go to top pageECOCLUB.com > ECOCLUB.com Rating > Geckovilla 

For detailed background information on the
ECOCLUB.com Rating please
see here

Navigation Menu - Please activate Flash to display.

ECOCLUB.com Rating

Name of Property (Country):

"Gecko Villa" (Thailand)

ECOCLUB.com Rating:

1 ECOCLUB Sun1 ECOCLUB Sun1 ECOCLUB Sun0.5 3.6 out of 5




Lodge Address: Baan Um Chan, A Prajak, Udon Thani, 41110 Thailand

Number of Rooms:

Five (5) Rooms 

Average Double Room Rates:

 THB 6,500/night (approx EUR 140) all-inclusive

Name of Applicant (Title & Role):

Bongkot Podaeng (Manager)

Official, Legal Proprietor(s):

Bongkot Podaeng & Euang Jantarasena

Operating Since: 2000

Rating Application Date:

4 December 2009

Rating Date:

2 February 2010

Rating Explained: For background information on the ECOCLUB.com Rating please see here

The first 5 sections of this application each correspond to the 5 current ECOCLUB.com Rating Criteria:

1. community, family or partner-owned and small-scale
(OWNERSHIP Criterion)

2. minimises its own environmental impact

3. meets the real needs of the community and supports local social & environmental projects chosen by the community in a direct democratic manner
(ECONOMIC Criterion)

4. eliminates poverty & inequality, avoids injustice & exploitation of all types and respects individual & collective human rights & tourism worker rights
(SOCIAL Criterion)

5. promotes knowledge, freedom of expression, collective direct-democratic decision-making, international & intercultural understanding
(CULTURAL Criterion)

Each section is of equal weight (1). The maximum total rating score we can award is 5, and the minimum 0. When a criterion is fully met in our view, we award a full point (1), when it is more or less met 0.75, when it is partly met half a point (0.5) when it is not at all met but effort is being made 0.25 and when we feel that it is not at all met and no effort is being made to meet the specific criterion, no points (0). 



(1.a) Who owns the Lodge?: Please clarify if private, family, public, municipal, NGO, cooperative, as well as the nationality and place of birth of the owner.
Bongkot Podaeng & Euang Jantarasena as private individuals. Both Thai citizens born and based in Udon Thani (at the location.)

(1.b) Who manages the Lodge?
Bongkot Podaeng & Euang Jantarasena & extended family.

(1.c) How many rooms are there?
5 (Five) rooms: 3 double bedrooms, 1 living room, 1 dining room, 2 bathrooms, 3 WCs, 1 kitchen.

1c 1c2
1c: The main bedroom at Gecko Villa. The duvet cover is made of locally produced silk, and the floor and furniture are made of sustainable, local Pradoo wood. The wardrobe at the rear of the bedroom is made from the bamboo shown in Section 1h below. 1c2: The living room at Gecko Villa. the sofa is made of locally sourced water hyacinth (a weed on our local rivers and lakes.) The cotton on the futons is locally woven.

(1.d) How many beds are there?
3 (Three) double beds.

1d: A picture of the second bedroom with a mosquito net. The floor and furniture are
made of sustainable, local Pradoo wood and the duvet cover of local cotton.

(1.e) How many employees are there?
8 (Eight)

(1.f) How many employees are from the same village / city?
8 (Eight) - All.

(1.g) If applicable, do employees or the community own any shares or share part of the revenue?
100% of revenue is retained by the villagers / owners

(1.h) What is the total area of the land?
100,000 sqm. (10 hectares)

1h: The bamboo driveway to Gecko Villa. The entrance in bamboo not only provides an attractive
and natural shelter from the sun, but is a source of food: the bamboo shoots are eaten regularly
by the villagers. The bamboo grows rapidly and is used for making ladders, in construction and
for making tables, beds and furniture.

(1.i) What is the total area of the Lodge including rooms and common areas (in sq. metres)?
250 sqm

(1.j) What is the total building footprint (in sq. metres)?
200 sqm

(1.k) Who has access to the Lodge’s facilities and its land and for what uses?
Lodge facilities: guests
Land: used by local villagers for farming (rice, cattle, tapioca, herb and vegetables, fruit orchards, woodland). Also used by villagers for foraging.

(1.l) What was the total turnover (total sales) of your last year of operation? (please state in your local currency)
THB 1,005,000 (approx EUR 21,700)



(2.a) Lodge Siting (how was location chosen):
Land inherited by villagers. As the land was primarily disused rice paddy, and unsuitable for paddy farming, a change of use was needed. The concept of a villa based on the principles of sustainable tourism was mooted and developed, with the seed capital donated by a third party.  The property is located in the rural Northeast of Thailand, historically the poorest region of the kingdom and not frequented by tourists. We believe that responsible, sustainable tourism in this region may not only provide a living for villagers in their own region but will also appeal to guests seeking an authentic experience.

(2.b) Policy followed during construction:
100% of workers were villagers from the 3 surrounding villages. The design of the house focussed on the need to use traditional or natural methods to minimize impact on environment. As an example, rather than using chemicals to deter termites, the building was raised on stilts in the traditional manner avoiding the need for chemical treatment. No waste disposal at the site: only ad designated recycling or disposal areas. Non oil and non lead based paints.

(2.c) Lighting:
Energy saving light bulbs.

(2.d) Heating:
Not required.

(2.e) Cooling:
The house maximizes Thai traditional designs to minimize cooling requirements (high, steeply pitched roofs; covered verandas; house built on stilts to encourage air circulation, North facing etc.) Fans used throughout with low-energy AC units. 

(2.f) Cleaning:

By local villagers.

- Please clarify cleaning method, frequency & cleaning materials used.
Daily cleaning; sweeping and tidying interiors. Kitchen & bathrooms: daily. Rice vinegar is used to clean & prevent mould. Dect and exterior - swept, dusted & tidied daily. Waxed with coconut halves monthly. Windows: weekly with rice vinegar and water. Pool: Daily removal of debris in surge tank (leaves etc), Twice a week: suction vacuum to filter water; Weekly: backwash sand filter.

(2.g) Water Management:
Rainwater harvesting in traditional “Ong” pots. Saltwater pool rather than chlorination. Water saving devices on WCs and taps. Natural filtration system (a series of interconnected tanks with aeration, stones, sand and charcoal.) Water use is controlled de facto as there is no mains supply. Waste is recycled wherever possible.

2g: The pool at Gecko Villa uses salt water for purification to avoid the need to use
and store chlorine. A sand filter is also used. The salt water system is used at night
to minimize electricity consumption.

(2.h) Cooking:
Tinder barbecue; gas. We produce our own charcoal from dead trees.

2h: Coconuts from our garden are used in a variety of indigenous dishes. The banana leaf in
the background is used as a container for sticky rice and other foods, as a natural film when
steaming foodstuffs, and as a natural alternative to aluminum foil when grilling fish.

(2.i) Waste management:
Recycling programme with villagers. An interesting example is the promotion of the traditional use of banana leaves as a food wrapper – whilst modernization has led to a dramatic and unbridled use of plastic bags in the kingdom, traditionally food has been wrapped, cooked and served in banana leaves. These are of course totally biodegradable and there is a constant supply.

(2.j) Insect, pest control:
Yellow bulbs to minimize insects. Cats used to dissuade vermin. Mosquito nets.

(2.k) Energy Sources, Use & Saving Measures:
Low consumption appliances used. Energy saving light bulbs. (Solar power units are extremely heavily taxed in Thailand!) Guests encouraged to turn off lights and minimize use of air-conditioning.

(2.l) Noise Protection:
Not required (a very peaceful and secluded rural location.)

(2.m) Accessible by public transport?: (If yes, please provide instructions from nearby city.)

(2.n) What is the recommended way of reaching your Lodge from the nearest International airport?
We offer a free transfer service.

(2.o) Distance from nearby village / city:
2 km to nearest village, 25 km to nearest city (Udon Thani).

(2.p) Architectural Features:
Thai roof style (steeply pitched, overhangs.). Covered decking around the property. Private salt water  swimming pool. Designed to maximize views of local countryside. Extensive gardens, orchards, meadows and woodlands. Constructed using local materials and labour.

2p. The design of the property combines steeply pitched roofs and construction raised
off the ground to maximize cooling. The trees around the property also assist
cooling and provide fruit.

(2.q) Construction Materials:
Local sustainable wood. The wood used in the construction of Gecko Villa is local “Pradoo”. It is heavier than teak and twice as hard and is resistant to termites, grows rapidly, and is well suited to the soil of the Northeast. Most importantly, it is a local and sustainable tree that has the advantages of teak without the environmental implications. The roof of the building and its extensive balconies are raised and sheltered in the typical architectural style that is designed to ensure maximum cooling breezes and ventilation, & shelter from the tropical sun. Whilst the appeal of modernity has encouraged many Thais to choose a western styled home set on the ground, we believe that such a tendency is merely one of fashion and does not match the construction design with local requirements – ventilation, flood avoidance, termite risk reduction, etc. Gecko Villa aims to show that inherited architectural traditions can be usefully and attractively preserved.  Brick.

2q 2q2
2q: The decking around the property is made of a sustainable local hardwood called Pradoo. 2q2: The hammock in this photo is hand made from the bamboo at the driveway of the property.

2q3: The dining room table at Gecko Villa is made of local mango wood. The plates are
hand made at Ban Chiang, famous for its bronze age pottery. Natural bamboo blinds provide shade

(2.r) Landscape Management:
Land is maximized to be self sufficient to the extent possible. Features are designed to be practical rather than purely ornamental (ie not fountain ponds but fish ponds.) Our own organic fruit, herb and vegetable gardens. Grazing meadows for cattle. Indigenous trees and plants chosen for their usefulness and sustainability (ie tamarind trees for shade, wood, fruit, etc rather than ornamental trees.)




(3.a) Initiation or participation in local projects:
Promoting recycling and proper waste disposal. We have a deliberate policy of countering deforestation. To date, this has involved acquiring 20 rai (8 acres) of adjoining mature woodland originally destined for felling and conversion into rice paddies, in order to help maintain the eco-system and natural wildlife. This acquisition was directly funded with revenues from the operation.   A further 20 rai site of unproductive rice paddy adjoining the property was also acquired (again funded with revenues from the operation) and has been totally replanted with trees. Reforestation is crucial in the Northeast of Thailand, historically a vast area covered with thick forests that were originally felled for the wood and then for conversion into rice paddies, upsetting not only the local habitat of indigenous flora and fauna, but also placing an enormous strain on water requirement in this drought prone region. The effects of methane production by rice paddies has been demonstrated and we feel the need for reforestation is clear.

3a: This photo shows our rice paddies. Rather than fell all trees as is normal practice,
we have chosen to maintain all trees located in the paddies. Adjoining the paddies we have
planted additional woodland areas to protect and preserve the local flora and fauna.

(3.b) Contact, cooperation with local organisations:
There are no official organizations in the vicinity. However we cooperate as far as possible with the local village council to advise on waste disposal, elimination of littering.

(3.c) Direct Donations:
Yes, to the village schools.

3c: A British family staying at the villa paying a visit to the local primary school where
they met the head teacher and children and donated clothes, toys and games.

- Please expand, clarifying type of school donations

Donations of both cash and sundry items have been made at Um Chan Primary School. I attach a picture of me presenting the donation of funds raised from Brian & Karen Bayliss' fund raising photo exhibition undertaken at Gecko Villa. (the funds being donated are those from the event detailed in the photo below). I am in the light blue shirt whilst the man in the darker safari suit is the head of the local municipality receiving the donation for the nursery school. Sundry items include: blankets during cold season, a second hand computer, sports equipment and toys.

3c2: Donation of a cheque to the head of the local municipality receiving the
donation for the nursery school.

(3.d) Who took the initiative to build this Lodge?
A long-time acquaintance we knew from Bangkok and who is involved in the hotel industry. We wanted to remain with our new born children rather than having to seek employment in Bangkok. In Isan, it is traditional for the parents to leave the area to seek work whilst children are left in the villages with grandparents. He suggested the internet could be used to attract visitors seeking an alternative type of holiday in rural Thailand, and donated the original funds.

 - Is the original donor at all involved in the running or management of the property?

Yes, in website maintenance / development. The internet connection at the property is via Aircard and the connection is relatively slow whilst the donor has a high speed connection. The donor is a UK national and checks spelling, grammar etc. The donor contributes as above free of charge.

(3.e) Did the local community participate in the decision-making process concerning the founding and creation of this Lodge?
Yes, my family and a number of other villagers oversaw the location and design. It was entirely constructed by local villagers. Several families returned from Bangkok to enrol in the launch rather than remaining in the capital.

(3.f) How are profits distributed, and who decides about it?
100% to those directly involved in operating, servicing and maintaining the property. Profits are distributed based upon the contribution that month (a broad range of both villagers and family members are involved depending upon other commitments.)

(3.g) Are there any national and local taxes to be paid or are you exempt?

- Why are you tax exempt, please clarify

The scale of the operation is below Thai taxable incomes. Taxes are only assessed on an individual's earnings once they reach THB150,000/year. Tax allowances beyond this are at a minimum of THB60,000 /couple.

(3.h) What percentage of consumables are locally sourced, how many are nationally sourced, and how many are imported?
We try to maximize locally sourced consumables, preferring home grown or local market produce. All foodstuffs are locally sourced, with the exception of certain produce that is nationally sourced (milk, coffee, etc.) Approx 90% of consumables are locally sourced.

(3.i) Do you cultivate food for the guests?
Yes: fish, chilies, galangal, ginger, papaya, beans, lettuce, cabbage, mango, limes, passion fruit,  coconut, coriander, mint, basil, aubergines, pandanus, jackfruit, tamarind, etc.. The rice served to clients is quite literally from their doorstep, and has not passed through the hands of the city traders. Guests may also be introduced to the copious supply of local alternative sources of traditional sustainable protein such as insects, snails and frogs if interested!

3i: This picture shows a traditional pestle and mortar together with our own organically
grown saw coriander, spring onions, galangal, chilies and garlic. Guests interested in Thai
food get to identify and pick the produce required from the garden and follow the whole
process from the garden to the plate.

(3.j) Do you have any agreements with local producers?
Only informally.

(3.k) Have ever you received any funding, state, national, private or international and for what purposes?
The original capital investment was donated to develop part of our land and the building on it.

- Please state amount of original donation.
THB 1,000,000 (approx EUR 21,600)

(3.l) What is the average double room rate (excluding breakfast) per room per night?
The villa is rented on a whole property and all-inclusive  basis. Rate is THB6500/night (EUR 140) with transfers, all meals and drinks, local guide etc.




(4.a) Do your employees have health insurance?
Yes, under the Thai social security scheme.

(4.b) Do your employees have paid leave?
No. As detailed above we have an informal scheme based on a changing roster of those involved.

(4.c) Are your employees entitled to maternity leave?

- Is maternity leave paid?

(4.d) Do you pay your employees above the minimum wage? (Please state minimum wage, and provide salary details)
Minimum wage in Udon Thani is THB157/day. The minimum daily wage we pay is THB200 (approx EUR 4.30)

(4.e) What is the total you paid for wages last year? (excluding wages paid to yourself and members of your family)
THB 290,000 (approx EUR 6,270)

(4.f) Average and maximum working day, and work hours per week:
Variable depending upon occupancy. If the villa is fully booked, the average working day would be approx 6 hours. Villagers work according to their own schedule, either working themselves of sending an alternative person.

(4.g) Do you employ your staff all year round?  (If not, please explain arrangement)
No. We effectively work on an ‘extend village family’ basis, providing most work when the villa is occupied, or immediately before or after stays, with some maintenance, gardening and other work at periods that are unoccupied. The individuals who will come to work will agree among themselves who wants to come depending on other commitments such as harvesting, other employment in the village, work hours etc.

(4.h) Do you employ immigrants? Are they offered the same remuneration & benefits?
No. Thai law forbids this.

- Do you mean that Thai law forbids employing immigrants?
Immigrants may only work in Thailand if they have formal work permits and work in a permitted sector in specific locations. They are not permitted to work in agricultural regions of the Northeast.

(4.i) Do you employ trainees? Please explain what type of tasks they perform, how much they are paid, how many hours do they work and how do you source them?
Children of employees (18+) have worked at the property to observe operations and practice English with guests. They are paid the same as other workers and work the hours they choose. We are pleased to have now placed two of these trainees with five star resorts in the South.

- Do you also employ children under 18?

(4.j) Do you use volunteers? Please explain what tasks they are given?
No. However, if guests ask about and can contributing to education, medical services etc, then we liaise with the local authorities or representatives in order that they may assist locally within the restraints of Thai law.

(4.k) Do you offer concessions to elderly visitors?
No, although discounts are offered to old age pensioners visiting.

(4.l) Is there disabled access at your Lodge?

(4.m) What measures are in place to protect the local (or the indigenous) population from some adverse impacts of tourism?
Guests are informed of local traditions and customs both orally and in written material at the villa. They are asked to observe these local customs. We only ever have one set of guests at a time, minimizing the number of visitors at any one time to a maximum of 6. Guests are generally accompanied in the vicinity both to help with language issues and to ensure a smooth interaction with the locals. We favour couples or families as guests.

(4.n) Do you undertake any poverty reduction initiatives or does your operation contribute to poverty reduction?
We promote the goals of “giving back’ both on our website and locally, although believe that if the goals are clearly explained in all our material, guests should be left to make up their own mind as to whether they wish to provide additional direct support. The most popular choice amongst guests to date has been to help the local children of poor farming families, either via donations to the local village schools or via direct donations to their families. Some guests have organized events in their home countries to raise funds that were then officially donated to the local education authority. When sourcing external services such as traditional Thai massage, we try to secure these services from those most in need of supplemental income (widows etc.)

4n: A poster produced by Brian and Karen Bayliss, guests at
Gecko Villa, for an exhibition of photos taken by them during their
holiday at the villa. Funds raised were then sent to Gecko Villa as a donation
to the local primary school.

(4.o) Do you undertake any inequality reduction initiatives or does your operation contribute to inequality reduction?
One of Gecko Villa’s main achievements has been preventing the typical separation of families and the migration of parents to Bangkok or further afield in seeking unskilled employment far from home. Traditionally, young children are left with aging grandparents, as parents seek temporary work in the capital, returning only for the rice harvests. Gecko Villa has enabled several families to stay together, promoting stability and a secure, local and individually empowering source of employment. We also aim to counter the commonly held perception of Isan as being an 'inferior' people in a poor land. We aim to promote and preserve local traditions and customs (Puk xiew ceremonies, morlam music, Isan cooking, Mudmee and Isan silks and cottons weaving, Ban Chiang pottery etc.)

- This perception of Isan is 'commonly held' among whom?
Commonly amongst Thais from the central Bangkok and other regions. From Wikipedia: *The cultural separation from Central Thailand, combined with the region's poverty and the typically dark skin of its people, has encouraged a considerable amount of discrimination against the people of Isan from non-ethnic Thais of Chinese descent. Even though many Isan people now work in the cities rather than in the fields, many hold lower-status jobs such as construction workers and stall vendors and tuk-tuk taxi drivers, and discriminatory attitudes have been known to persist with many Thai-Chinese inhabitants. The process of Thaification has diluted somewhat the distinctive character of Isan culture, particularly in the cities and in provinces, such as Khorat, which are closest to the Central Thai heartlands and which have been under Thai rule the longest.* The Nobel prize nominated author Pira Sudham, himself from the Northeast (Isan), made this discrimination one of the major themes of his novels.

(4.p) Do you undertake any injustice reduction initiatives or does your operation contribute to injustice reduction?
Not officially, and any initiative must remain discrete given local politics. However, we assist in any way we can when we perceive an injustice is done or about to be done.

(4.q) What is the minimum, average and maximum age of your employees?
Minimum: 18, Average: 44, Maximum: 55

(4.r) How many employees do you have?
Approximately 6 “core” partners with the most involvement, although arrangements are informal as described above and as preferred by those involved.




(5.a) Is there a local community / e.g. a nearby village?
There are 3 nearby villages and a forest temple.

(5.b) Do guests interact with the local community and how?
Yes. Visits to villagers homes, to local markets and schools, to local village temples. Participation in traditional farming methods (rice planting and harvesting etc.) Guests are generally accompanied to ease language issues and so that local practices may be explained to them, although they are also of course free to visit the area independently.

(5.c) What type of information is available to guests at the property?
Published materials on the area and places of local interest. Language and phrase books. Books on Thai history and politics. Details on local traditions, local Isan food etc. Books on the local fauna and flora. A description of the aims of the property.

(5.d) What type of activities are available to guests at the property?
Guests are invited to participate in local events, festivals or typical daily life to the extent they choose. All activities are free of any charge and accompanied by staff from Gecko Villa to help maximize interaction. Visits to villagers homes, to local markets and schools, to local village temples. Participation in traditional farming methods (rice planting and harvesting etc.) Traditional Thai massage Thai and Isan cooking courses, from the garden to the plate. Boat trips on a traditional boat to the local, ecologically important listed wetlands Visits to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ban Chiang. Bicycle trips. Learning to ride a water buffalo or tuk-tuk. Visits to Thai silk production and weaving villages Morlam / traditional Thai-Isan  music festivals.

5d: a Swiss family of teachers who visited the local school during an outing to study
traditional farming methods. They turned the day into an impromptu English class for the children.

5d2: Guests may be taken out on the local listed wetlands of Nong Han on our traditional
wooden boat. Here they can observe rare birds, and watch the villagers collecting
lotus roots for cooking.

5d3: This photo shows a local villager catching fish at the local lake
with a traditional hand-thrown net.

(5.e) Local guided tours for guests?
Yes, free of charge, as above.

(5.f) Events / presentations held at the facility so far?
Traditional Isan wedding or elders’ blessing ceremonies.

(5.g) Specific programme for children?
School visits and introduction to local children of the same age.

(5.h) Research / Publications produced / assisted by the property so far?
Indigenous People and Tourism in Northeastern Thailand: -The Issues of Culture, Language, and Education John Draper and Kamjorn Jaiboon, Isan Language Maintenance and Revitalization Project, Khon Kaen University (funded by the Center for Research on Plurality in the Mekong Region, KKU)

(5.i) Is the local community at all involved in the operation of the Lodge and how?
Via informal / voluntary contributions in construction, operation and servicing / sourcing as above.



(6.a). Please send links of videos from your Lodge backing one or more of your answers, along with brief description (50 words maximum) of what each video shows.

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNung_majWs

(6.b). Please state any green certificates won by the property and provide scanned photos of these.


(6.c). Have there been any independent (i.e. not paid or otherwise related to you) newspaper, radio, TV or guidebook reviews on your property, which may support any of your replies above? If so please provide detailed information, article photos and/or links (maximum 10 links please)

Sawasdee Magazine (Thai Airways) review by Tom Urquhart, “Keen to go Green”, July 09 (see below)

Sawasdee Magazine
6c: Sawasdee Magazine article on Gecko Villa

Property promoted by ResponsibleTravel.com The BBC filmed “Blood, Sweat and Takeaways” whilst based at the property in 2008.

(6.d). (Optional) Please propose up to 5 people with full title and contact email details who are Tourism Academics or Tourism Officials, who have visited your Lodge and are ready to publically back your statements in this application.


(6.5). Please sign to indicate your agreement with the following:

I hereby declare that all my answers are true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and understand that I and/or my company will not have the right to veto or 'hide' our ECOCLUB Rating, which will be decided in the manner specified at http://www.ecoclub.com/rating if we find it unfavourable. I also understand that the rating will be valid for a minimum of 1 Year, and a maximum of 3 Years. By submitting this questionnaire I indicate acceptance of all ECOCLUB.com Rating terms, conditions and procedures as stated at http://www.ecoclub.com/rating and understand that these may be modified at any time without notice.

(Please enter (paste) your signature below or type your initials to indicate acceptance)

Your Name: Bongkot Podaeng - Date: 4 December 2010



Copyright © 1999-2010 ECOCLUB S.A. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use
Home Ecolodges News Shop Community Chat Library Events Advertise Join Recommend