Bangkok is a not a city renowned for its green spaces. The thriving metropolis – the largest urban area in Thailand – is known rather for its bustling markets, nightlife, shopping, and cityscape. Yet, only half an hour outside of the city is the Bang Kachao area, an island known as the ‘green lung’ of Bangkok, separated from Bangkok by the Chao Phraya River. Here, Joey Tulyanond has opened the Bangkok Tree House, an eco-hotel that aims to push the limits of being green.
“Serene and undisturbed” is how Joey describes the Bang Kachao area. “Physically, it’s as if the area is lost in another time and space. In fact, if you want to see what Bangkok was like 200 years ago, this is where to visit,” he says. “Most Bangkokians do not even know the area exists, and many people want it to remain that way.”
The Bangkok Tree House is an intimate collection of 11 rooms (each over three levels), and the spectacular ‘view with a room’ – an open-air ‘nest’ 20 feet above the ground that allows guests to sleep under the stars, surrounded by mangrove palms. Guests to the hotel can borrow bicycles to cycle through the surrounding rainforest on raised concrete cycleways.
The concept, says Joey, is to engage with the basic human need to be close to nature. He has even created a ‘green alphabet’ that lists the environmental features of the Bangkok Tree House. From collecting trash from the river, using bamboo as a construction material, and energy efficient lighting, to growing organic vegetables on green roofs to be used in the hotel’s restaurant, Joey’s venture is a first for the city that seems to have everything.
“Geographically, it is hard to find land to do anything that would fit in with the green theme because Bangkok is not known for its greenery,” says Joey. “As Thailand is still a developing country, awareness for the green movement is still at its infancy. But someone has got to start the ball rolling, it might as well be us.”
Lost amongst the mangrove palms and accessible only by boat and foot, the Bangkok Tree House is admittedly not for everyone. Joey even – some might say bravely – declares that guests who are used to being pampered in 5-star hotel chains shouldn’t book with them. If, however, you are open to new experiences and want to reconnect with nature, the Bangkok Tree House is probably just the thing. “To make it bigger and more commercial would be challenging the green concept,” says Joey, “which we have no interest in doing.”