The White Elephant House
Great Hall looking toward the pool.
The main house on the right.
The open door is the changing-room/loo/shower.
Our home in Thailand - an introduction and invitation to our friends
The house has a Great Hall with sitting and dining areas, a master bedroom suite, a study/guestroom, kitchen, pantry, laundry, outdoor pool, pool sala and changing room with shower and loo, and a lockable carport.
The master suite consists of a king-bedded suite of an air-conditioned bedsitting room with desk, Satellite TV and WiFi, dressing room with walk-in closet, and ensuite bathroom with over-size, hot-water shower.
Where are we?
We live in the village of Ban Thung Yao, Si Sa Ket province in Northeast Thailand, a territory commonly referred to as Isaan. Isaan is an undiscovered region of verdant rice paddies, shiny rubber plantations, splashing waterfalls, and ancient ruins.
Due to the good roads, it is an easy drive from almost anywhere in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, or Thailand.
Our airport is Ubon Ratchathani, an hour’s flight from Bangkok. There is also a comfortable, executive bus whose 6-hour trip from Bangkok directly to the city of Kantharalak will give you a fascinating look at the country. Our village is an 80-minute taxi ride from the Ubon Ratchathani airport and 25 minutes southwest of Kantharalak on Route 2335. Details at the end of this piece…
Let’s look at the house…
Here is my partner, Khun Tan with his son, Opaul.
The door is the pool entrance (note the big, green Elephant Ears behind Opaul).
Through the door… here is the Pool Sala on the left. At the end are the waterfall, lunch table, and two sunbeds and an umbrella.
The main house – the central sliding doors open to the Great Hall,
the kitchen door is on the right.
Looking toward the pool entrance to the street. The Spirit House is in the far corner.
The Great Hall for living and dining.
Three rare Thai-Chinese cabinets range around the walls;
the mirrors are American Chippendale that have been in my family for
three hundred years and hung in the Great Hall at The Point.
Sometimes we dine on 18th-century Meissen with burnished, old-family silver.
The hand-made, needlepoint rug is Chinese.
Khun Tan and Opaul.
The dining room table is behind the sofa. The door on the left opens to the carport; the door on the right leads to Ted’s Study/guestroom.
The carport is behind a locked gate.
What to do when visiting us at The White Elephant House...
Experience the heart and soul of Thailand…
While tourism has ravaged much of Thailand, Isaan is untouched. This region is as it has always been – idyllic, bucolic, rustic, and calm.
Our village is typical - while on a modern road, Ban Thung Yao is a remote, pastoral village of rice and rubber farmers. Many of the lanes are edged with flowers and tall, swaying palm trees. The traffic consists of motorbikes and cattle. The village is surrounded by bright green rice paddies, stands of dark rubber trees, clusters of heavy cattle, troops of water buffalo, and primitive, wooden houses filled with grinning families.
It is a village of sights and sounds…
In the morning, we are softly awakened by roosters announcing the day, families chopping wood and preparing breakfasts, and tuk-tuks chugging off to the farms.
Our day usually starts with breakfast together either poolside or at the dining room table.
Then you’ll probably sun and swim, then walk the village.
During the day, most folks are in the fields and forests, and the village is quiet.
Lining the lanes are bright orange marigolds, deep green Elephant Ears, tall swaying palms, yellow and white plumes of Plumeria trees, and the golden rains of the Ratchaphruek - Thailand’s national flower that bursts into bloom at the end of the cool season…
Known as the flower of Buddhism and an important religious symbol, the Lotus can be found in ponds, rivers, lakes, and large, water-filled urns all around the nation. It is especially common here in Isaan. Here is one from our garden…
Our gardens are full of orchids - there are more than 1,000 different species in the country. Indeed, Thailand has the most orchids of any country in Southeast Asia. This from our garden…
The Mangrove Trumpet Tree, also known as Tui, has white flowers on long stems. The fluted appearance makes it look somewhat like a trumpet…
Often associated with the tropics, the Hibiscus flower is very common here…
The lovely, purple Krachiao flower, also known as the Siamese tulip, bursts into color at the start of the rainy season. One of the best places to see flower-filled fields stretching for as far as the eye can see is here in Isaan…
In the evening, our gardens are filled with the enticingly sweet aroma of Jasmine; it is the symbol of Mother’s Day in Thailand…
And here, growing in the garden of Khun Tan's Somtum Inter, is the most unusual Mayom or Gooseberry tree. We eat the fruit right off the tree with salt and pepper. Tart and tasty, it is an ingredient in Som tam – our famous, spicy, green papaya salad.
And (of course) …
Then maybe you’ll visit Wat Thung Yao, the village temple…
Wat Thung Yao
Then, it’s time for lunch…
We usually go to Khun Tan’s Somtum Inter – Garden Cottage & Restaurant on the main road outside the village, directly opposite the temple.
Then you have many options…
Long-tail boating on the nearby lake; bargaining at the village market; and luxuriating with a traditional Thai or oil massage in the privacy of our pool deck by a licensed masseuse.
The setting sun tints the house with evenglow.
Each evening from 6 to 7, the temple comes alive with traditional music and the melodious chant of the monks.
Then it’s time for drinks on the terrace followed by jovial bantering around the dining table enjoying our Thai or international specialties…
We often dine poolside.
Khun Tan looking after some of our neighbors.
For parties, the Pool Sala makes a perfect bandstand.
… and another blissful day winds down under the stars – memories that will live forever.
Tomorrow, we can go to the Park…
Khao Phra Wihan National Park is a protected natural area in our Sisaket Province, Thailand, that contains numerous ruins of the 11th century Khmer Empire. Only a few minutes’ drive from The White Elephant House, the park sits at the top of the Pha Mo I Daeng cliff, part of the Dangrek mountains, close to the border between Thailand and Cambodia.
The park is the Thai gateway to Khao Phra Wihan ('Preah Vihear' in Khmer), a large Khmer temple ruin perched dramatically on a cliff 500m above the plains below. Just over the border in Cambodian territory, it is currently not accessible from the Thai side due to a border dispute. However, scenic overlooks and some interesting Khmer ruins are open to visitors for a small entrance fee:
• Pha Mo I Daeng, a cliff at Thai-Cambodia Border.
• Mo I Daeng rock art: Bas-relief sculptures, with a view of Cambodia.
• Don Tuan Khmer Ruins: Built during the 10th-11th Century and located 300 meters from the border.
• Namtok and Tham Khun Sri, a three-tiered waterfall, above a giant cave.
• Twin Stupas: Built during the 11th Century, the Twin Stupas are two red sandstone structures, 1.93 m. square and 4.20 m. high, with lotus-bud-shaped apices.
Another place nearby that is worth your visit is Wat Lan Khuat, “The Million Bottle Temple,” a contemporary Buddhist temple in Sisaket province near the Cambodian border. Built by monks, the temple is made of over 1.5 million empty recycled glass beer bottles that the Buddhist monks began collecting in 1984. It is probably the most eco-friendly Buddhist temple anywhere.
More Background and Details:
Once again, where are we?
We live in the village of Ban Thung Yao, Si Sa Ket province in Northeast Thailand, a territory commonly referred to as Isaan. Centuries ago, Isaan, Thailand’s largest region, included some of what is now Laos and Cambodia. Isaan is now bordered by Laos on the north and east, and by Cambodia on the south. On the map (below), we are due north of Siem Reap (in Cambodia), just a few kilometers north of the Thai border.
The main language is Isaan, which is a dialect of the Lao language. Thai is also spoken by almost everyone and is the language used in education. As Ban Thung Yao is only a few kilometers from the border, Khmer, the language of Cambodia, is widely spoken here and our villagers follow customs more like those of Cambodia than to those of the Thai and Lao.
Prominent aspects of Isaan culture include mor lam, an indigenous folk music; Muay Thai boxing, cockfighting, and celebratory processions. Isaan food, in which glutinous rice (“sticky rice”) and chili peppers are prominent, is distinct from central Thai cuisine, though it is now found throughout the kingdom. Sticky rice is a staple of northeastern cuisine and it accompanies most meals.
Isaan is the orange section above. It is bordered by Laos on the north and east, and by Cambodia on the south.
Our village is the green dot ● due north of Siem Reap in Cambodia, just over the Thai/Cambodian border approximately halfway between Khorat/Nakhon Ratchasima (more commonly known as Korat) in the northwest and Ubon Ratchathani (our nearest international airport) in the northeast.
Korat is at the western edge of the Korat Plateau. Historically, it once marked the boundary between Lao and Siamese territory. It is the gateway to the Lao-speaking northeast - Isaan.
Ubon Ratchathani is one of the four major cities of Isaan - Khorat/Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, and Khon Kaen. Ubon is best known for its annual Candle Festival, held in July.
Officially known as Moo 4, Ban Thung Yao is one of 12 muban (villages) that make up the Tambon (sub-district) of Lalai. Lalai has a population of 7586.
Ban Thung Yao is approximately 300 miles (500 km) due east of Bangkok.
Our airport is Ubon Ratchathani, an hour’s flight from Bangkok. There is also a comfortable, executive bus whose 6-hour trip from Bangkok directly to the city of Kantharalak will give you a fascinating look at the country. Our village is an 80-minute taxi ride from the Ubon Ratchathani airport and 25 minutes southwest of Kantharalak on Route 2335.
If you are arriving by plane to the Ubon Ratchathani Airport and haven’t arranged for a car, call either of the following two taxis at the airport:
Taxi No. 175 (preferred) – Khun Tee – 086-244-0002 or 061-948-5754, or
Taxi No. 248 – Khun Pairoat, 096-034-7753.
Both drivers have been to The White Elephant House.
Due to the good roads, it is an easy drive from almost anywhere in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, or Thailand.
Our official Address:
Ban Thung Yao (the Muban – village - of Moo 4)
La Lai (the Tambon – sub-district)
Kantharalak (the Amphur - county)
Si Sa Ket (the province), Thailand 33110
Mobile (English language): Edward Carter - 087-103-9916
Mobile (Thai language): Tan Akharaphat – 087-050-6661
The exact location of The White Elephant House:
Latitude: 14.5105494 or 14 degrees, 30 min., 37.98 sec. North.
Longitude: 104.5771552 or 104 degrees, 34 min., 37.76 sec. East.
Take route 2178 out of Ubon Ratchathani, after 42 km turn left onto Route 2085 and follow into Kantharalak. Turn right on the main street and go until you see the tall, white, Chedi, several blocks down on the left. Turn left before the Chedi and, when you can turn left onto another main road which is Route 221, head south in the direction of Preah Vihern. Check your odometer, now.
At just under 5 km from Kantharalak, off a long, straight section, turn Right onto Route 2126 toward Khun Han and Ban Thung Yao (no sign). (It is approximately 16 km from this turn to Ban Thung Yao.)
Go through Mueang and Rung, and a large reservoir on both sides of the road.
At 10 km after joining 2126, you will pass a school on your left, and come up to a stop sign. Turn right onto Route 2335 (no sign) and continue about 6 km.
After a very small village, as you pass a school with a large schoolyard on the left (Ban Thung Yao Kham Proi School), slow down to walking pace. You are in Ban Thung Yao. The second building on the left is Somtum Inter Garden Cottage & Restaurant. (Dark-roofed one-storey building with trees in front; next to a small, white building with a fancy, Lanna roof.) Directly across the road, on the right, is the entrance to Wat Thung Yao.
Park in front of Somtum Inter, ring the doorbell, and Khun Tan will escort you to The White Elephant House.
A little more background:
In 1978, Edward Carter, co-owner/host of The White Elephant House, made a seemingly offhanded purchase that would forever change his life. He bought William Avery Rockefeller's Camp Wonundra on Upper Saranac Lake, New York - the last of the privately owned “Great Camps of the Adirondacks.” In 1980, re-christening it The Point, Ted pioneered (in the United States) the European tradition of welcoming paying guests into his home and transformed the run-down estate into one of the most celebrated resorts in the world. Its honors have been numerous— within two years, The Point became the number one resort in the United States, four years in a row it was The Hideaway Report's “Hideaway of the Year,” Rene Lecler selected it for his book, 300 Best Hotels in the World, and it was one of the first American members of France's prestigious Relais et Châteaux. Soon after, Ted became the head of Relais et Châteaux for much of the Western Hemisphere. The Point’s celebrity continues today, and it ranks among the best in the world.
After selling The Point, Carter became the first independent travel guru on the Internet, consulted to hotel companies around the world, and eventually became the Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Bangkok University. Now retired, he and his partner, Khun Tan, a young, entrepreneurial chef, have brought the atmosphere of The Point, its recipes, and some of its great antique furniture to their beautiful home in the Isaan region of Thailand – The White Elephant House.
“As the creator of The Point, one of the most extraordinary small hotels in the world; first International Delegate of Relais et Châteaux for the United States, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Mexico; and the creator and author of his famous travel journals, Dr. Carter is respected internationally as an arbiter of style and taste.” BRITISH AIRWAYS
"So that's our home, and we can't wait to share it with you."
P.S. We always give our house guests a hand-made souvenir of their visit…
Tan's property in Sisaket,
Somtum Inter Garden Cottage and Restaurant, is rated all "10s" by both Agoda.com and Booking.com
When the Study set up as a guestroom, this would be your room.
A view of the guest bathroom
Views of the Master Bathroom