.bangkoktreehouse.com

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Hotel Tip of the Week: Old Bangkok Inn | Bangkok, Thailand

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Welcome to our Hotel Tip of The Week series. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay in countless hotels, and at over 600 days as nomads, we have stayed some of the best (and worst) accommodation the world has to offer. We cover everything from budget to luxury accommodation, and believe that any hotel worth recommending must be comfortable and clean, offer good value for money and treat people as guests, not clients. We have personally stayed in every hotel we recommend to you here on Globetrottergirls.com.

I haven’t even taken my bag from the trunk of the taxi yet, and already there is a woman behind me who wants to take it for me.

‘You stay at this hotel, here, with us?’ she asks. ‘Yes, yes we are staying here,’ I say with a surprised smile. I want to continue by saying… but my bag weighs more than you do, you adorably tiny Thai lady, but instead I just say ‘Don’t worry, I’ll bring the bag inside’.

Dani does the same, and we pass under Spanish moss and hanging plants that decorate this small part of an otherwise busy side street on our way inside the Old Bangkok Inn.

old bangkok innAs the name suggests, we are staying at a small, cozy typically Thai Inn (just getting our big western bodies and backpacks through the two slim dark wooden front doors is a challenge) and from the minute we walk in, I am sure we are going to love the place.

There is no lobby, just six or seven round wooden tables, antique sofas and an eclectic mix of traditional Thai knick knacks and paintings. The room is bright, thanks to two picture windows on either side of the door, and we sit down while we check in, sipping the cool glass of sweet tea customary at most quality Thai hotels.

old bangkok inn bangkokOutside, motorcycles buzz by like bees, buses with squealing brakes stop just out front and the bright pink or yellow taxis whiz by on their way to drop off or pick up a fare. Almost entirely silent, just enough noise comes through to remind us how quiet it actually is, just a few feet from Bangkok’s constant chaos outside, forming the undertones below comfortable classical music pumped in nonchalantly at a level high enough to enjoy, and easy enough to ignore.

Our room is through another set of slim wooden doors and up the stairs, and there are three similar rooms upstairs and four on the ground floor. Immediately I am struck by the fact that the room has two single beds (an issue we are constantly going through as most hotels see us as two friends, not as a couple), the typical Thai decor and the low hanging antique-looking candelabra chandeliers, one between the bed, the other hanging over a third mattress/couch on the floor, which is right below a set of large double windows. A computer monitor on an antique desk unit at the head of the beds serves as a TV and computer – there is broadband internet on the computer, but no wi-fi. The weekly weather forecast is tucked in right by the three remote controls (TV, DVD and Air-Con), so that it can’t be missed.

The bathroom is lovely, with a pedestal sink, the shower has organic body soap and shampoo in gorgeous ceramic containers, and there is also an adorable pillow with thread and needles, an original spin on the standard hotel room sewing kit that makes us want to have an excuse to sew something.

old bangkok inn bedroomThe reason we were interested in the Old Bangkok Inn initially was for the hotel’s eco-friendly policies, which were plain to see throughout the room. As part of the Texas based Green Hotels scheme, the hotel has put eco-friendly policies into place. For example, water comes in a large glass serving vase with a note explaining just how many gallons of oil are used to produce plastic water bottles each year. Toiletries are in re-usable bottles, and towels are requested to be hung up unless we want to have them washed.

old bangkok inn room & waterWarning: this next part is nitpicky, but there are two tiny details in the room I really appreciate. First, there are hooks everywhere: five in the bathroom and a few on the walls throughout the room. Second, there are light switches everywhere, so that I don’t have to shut off the lights and night and stumble back into bed, or wake up entirely in the dark. Both of these things might seem small, but it means that thought has actually been given to the guest experience – not just the decor, the design, and the end profit.

old bangkok inn weather forecast & room doorsOn the downside, the regular rooms feel a bit small. For a higher nightly rate, there are two incredible suites at the Old Bangkok Inn which afford guests a much more regal experience. We are able to peek into the Lotus suite the next morning – the Honeymoon suite was booked. The suites have large double beds set in the middle of spacious, intricately decorated room. A walkway through to the huge, tiled outdoor bathtub also serves as a luxurious indoor/outdoor shower experience. Up a small flight of stairs is a lofted second ‘bedroom’ of sorts, making this suite perfect for families with children.

old bangkok inn suite

Stand Out Feature: Thai traditional theme

The Old Bangkok Inn has plenty of great features that stand out, but overall it was the execution of the theme from start to finish. The look and feel, with wooden paneling, antique furniture, beautiful Thai paintings, allows guests to really soak up a traditional side of Thailand that is hard to come by in the metropolis that is Bangkok, in addition to providing a truly peaceful escape from the noise outside.

Stand Out Feature: Breakfast

One specific Stand Out feature of the hotel is the breakfast, which was simple and truly delightful. In addition to the choice of egg/meat/bread breakfasts, there is practically a buffet of exotic fruits – from small bananas and juicy mandarins to mangoes, pomegranate, mangosteens, Chinese pears, dragon fruit, and plenty of others we have seen but can’t name. One of the hotel owners, a polite older gentleman, even has a book with all the Thai fruits in order to show foreign guests just what they are eating and what it is called. As a side note, the eggs I order with my brown bread are also scrambled to perfection.

old bangkok inn breakfast selectionRoom For Improvement:  Wi-Fi throughout the hotel

Regardless as to whether guests are here for business or pleasure, free in-room wi-fi is simply a must in a capital city like Bangkok, especially considering there was perfectly good quality wi-fi in the main lobby. Why not just extend it to the whole hotel? There were at least four guests in addition to us forced to bring laptops down to sit at the tables and use the wi-fi. While the in-room internet connection on the computer was a nice touch, our computers and smartphones are packed with personal information not available on a generic hotel computer – from work-related materials for business travelers, to travel info, tour guides and personal emails for holidaymakers.

Room for Improvement: Bed Quality

For some reason, mattresses in Thailand tend to be rock hard, but my bed was more unforgiving than most. On the other hand, Dani had a great night’s sleep in her single bed.

Overall

There are hundreds of hotels in this middle price range in Bangkok and the quality varies extremely between the best and the worst rip-offs. What we enjoyed so much about the Old Bangkok Inn is the value for money: clean, well-decorated rooms, traditional Thai atmosphere, impeccable service and delicious breakfast – along with the total peace and quiet in the center of Bangkok’s busiest area.

old bangkok innLocation: 607 Pra Sumen Road, Pra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Price: Starting at 3,190BHT/$100 per double room
LGBT Friendly: Not outwardly
Digital Nomad Friendly:
without in-room wi-fi, unfortunately not
Amenities: Complimentary breakfast, free wi-fi in the restaurant area, DVD library, daily drinking water, guide book library
Website: http://www.oldbangkokinn.com

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