The White Elephant House
"Simply the most attractive private home in Thailand
whose owners welcome paying guests in the European tradition."
Looking toward the pool; on the far left is the bar – you keep your own tab.
This is the bedroom of your suite.
There is room for your laptop on the desk and we have WiFi throughout.
The door on the left leads to your dressing room and on to your ensuite bathroom.
Cable TV, WiFi, and all linens and bottled water are provided.
The main house on the right.
The open door is the changing-room/loo/shower.
The window looks out over the garden and the pool.
The door opens to 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.
March 27, 2018,
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.
Staying as a houseguest at The White Elephant House is a Fabulous Experience!
The White Elephant House is a private home into which the hosts welcome “paying guests” in the European tradition.
The house has a Great Hall with sitting and dining areas, a study, kitchen, pantry, laundry, and business center with PC and printer, outdoor pool, pool sala and changing room with shower and loo, and a lockable carport.
You are invited to be a houseguest in this private home – a walled, pool-villa with a private, guest accommodation consisting of a king-bedded suite of an air-conditioned bedsitting room for two guests, with desk, Satellite TV and WiFi, dressing room with walk-in closet, and ensuite bathroom with over-size, hot-water shower.
The use of all facilities, housekeeping, linens, towels, basic toiletries, breakfast, bottled water, non-alcoholic beverages, and dinner with wine are included in the rate of THB 4985 (US$156 on Jan 6, 2019). (You can run a liquor tab at the bar.) Two-night minimum; 15% Discount for stays of more than 6 nights. Please book seven days in advance.
Introducing The White Elephant House – Your home in Isaan.
Edward (Ted) Carter created The Point in upstate New York in 1980 when he pioneered, in America, 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 his partner, Tan, now bring that tradition to Thailand at their home, The White Elephant House - a homey, Lanna-style villa filled with antiques, sterling silverware, Meissen china, wonderful art, a lovely garden, and pool.
This experience is fascinating and fun! You 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 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.
“We accept only two paying guests at a time and we gather as a family for meals. 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.
“A note on meals: Breakfast is served in the Great Hall or at the pool. We are usually out during the day, and you will probably lunch at Somtum Inter – a good Thai restaurant in the village. As for dinner, this is an informal home and, in keeping with the spirit of rural Isaan, dinners are either multi-dish, Thai specialties ranging from tangy Samet-style to fiery Isaan varieties, including fresh fish and vegetables from today’s village market, or Western grills, roasts, pasta, and salads. Imported wine is always included. As we are not a restaurant, there’s no choice of menu. This is home - Tan cooks Thai, Ted cooks western. If there is anything you don’t eat, please let us know when you make your reservation.
“So, it’s not just the suite, it’s not just the thread-count, it’s not just the food – it’s the warmth of welcome and the feeling of belonging that brings our new friends back to The White Elephant House time and time 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. 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…
Welcoming you is one of your two co-owner/hosts, Khun Tan Akharaphat,
with his son, Opaul.
The other co-owner/host is Edward (Ted) Carter.
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.
The carport is behind a locked gate.
What to do when 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.
What would you like?
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 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 suggest you lunch at Khun Tan’s Somtum Inter – Garden Cottage & Restaurant on the main road outside the village, directly opposite the temple.
Then you have many options (not included in our rate)…
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 our guests.
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.
Doesn’t this all sound delightful?
"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. White Elephants are rare – come share ours." Ted and Tan and Opaul
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:
51 Moo 4 (the street)
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 Point concept, 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
The “Fine Print” and “Hints for Hefalumps”:
• Please book a minimum of 7 days in advance.
• There is a minimum stay - just as we won't treat you like hotel customers, we want you to settle in as part of the family for at least two nights.
• 15% discount for stays of more than six nights.
• Not suitable for children.
• The house and grounds are walled.
• Floor area is 185 sqm.
• WiFi is on 24/7.
• There is wheelchair access to most areas except for the three steps down to the pool.
• Street access is locked after dinner and unlocked by 8:00 AM.
• Your accommodations are lockable.
• In the provinces, electric power is sometimes “iffy.” The slightest thunderstorm will often cut off the electricity. Usually, it is only a momentary interruption, but sometimes it can last up to four hours. Consequently, we have emergency lighting that comes on automatically when the power is cut, and there are portable lights throughout the house.
• 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, and our guests generally keep the same hours.
• We wear shoes inside.
• Most of our things are antique or family treasures, and 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 has proven true here in Thailand.
• We'd rather you didn't bring a pet nor smoke in the house; you are free to smoke outside.
• Check in after 2 P.M. and check out around noon.
"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…
One of our recent guests is a professional photographer from the north of France. He is married to a lady from a neighboring village here in Sisaket. He has made a lovely video of his visit with us and Somtum Inter is the penultimate scene in the film...
Our "sister" property in Sisaket,
Somtum Inter Garden Cottage and Restaurant, is rated all "10s" by both Agoda.com and Booking.com