It's worth watching local monks paddle boats from house to house.
HOME FROM HOME: Getting to ban le khe
|From Ayutthaya take a bus from the local bus station to Sena. Buses leave every 30 minutes between 5:30am and 6:30pm. The journey takes around 45 minutes and costs 15 baht. To reach Ban Lan Khe from Sena, either take a songtheaw (departs every half hour, costs 10 baht and takes 15 minutes), or arrive in style on a Harley Davidson trishaw,||located around the bus station (costs 50 baht). A taxi direct from Ayutthaya to Ban Lan Khe should cost around 400 baht. The best time to arrive is between 3pm to 4pm. The home stay will help you in getting back to Sena, from where you simply take the bus back to Ayutthaya. Happy travelling!|
As the songtheaw, or pickup truck, pulls away, I'm left at a quiet junction overlooking a lush sea of green rice paddies that stretch before me. Having spoken earlier that morning, Tim suggested we meet by Wat Ranjolakeh, near to the school where she works.
Walking along the road and over an old wooden bridge, I see the temple down to my right. Tim is already there to welcome me. After a cool drink and friendly chat with the ladies at the local shop, we go to take a look at the temple where a 260-year-old Buddha sits inside.
Glide the lily
Later, we head to a jetty where Tim's husband, Tan, is waiting. Here an old woman paddles her boat among the stilt houses lining the riverbank. Gliding over lilies, Tan takes the boat a short distance upstream to his place, a bright-yellow building with a homely atmosphere. Feeling instantly at ease, we chat for a while on the breezy jetty before I take a swim in the cool river that has been tempting me since I arrived.
At 4pm, Tim appears on the horizon, arriving home in a boat laden with grandchildren and other members of the family - time to make some spicy som tam. After several introductions, giggles and shy smiles, I'm given a crash course in Thai cooking in the open-air kitchen.
As the heat dies down, we take a boat ride along the river, stopping to collect water mimosa, morning glory and lotus flowers to be used later on for cooking. Conical bird nests sway in the trees as fishermen try their luck along with kingfishers, herons and other wading birds. The sun passes below the horizon as we drift through the village, an assortment of houses with some leaning at impossible angles. A lone monk sits at the end of a jetty accompanied by his dogs, the end of another day in this timeless place.
Back at the house we feast upon a meal prepared by Tim that includes soup, fresh fish, spicy pork, omelette, local vegetables and a variety of homemade sauces. Talk is easy over dinner in the company of such gracious and pleasant hosts, and it's soon time for bed.
Accommodation is in a simple loft that sleeps up to five, with mattresses on the floor and air-conditioning if required. Larger groups of people can be placed in other houses around the village. The shared bathroom, basic with cold-water shower, is also spotlessly clean.
As the sun begins to rise at 6am, it's worth getting up to see local monks paddle boats from house to house for the villagers to pay merit. Being a member of the family, you will be invited to take part in this important daily ceremony and given an opportunity to give alms of food and flowers to the monk who pulls up at the end of the jetty.
After a hearty Thai-style breakfast, it's eventually time to leave.
I walk with Tim along the riverbank, past mango and banana trees to the local school where I say a quick hello, before heading back to Ayutthaya feeling well rewarded from my time spent here in this special place.
Need to know
To arrange your Ban Lan Khe home stay phone Tim:
(+ 65) 81-251-8058.
Costs: 700 baht per person per night, which includes an evening meal and breakfast.
There's a 100-baht surcharge for boat trips of fewer than five guests.