A night in the trees: The Bangkok Tree House

“If all insects on earth would to disappear, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”
-          Jonas Salk


This quote is on the back of the Treehouse staff’s T-shirts. What they mean: Let’s try to live and flourish together instead.

I wanted to breathe clean air, and hear birds and insects instead of traffic, and unplug and recharge – without having to go a long way.

Yeah, right, you say, but you live in Bangkok.

Good thing there is just the place. Yes, inside this big, smog-plagued, noisy, chaotic city.
The place is called Bang Krachao, nicknamed „green lungs of Bangkok“. You can see it in the satellite pictures: It’s a green island midst all the grey. And it is, in fact, an island on the Chao Phraya River.

Foto: Bangkok Tree House

Before I even arrived in Thailand I knew that I would have to spend a weekend in the sustainable hotel that is located here: the Bangkok Tree House.

Opened in 2011, This “green hotel and organic restaurant” fulfills all my eco-tourism dreams: run on renewable energy, locally and organically grown fresh food and herbal teas, all employees living and having grown up within walking distance, only a narrow path leading there, which makes it impossible to reach by car, built from recycled materials and bamboo (that grows incredibly fast and is thus a fantastic renewable resource). “Discarded juice cartons were used to insulate our walls, used plastic drums were used to build our pier and reclaimed wood was used to build our walkways”, they say on their homepage.
For every booking made, 1 kg of trash is removed from the river. The staff sets out about twice a year in a boat to collect it from the water, and by 2014, they had already properly disposed of 3218 kg. Sadly, this is much needed. All over this island empty plastic bottles, Styrofoam take-away containers, chips bags, flip flops and other waste are floating in the streams and during high tide, and cling to the mud and trees during low tide.


The Bangkok Treehouse is easier to reach than it seems: The skytrain station Bang Na is not too far from the Pier, and for only 4 baht (around 0,1€), you cross the river on a local ferry, walk about three minutes and you’re there! From the dirt and dust and noise of Bangkok with its skyscrapers and big roads, all the grey… - into the green, lush forest with small, colorful wooden houses.




As I arrive, I am greeted with four different herbal teas to try: Butterfly Pea, Chrysanthemum, Roselle, and Quince, all of them grown on the hotel’s land. Then I pre-order my breakfast so as to reduce food waste. There is no meat in this wonderful place, only vegetarian, vegan and seafood options. Of course, they also compost, and as in Thailand food wastes and other compostables make up around 23% of landfill content, this makes a big difference.


If you’re a permanent resident in Thailand, you can even get a 15% discount if you turn in your phone and leave it in a locker during your stay, how awesome is that? Let’s travel for the experience, not for the photos, and let’s not get distracted by the constant flow of information through the internet.


My room is called a nest and surrounded by palm trees and other plants. I have three storeys all to myself: The ground floor with the bathroom and outdoor shower, lots of space, and the creative stairs to the bedroom. I am given the “ant nest”, which might sound unpleasant, really, but just as with the quote on their T-shirts, they just want to raise awareness to how important insects are. You could be in the bee nest, or butterfly nest, too. There are no real ants here, but the room is decorated with some. 

An “eco-card” informs me that bed linens won’t be changed every day if I stay more than one night, same as towels. I would also have to request to have the room cleaned if I stayed longer. This helps save energy and water. All the laundry is dried in the sun, too.
I step on my terrace. It’s perfect. I can hear the water of the river underneath me, the insects buzz, birds sing, and an occasional boat, but I see none of that. I can see only trees around me and the blue sky above. I am thus also hidden from my neighbors. Another wooden staircase up is the outdoor bed, where I later lie and watch the stars until the mosquitoes start bothering me.

Bild: Bangkok Tree House

It is actually the perfect hotel for couples to spend a romantic weekend.

Back downstairs, I drink the coconut that’s been waiting there for me as another welcoming drink, and step on the shower-terrace. This one has two walls, and if I’m not comfortable being hidden only by trees, I can also roll down a curtain. There is shampoo and soap provided, herbal, produced right here in Bang Krachao. The water flows right into the river, so using natural soaps is once again important. This shower in the trees is my favorite part of the room.


Between the rooms and the actual river, where the Treehouse also has its own pier, you can sit in air conditioned rooms with glass walls or outside between plants, enjoying the view while you drink your herbal tea or smoothie through a stainless-steel straw – for yes, this hotel wants to reduce waste every way they can.


Foto: Bangkok Tree House



The next morning, I borrow one of the bikes they provide for free, and explore the surroundings a bit, before my tour starts. The local guides have also grown up on Bang Krachao, and for approximately four hours, we cycle the island. There are trees and birds all around us, and mud underneath: almost all the roads are narrow elevated paths, sometimes with a rail, but more often without, so be careful not to fall! Inside, there are also real roads, but they seem tiny compared to the five-lane streets in the rest of Bangkok, and there aren’t too many cars. We visit the floating market, the OTOP (one tambon, one product) project, where they tie-dye clothes and manufacture joss sticks that keep mosquitoes away, we bike through parks and jungle, and catch a view of the river and the now seemingly unreal skyline of Bangkok.





It’s not just the Treehouse that is striving to work with nature instead of against it, it’s the whole place. Bigger hotels and buildings can’t be built here. We’re inside Bangkok, yet what you get to see is authentic, rural Thailand. Food is grown and sold here, the locals earn their money here, and it seems to me that tourism can work this way: People sleep in homestays and eat what the island provides, all employees and guides are locals, you move around by bike only. I even get to help make the joss sticks, from coffee grounds, turmeric, lemongrass and cinnamon. Oh yes, and all over the island, the paths are lighted with LED lamps, as well as in the hotel. 





I want to sit here all day, on my quiet, peaceful terrace, or my feet dangling down from the shower platform, or by the river, drinking herbal tea, listening to the sounds of nature, the hotel’s cats and dogs by my feet.

I don’t want to leave.


 

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