The White Elephant House
"Simply the most attractive private home in Thailand
whose owners welcome paying guests in the European tradition."
"As the creator of The Point, one of the most extraordinary small hotels in the world; former International Delegate of Relais et Châteaux; and the author of his famous travel monthly; Dr. Carter is respected internationally as an arbiter of style and taste. His readers are sophisticated international travellers who appreciate his forthright assessments and advice because, independently paying his own way, he 'tells it as it is'." BRITISH AIRWAYS
Khun Tan and I have spent nearly fifteen years building The White Elephant House, my “retirement” compound in the little village of Ban Toung Yao, Tan’s hometown in Isaan - the northeastern corner of Thailand. Now that it is finished, we look at each other in wonderment… it really is beautiful! We should share it.
In 1980, I felt the same way about my home, The Point, in Saranac Lake, New York. The Winter Olympics were coming to nearby Lake Placid and people were looking for accommodation. I decided to allow P.G.’s (Paying Guests) – a long-established tradition in European Great Houses. The rest is history as detailed herein in Chapter Fourteen. The Point became the fourth property in the United States to be honored with membership in Relais et Châteaux, the august, Paris-based association of the world’s best hostelries and restaurants and was voted by virtually every travel guidebook, association, and magazine as the best in the world.
[Best what? It wasn’t an hotel, nor a B&B, nor open to the general public. It was simply my home, and as a “salonist,” I created one continuous house party of fascinating guests, jovial bantering, and good food and wine. Over a hundred guests a month loved it. Anyone can stay in an hotel, but being a house guest in a really comfortable, private home is something else!]
From the garden at The White Elephant House
So, come visit us for two nights or two months. We'll love having you as much as you'll love being here.
Eastern Isaan is an undiscovered region of verdant rice paddies, splashing waterfalls, and ancient ruins. Our village of Ban Thung Yao is 25 minutes southwest of the modern city of Kantharalak. Ban Thung Yao is full of colorful characters - mainly rice and rubber farmers. There are long views of lush jungle, swaying palm trees, and distant mountains. The "traffic" consists of motorbikes and cattle, and wildflowers dot the rustic houses. There is an interesting temple - Wat Thung Yao.
Twenty-five minutes away, just over the Cambodian border are the ruins of Preah Vihear Temple. Preah Vihear is a famous, ancient Hindu temple built during the period of the Khmer Empire, that is situated atop a 525-meter (1,722 ft) cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains.
White elephants have always been rare in Thailand – come discover ours.
From the Airbnb/Trip Advisor/Your.Rentals/Wimdu/etc. listings:
This experience is fascinating and fun! You are invited to be a houseguest in this private home - an all-inclusive, full-board, walled, pool villa with a private, guest accommodation consisting of a king-bedded suite of air-conditioned bedsitting room for two guests, with desk, Cable TV and WiFi, dressing room with walk-in closet, and ensuite bathroom with over-size shower. The house has a Great Hall with dining area, study, kitchen, outdoor pool, pool sala and changing room with shower and loo, carport, laundry, sound system, and business center with PC and printer. Floor area is 185 sqm. Direct wheelchair access to most areas except for three steps down to the pool. The village is charming with long vistas of rice paddies and distant mountains. The use of all facilities, housekeeping, three home-cooked meals, all beverages including wine and liquor, field trips, and licensed massage are included in the rate. U.S. $185 per night, 15% discount for stays of more than six nights. (This is 25% less than the initial High-Season rate. Two-night minimum, book a minimum of 7 days in advance, not suitable for children or pets or smoking inside the house.)
Edward (Ted) Carter created The Point in upstate New York in 1980 where he pioneered the European tradition of welcoming paying guests into his home. Within two years, The Point became the number one resort in the United States and continues to rank among the best in the world. Ted and Tan now bring that tradition to Thailand at The White Elephant House. Be a paying houseguest in this homey, Lanna-style villa filled with antiques, sterling silverware, crystal, wonderful art, lovely garden, and pool.
This experience is fascinating and fun! Now you can enjoy the unusual opportunity of being part of the family in this private, peaceful home with its charming atmosphere, and good, simple food. Carter and his Thai partner, Khun Tan, and Tan's son, Opaul, love sharing their home with nice people of all backgrounds and persuasions and will welcome you like family and entertain you graciously.
Ted says, “Please understand we are not running a hotel – The White Elephant House is our private home – it’s not an inn, B&B, or restaurant, nor a resort open to the general public. On the other hand, if you appreciate fascinating and fun, down-home pleasures, we invite you to share our home and village.
“As we accept only two paying guests at a time, we gather as a family for meals and cocktails. Therefore, while you would be guests in the true sense and are free to do exactly as you please, you will find the atmosphere more like a houseparty than anything else.
“You get much more than a suite, you will feel the warmth of welcome and belonging. And, being part of the family means that everything – the use of all facilities, housekeeping, three home-cooked meals, all beverages including wine and liquor, field trips, licensed massage, and more are all included in the rate.
“A note on meals: This is an informal home and, in keeping with the spirit of rural Isaan, the meals are basic… multi-dish, Thai specialties ranging from tangy Samet-style to fiery Isaan varieties, including fresh fish and vegetables from today’s Village market… to Western grills, roasts, and pastas, mixed salads, and imported wine. There are certainly no "9-course Tasting Menus" – in fact, as we are not a restaurant, there’s no choice of menu at all. This is home - Tan cooks Thai, Ted cooks western - if there is anything you don’t eat, please tell us when you make your reservation.
“So, it’s not the suite, it’s not the thread-count, it’s not the food – it’s the feeling of belonging that brings our new friends back to The White Elephant House time and time again.”
Direct wheelchair access throughout but there are three steps down to the pool. WiFi is on 24/7.
We'd rather you didn't bring a pet nor smoke in the house.
There is a minimum stay - Just as we won't treat you like hotel customers, we want you to settle in as family for at least two nights - you will love the quiet, starry nights.
The house and grounds are walled. Street access is locked after dinner and unlocked at 8:00 AM. Your accommodations are lockable. Remember, you're a guest in our home in which we also live. We're usually in bed around midnight; certainly by 2:00 AM. Our guests generally keep the same hours. We wear shoes inside. Most of our things are antique or family treasures. In all the years I welcomed guests to The Point, nothing was ever broken, and nothing ever went missing (and we had eight guestrooms and therefore many more guests). The same is true here in Amazing Thailand. Otherwise, I can't think of any rules. :-)
What to do when at The White Elephant House? Eat, drink, and be merry!
We live in Sisaket Province in Northeast Thailand, a territory commonly referred to as Isaan - an undiscovered region of verdant rice paddies, shiny rubber plantations, splashing waterfalls, and ancient ruins. 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 of Ban Thung Yao is 80 minutes’ drive from the Ubon Ratchathani Airport and 25 minutes southwest of Kantharalak. Ban Thung Yao is a small, relatively primitive 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. There is an interesting temple - Wat Thung Yao.
Our day usually starts with breakfast together either poolside or at the dining room table.
Then you’ll probably sun and swim, walk the village, and visit the temple.
Your Thai lunch is usually prepared and served by Khun Tan at his restaurant, Somtam Inter 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.
Then it’s time for cocktails and jovial bantering around the dining room table enjoying our Thai or international specialities… and another blissful day winds down under the stars. White Elephants are rare – come share ours.
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.
"Staying with us not expensive, costly maybe, but not expensive. Our home is not a hotel and the experience of being a houseguest is unique.
"When I started taking guests at my home, The Point, I charged $250 a room... in 1980 – ten times the Lake Placid Hilton. Within two years, The Point was awarded membership in Relais et Châteaux, and travel guides and magazines voted it the Number One Resort in the U.S.A. and #11 in the world – higher than Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental! Now, the same room at The Point costs $2000 (THB 63,000); the same as Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental!
"Of course, we charge more than a local resort. Where else can you be a houseguest in a lovely, private home with interesting, caring hosts AND enjoy all the same food, liquor, wine, and fun as at The Point for only $185 (THB 5800)?
"White elephants have always been rare in Thailand and being a houseguest at The White Elephant House doesn’t compare with anything else. Come join the house party for a couple of nights, or stay for a couple of months - you'll love it here and we'll love having you."
The White Elephant House. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/23154021
Introducing The White Elephant House - Your home in Thailand...
My partner, Khun Tan, with his son, Opaul, outside the entrance to the pool. The doorbell is to the left of the red-striped mailbox. Ring it and... Welcome, Home!
The setting sun tints the house with evenglow.
The double doors lead into the Great Hall. The window on the right is the kitchen.
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, Chinese rug came from Manhattan's Bed, Bath, and Beyond :-)
Khun Tan and Opaul. Opaul constantly beats me at Chinese Checkers and is a whizz at putting together our ancient, wooden, jigsaw puzzles that came from my grandparents' camp in the Adirondacks.
The door on the left leads to the carport;
the door on the right leads to Ted's study.
Looking toward the pool, the far table on the left is the help-yourself bar.
Before you come, let me know your preference and I will ensure the bar is stocked 24/7. We also enjoy a wide variety of wines that I match to our menus.
Do let us know if there is anything you'd prefer not to eat.
This is the bedroom of your suite.
There is room for your laptop on the desk and we have WiFi throughout.
The beautiful countryside just outside the village.
The Chedi in the center of Kantharalak, twenty-five minutes away.
This is a bustling town with a Tesco-Lotus supermarket, several banks,
hairdressers, and a couple of thumping nightclubs.
The ruins at Preah Vihear. Many think this ancient temple is as significant as Angkor Wat and it has played a frightening role in Thai-Cambodian border disputes.
It is a 25-minute drive from The White Elephant House -
one of many fascinating things to see in our region of Isaan.
So that's our home, and we can't wait to share it with you. Go to the Airbnb Listing.
All the best,
The ancient flag of Thailand
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Cable TV, WiFi, and all linens and bottled water are provided.
The Pool Sala, pool, waterfall, and part of the garden with picnic tables and sunbeds.
Looking toward the pool door open to the street. The Spirit House is in the corner.
The main house on the right.
The open door is the changing-room/loo/shower.
Another view over part of the garden.
The window looks out over the garden and the pool.
The door leads into the Great Hall.
The dressing room has a huge walk-in closet and leads to your ensuite bathroom.
Towels, slippers, robes, and basic toiletries are provided without charge.
Note the scales and stacks of towels.
The wheelchair-accessible, oversize shower.
We often dine poolside.
Khun Tan looking after our guests.
For parties, the Pool Sala makes a perfect bandstand.
The entrance to the private carport is the gate to the right.
The carport enables locked private parking.
How we look on Google.
March 27, The White Elephant
We hosted Bill and Francine Denton, our first overnight, paying guests, for the four nights of March 13 through 16. Bill and Francine were my guests at The Point many years ago and insisted on being our first "P.G.s" in Thailand. They sent the following review to their friends and a copy to us...
As house guests in a beautiful, private villa, we had the best time we’ve had in years!
Staying as a house guest at The White Elephant House is a unique experience. We had never been to this part of Thailand before - Isaan. It is completely unspoiled and full of beautiful landscapes. There were brilliant-green rice paddies, thick rubber tree plantations, and many very rustic villages. I read that this used to be part of Laos and Cambodia and that is reflected in the native dialect. The people are open and very, very friendly. Our hosts, Ted and Tan, are charming, sweet, and attentive. Ted is a well-known hotelier having started and run The Point in New York's Adirondack Mountains and is a great raconteur. Dinners become dinner parties and were such fun! Opaul, Tan's son, is adorable and we spent wonderful hours together working on an antique, wooden, jigsaw puzzle (that came from Macy's and whose original box had the record of Carter family completions dating back to Jan 25, 1923!). The house is gorgeous and very comfortable, Tan's Thai dishes and Ted's (recipes from The Point) were delicious, the weather was grand, and we met some of the neighbors - grins all around. As I have business connections in Bangkok, we promised to come back very often. It's wonderful, Go.
(Now 25% less than the initial High-Season rate.)