Rabeang Pasak Chiangmai Treehouse Resort
Today’s feature was contributed by architect Ivan Ovchinnikov, designer of the popular DublDom modular house. Ivan was traveling through northern Thailand when he came across a group of treehouses in the jungle. He stopped to take some photos and was able to talk to the owner.
A long time ago, Mr. Lee Suwannachin was working on a chicken farm half an hour from Chiangmai (the largest city in Northern Thailand) and bought a plot of land with a dilapidated house in a small village nearby. The site was on a steep slope with a creek flowing through the middle. For local residents it was of no value because it was too difficult to grow anything. Then there was a flood on the river between the chicken farm and the site, creating a huge lake and cutting off direct road access. As a result, Mr. Lee went to his property less and less. One day, after a long absence, he found the old house destroyed by scavengers and several fallen trees.
Having decided that he needed to do something before it completely disappeared, he began construction of the first treehouse. More precisely, he first built just the lower terrace, then made some stairs, and another terrace, and then without having planned it through it became a house high in the crown of the tree. That was how “Tamarind House” came to be.
Then Mr. Lee decided to make a second house at a lower height but bigger than the first, followed by one at medium height with a smaller area but stretched out, then a multi-room treehouse, and then …. He built the treehouses for himself, as a hobby, but his family rebelled and decided it was time to turn the project into a “resort”, to justify the passion for building. Thus “Rabeang Pasak Chiangmai Treehouse Resort” opened to visitors in 2012.
Mr. Lee runs the business with his daughter Pinn, who lived in America many years ago but returned to help her father. No one else in the village speaks English, so only Mr. Lee and his daughter are able to greet foreign visitors. Hiring English-speaking staff from the city would be too expensive — no one would want go to a village where there is no Internet and hardly any cell phone service.
Most of the visitors are foreigners. Thais do not understand this aesthetic, preferring accommodations with air conditioning and TV. All the treehouses are unique, with different designs and materials. Each appears to have grown from its tree. Some materials are bought, some found in the forest, some are used boards from the old dismantled house, and one treehouse is made of bamboo. Mr. Lee has a small shed for storing tools but the main workspace is the field next to the shed, where tropical trees are cut into boards and timbers.
All interior details are handmade or chosen with care — plumbing, fixtures, linens, decorative items. Lovingly installed planks on the floors — wide and narrow, light and dark. Furniture from thick boards, pieces of coconut, bamboo, and driftwood. At the same time there are small book shelves, umbrellas hanging neatly at the entrance, architectural square sink and faucet with no unnecessary flourishes. You could just as easily be in Europe as in the jungle.
Mr. Lee has already built nine treehouses with the help of several carpenters from the village. The kitchen and housekeeping staff are also local residents. You can stay in all the treehouses and each has its own toilet and shower. Mr. Lee has a simple system for valuing the treehouses. They are priced just by the number of guests who can stay inside — there are treehouses for two or three people and two that can accommodate families of five. The cost is about the same as elsewhere in Thailand — 1,800 baht ($56) for a double, 3,000 baht ($95) for three and 3,500 baht ($110) for five. Even with hardly any advertising, the resort is fully-booked well in advance. They do not actively develop the business as it already keeps them busy as it is.
In the evening all the guests gather for a delicious dinner on the large terrace. Travelers from around the world share their experiences while cats play under the tables. There is a whole army of cats — they chase the rats, snakes and spiders, and at the same time add color.
If you will be going to visit, book through their website and say hello from the Russian architect on a motorcycle !!!
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Photographs by Ivan Ovchinnikov.
Text copyright 2015 SmallHouseBliss. All Rights Reserved.