Bangkok Tree House: Review

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

When you’re sat on the breezy deck at the Bangkok Tree House, it is difficult to believe you are just a few minutes from the Skytrain and a direct connection to the traffic-choked downtown heart of the Thai capital.

But then much about the Bangkok Tree House is a world apart from this city’s other accommodation offerings. On a clear mission to bring Bangkok an eco-friendly hotel without compromising on comfort, the place simultaneously manages to prove that green can also be stylish.

RELATED: Bang Nampheung – a floating market amidst Bangkok’s lungs

RECOMMENDED: Book the Bangkok Tree House online with Agoda

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

If nothing else, the hotel’s environmental credentials are clear – this is far from being just another marketing gimmick as you might expect elsewhere. The owners commit to removing a kilo of litter from Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river for every guest booking. Even before reaching reception, it becomes apparent on the short walk from the pier that this salvage effort is badly needed – however much this artificial island of Bang Krachao might be dubbed the ‘green lungs of Bangkok’, litter from upstream is still a serious problem here. Judging by the trash further inside the island, the locals, too, still have a thing or two to lean about eco-friendly living. Other green initiatives at the Bangkok Tree House include the use of solar panels to generate power, a restaurant that serves no meat and only sustainably caught fish, and providing free bicycle hire to guests for trips around the island.

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

The welcome is warm; staff are somewhat reserved but very pleasant and check-in, while a tad slow, feels as though it is just meant to be that way. Elsewhere this would come across as less than efficient, but this is the kind of place where you take your time and where you are left to your own devices unless you need help. It works – in fact, it’s wonderful. All this time spent in the multi-purpose reception-café-restaurant area, an open-air structure that stretches over three gradually narrower stories and culminates in a small but beautiful sun-trap of a dining platform at the top, means ample opportunity to admire the ground floor ceiling cleverly constructed of suspended bamboo trunks of various lengths, which move and produce a gentle hollow tapping sound in the slight breeze. A few of them have light fittings on their ends, creating great effect at night and eliminating the need for further lighting – its softness only adds to the intimacy. Even if you choose not to stay at the Bangkok Tree House, this open space makes it worth dropping in for a drink if you’re on the island for a day of cycling or a visit to the popular weekend floating market at Bang Nampheung.

RELATED: 4 floating markets in and around Bangkok

RECOMMENDED: Book the Bangkok Tree House online with Agoda

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

Check-in continues with a delightful platter of four different flower-based drinks, typical traditional Thai refreshment – anchun (butterfly pea flower), grajiab (roselle), gek hoi (chrysanthemum) and matoom (bale fruit). Laid out on a long, narrow platter with a small cup of each adorned with a dried whole flower, between them they are a beautiful rainbow of liquids – and anywhere that serves me butterfly pea flower juice is off to a great start.

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

Rooms at the Bangkok Tree House are simply stunning. Each ‘tree house’ comprising three floors including a rooftop terrace with a huge day bed from which to soak up the sun, they are admittedly a little disorientating on entry – with mirrors everywhere and cheeky signs declaring that ‘every mirror is a door’, you don’t know where you are going at first. Equally, steep steps and largely non-existent barriers mean it is unlikely to be suitable for the very young, very old, vertigo-inclined, clumsy or drunk. Nevertheless, there is no denying for a moment that it represents a real feat of imagination and engineering to have been able to conceive and execute such far-fetched structures so well.

RECOMMENDED: Book the Bangkok Tree House online with Agoda

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

You are probably best treating yourself to a stay here with someone you are comfortable around. The toilet, apart from having a glass panel for flooring so as to enable you to see the outside ground far beneath your feet as you do your business, has only a portable bamboo, room-divider-type screen for privacy, while the huge bathroom has no blinds to cover the floor-to-ceiling glass doors. Entirely open-air, it is nonetheless well screened to the exterior and luxuriously boasts separate rain and power showers. Upstairs in the pod-like bedroom that (again, very energy efficiently) is the only part of the room to be air-conditioned, a plush futon-like mattress sits on a raised wooden platform. There is no feeling here that this is a tree house in the rough-and-ready camping sense of the word – the white linen is crisp, the duvet and pillows comfortable and there are pretty towels and extra pillows for the rooftop day bed, plus slippers and dressing gowns. The rooms lack TVs but instead have a PC packed with ready-loaded films and TV shows – some with an environmental slant (think Al Gore’s An Unfortunate Event), others more mainstream. Ordinarily the PC is connected to the internet too, though on our visit this wasn’t working in our room and the hotel-wide wi-fi was also experiencing issues.

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

For a more rustic experience you might stay in the Bangkok Tree House’s View with a Room – literally a roofless, wall-less, open-air platform with a four-poster bed, that allows you to sleep truly under the stars. For the attraction alone this is the most expensive room here, despite the lack of amenities. They assure, however, that they have a contingency plan in the event of rain. The other option displayed on their web site, a ‘River Nest’ which is essentially a mattress floating on the river and is apparently only available depending on the season, we can only assume is a practical joke (though they never let on as much).

RECOMMENDED: Book the Bangkok Tree House online with Agoda

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

There are further pleasant touches – the sort of thing that make it apparent that the Bangkok Tree House is run out of love, rather than just for the money. A communal fridge (there are none in the rooms) is loaded with free ice cream in small glasses, pineapple and mint sorbet during our visit, and large glass bottles of drinking water to take back to your room. Once again the consistency of the approach to eco-friendly practices is telling. Back in the room we had been greeted with freshly harvested coconuts for us to sup the juice of and then scoop out the flesh, accompanied by a little welcome message scrawled on a banana tree leaf, and another one laid out on the bed. Though they didn’t on our visit, Bangkok Tree House staff have been known to write guests’ receipts on banana leaves rather than wasting paper on printing.

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

The clear love of bikes runs through the Bangkok Tree House; as well as offering them for free rental, a couple of rusty old models stand as ornaments in the café area, which is also dotted with witty signs about not smoking, proof that the owners don’t take themselves too seriously, even if they are deadly serious about what they are doing here. A cool breeze comes in from the river and rattles the bamboo trunks hanging overhead; the island location means there are fairly strong winds in the night, too, and it’s a delight to wake up to the whistling trees and their gnarling shadows silhouetted against the glass walls of the tree house’s pod bedroom. The wood and mental construction creaks in the wind, creating the feeling that you’re in an old house rather than an ultra-modern design concept. It is only really by night, in fact, that you realise just how surrounded by trees and plants the whole place is.

RECOMMENDED: Book the Bangkok Tree House online with Agoda

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

An overnight stay includes an evening boat tour along the river to spot the local fireflies, which is well worth doing even if you think you’ve seen them elsewhere. I had no idea they could even be found this close to Bangkok but, compared with the canal around Mae Klong’s Amphawa floating market, full of weekending Bangkokians poking sticks out of their boats, the trees lining Bang Krachao island are teeming with fireflies whose unmistakable glow is far more easily spotted here. The boat came so close to them that one or two flew right in front of my face! Despite their apparent strength in numbers, my boatman talked the whole way about the fireflies dying out, and showed genuine interest in looking out for them, guiding me against taking flash photography, for instance, which kills them instantly. Even if you don’t take this fantastic tour, fireflies are easily spotted in the plant growth along the water’s edge as you stroll along the raised walkways all around the island.

RELATED: Mae Klong: Guide

Bangkok Tree House in Phra Phradaeng

The following morning, the wonderful restaurant deck is once again the setting for a filling breakfast of poached eggs, vegan rice soup, fresh watermelon juice, whole coconuts, yoghurts and Thai snacks. The butterfly pea flowers makes a welcome reappearance, too, this time combined with lemongrass in a hot infusion. With anchun (butterfly pea flowers) served twice in two days, I’m a very happy boy – and the atmosphere here makes the Bangkok Tree House exactly the kind of place anchun was made for. No-one here pretends that this is a completely tranquil retreat – they can’t possibly, what with the neighbours going about their day-to-day business and noisy but harmless dogs barking. But it’s a slice of real Phra Phradaeng life, the countryside just a short hot from Bangkok and yet with a touch of luxurious comfort thrown in. For the kind of escape where you can mentally be miles away in the space of around half an hour, it’s simply perfect.

Bangkok Tree House, 60 Moo 1, Petch Cha Hueng Road, Bang Nampheung, Phra Phradaeng, Samut Prakan 10130; 082 995 1150
Book online with Agoda for the best available rates!

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary one-night stay at the Bangkok Tree House for the purposes of this review. All of the opinions in this article are of course my own.

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