Building our Glamping Domes:
Day 102 – Our First Pictures of Sangchan Dome

Our Hard Work Has Paid Off As We Finish our First Dome

The end is in sight as our first dome is just about finished. Dome Sangchan (Sangchan is Thai for moonlight) is just about finished. We still have a few finishing touches to do plus a lot of cleaning but it is there, ready for it s first guest.

It’s Been Quite a Journey

Like all of these projects, it’s been quite a journey. I can honestly say that we are all tired but in a good way. No problem getting to sleep at night but also no problem getting up at the crack of dawn to get on with the last jobs. Now we just need to wait for our first guests and to to see their reviews. We also hope, for the whole country, that the Thailand’s opening up is a success and we don’t see another wave.

Dome Sangchan – The First Pictures!

We do also have some first pictures to show everyone.

Building our Glamping Domes:
Day 100 – Adding the Insulation & PVC Lining

A Proud, Glorious Moment

In any project, there are those crowning moments you look forward to from before the project even starts. For us, one of those moments was always going to be adding the internal insulation and adding the external PVC lining.

Its not just the moment the tent goes up, its the moment you realize if the project is everything you thought it would be…or did you just spend a chunk of change on an embarrassing dud.

It’s Been Quite a Journey

Like all of these projects, it’s been quite a journey. I can honestly say that we are all tired but in a good way. No problem getting to sleep at night but also no problem getting up at the crack of dawn to get on with the last jobs. Now we just need to wait for our first guests and to to see their reviews. We also hope, for the whole country, that the Thailand’s opening up is a success and we don’t see another wave.

Spoilers Ahead…

You can watch the video below showing how to add insulation and PVC lining, and not wanting to spoil the suspense, we were really pleased with the result. Walking through the door for the first time with the roof was wonderful. The space is everything we wanted it to be: Large floor space but also large roof height as well. And with the panoramic window as well, it really does give you a sense of floating on air.

Building our Glamping Domes:
Day 92 – Net Bed and Walkways

8 Days To Go and Still Lots of Little Things To Do!

There is still lots to do but now its just a big little with lots of little things. And this is really satisfying as when you are doing a little thing it normally means you are finishing something….and then you get to sit back and see if it matches your original vision.

Generally we would say that most of what we are seeing is either equal to or better than what we first imagined and that is really pleasing.

Net Bed and Walkways

In this weeks video updates we are showing the finishing of the walkways, net beds as well as the dome interiors. And as long as the weather holds off we should have the domes finished in the next few days.

Building our Glamping Domes:
Day 80 – Getting There!

18 Days To Go Till We Launch Our Glamping Domes

Its all finally starting to come together and we are getting a good sense of the experience that we have built….and it looks good so far.

Pipes and More Pipes

These days we are mainly working on electric and plumping. So its a lot of pipes and wires most of which go straight into the ground. So visually its hard to see the progress even though we know it is all moving forward.

This is a stage where we are particularly careful – we don’t want water leaks and we definitely don’t want anyone getting an electric shock. So lot’s of focusing on the details!

However we are also working on the internal structure as well which is really satisfying to see as it is all starting to feel a real home and one you can walk around. Admittedly its still a home without a roof!

Glamping Video Update!

To give a sense of the progress, as well as the experience, I have put a quick video together which mainly focuses on the experience. The next video will hopefully be the last one as we put the insulation and pvc lining onto the frame.

Building our Glamping Domes:
Day 60 – Putting up the Domes

Our Geodesic Dome Tents Have Arrived and Are Going Up

Our domes tents have arrived and finally the day when we put them up is here! September turned out to be a horrid month weather wise. Generally September is pretty wet anyway (and good thing too or none of the rice and other crops would grow) but this year we had a couple of typhoons coming from the East across Vietnam/Laos which added some further late rainy season drenchings.

So we lost some time but today the weather is all blue skies and warm sunshine; absolutely perfect for what we are doing.

Dome Tent – A Wonderful Space

As the domes go up we can finally see both the sihouette of the project as well as get a sense of the space inside. We order 7m domes compared to the 5m or 6m dome tents that are popular here in Thailand. And I am glad we did as it’s a wonderful space with a fantastic 4m high ceiling. We simply can not wait for them to be finish and to finally spend a night sleeping in them.

Dome Tents – Surprisingly Easy

It’s also surprisingly easy to put these tents up. Each metal bar has a number on it. There is a single sheet diagram that shows which number connects to what other number and off you go. If you did Meccano as a child then you can put up a dome tent.

Our Very Own Synchronous Fireflies

My Own (Little) Sparkle of Fireflies

I consider myself to be very lucky as I have my very own sparkle of fireflies. ‘A Sparkle’ is the common noun for fireflies though ‘a light posse’ is also used. Our Udon Thani home is tucked away at the end of a dirt track that runs along a small river. This river is home to my sparkle of fireflies. It’s a small sparkle. At most I can see a hundred in one night.

Most evening I like to take a stroll just after dusk to visit my sparkle. I find them mesmerising. Not just for the magical floating, fairy light effect but also as they fly over the river the fireflies create a mirror image of themselves. The symmetry of the fireflies and their reflected partners makes for quite a light show though one of some sadness too. Adult fireflies, the ones that admit light, live only for one week. Their sole purpose at this stage is to find a mate, reproduce and die. So I look at this amazing show knowing that this is also their final song and dance.

Discover Udon Thani Synchoronus Fireflies as Seen at Nakara Villas and Glamping
Synchronous Fireflyas Seen at Nakara Villas and Glamping

My First Friendly Firefly

I first encountered a firefly as a young five year old boy whilst living on the banks of Lake Michigan in North America. It was a hot summer night and I couldn’t sleep causing me to notice a small yellow light moving around the room. It was alternating between making large circles before suddenly switching to a zigzagging pattern. Being fearful of bugs at that age, it took several panicked runs to my parents bedroom before finally being convinced that I was in no danger. Its just a friendly firefly, they explained, which had come to light my room for me. That night I lay awake happily mesmerised by this circling, zigzagging light and since then I have always relished the joy of seeing these magical insects.

When I first came to Thailand, fireflies were not on my mind. So it was a pleasure indeed to find that here we actually have them in abundance. Thailand is home to over 100 species of fireflies but particularly and uniquely Synchronous Fireflies. These, for mating purpose, sync their bioluminescence like a string of Christmas tree lights that flash on and off. It is believed they do this to avoid confusing the female with too many lights from different locations. Whatever their reason, in doing this they have given us one of the world’s most spectacular natural light shows.

Synchronous Fireflies – Living Work of Art

And it is possible to go and see synchronous fireflies in Thailand. Their locations are well know and they are regularly studied. First, to get a sense of the show that awaits you, I would like to direct you to this video below. Part experiment and part living work of art it was created by two artists who used controlled LEDs to encourage wild Pteroptyx Malaccae to synch their bioluminese to create stunning patterns. The video is surely worth more than the 160k views it has earned at time of posting so please do view and share if you enjoyed it as much as me.

Experiment in the mangrove forests of Thailand. Thousands of live fireflies are made to synchronise their flashes with a few computer controlled LED’s.

Where to See Synchronous Fireflies

The best time to go and see fireflies is during the rainy season, May to October, when populations are at their maximum size. Fireflies are attracted to water so you can sparkles of fireflies along most river banks and mangrove swamps. Thought to be sure to see a spectacular showing of synchronous flies, head to of the following:

1. Khao Kho National Park

The closest place to Udon Thani is Khao Kho National Park, a five hour drive away. It’s a popular destination for reasons beyond fireflies. Its high elevation means cooler temperatures and wonderful morning views across mist filled valleys. For the best firefly experience stay in one of the campsites or small isolated resorts and then follow a trail into the forests at dusk. Here, especially in summer, the fireflies are very dense though avoid shining your torch directly at them as this can be fatal.

Discover Udon Thani Kaho Kho National Park Offers Misty Mornings and Synchronous Fireflies at Night
Kaho Kho National Park Offers Misty Mornings and Synchronous Fireflies at Night

2. Amphawa Floating Market Firefly Boat Tours

Probably the easiest and most accessible place to see Synchronous Fireflies is at Amphawa Foating Market 80 km outside Bangkok. Here you can take a boat ride from the market down the Mae Klong River. The boats will stop and allow you to watch the fireflies that live in the Lamphu trees on the river bank. Boats normally take up to 20 people and the price is between 50-100 baht per person. They depart all year round between 6pm and 9pm.

3. Phrom Yothi Military Barrack

Another easily accessible location to see fireflies is Phrom Yothi Military barrack in Muang District, Prachiburi Province. The camp is a two hour drive out of Bangkok. The forest around the base is home to a sparkle that numbers in the thousands. For six weeks each year, in June and July, the camp is opened for the evening for people to view the fireflies. Superb experience especially for families with young kids.

Discover Udon Thani: Fireflies at Phrom Yothi Military Camp
Fireflies at Phrom Yothi Military Camp. The camp is open for 6 weeks a year for people to view them

4. Kaeng Krachan National Park

This is a great option for the more determined traveller as here you can see tens of thousands of fireflies grouped togethers. Kaeng Krachan National Park is a nature reserve 85km from Hua Hin and 200km from Bangkok. It sits on the boarder of Thailand and Myanmar. Like Khao Kho National Park, there are many reasons beyond fireflies to come here. This includes 450 species of birds, 300 of butterfiles, and over 30 types of mammals including wild leopards, tigers, bears and elephants. Stay in one of the two campsite and follow the firefly trails down the many streams and rivers. Guides are available to escort you safely.

Discover Udon Thani: Synchronous Fireflies and Birds at Kaeng Krachan National Park
Many Reasons to Visit Kaeng Krachan National Park including Synchronous Fireflies, 450 Species of Birds and 30 different wild mammals.

Vanishing Fireflies

If, like me, you adore fireflies then do go soon. Firefly populations all over the world are declining due to urban development and light pollution encroaching on their habitat. Tales of bright swarms that would light up entire rivers enough to be navigable without artificial light are sadly now just tales.

Fireflies communicate by light through the darkness in order to find mates. So it would seem that as we light up ever more of the world, our friendly fireflies can no longer connect and mate thus ending another species.

My Sparkle Is Also Declining

I was recently reminded of my boyhood encounter with a firefly. Lying awake in bed here in Udon Thani, I saw a firefly circling my room. It showed the same flying pattern, alternating between circles and zig-zags, as its American cousin 45 years ago though coloured more green rather than yellow. I was reading the latest news on my mobile before sleeping – a poor habit I know – and the light from my phone seemed to attract the firefly. It flew down and landed on my hand staying there quite comfortably and flashing its light at me. An act it repeated for the next three nights in a row before, I assume, dying.

I fear my sparkle will soon vanish just. Once we were an isolated villa but new houses have been built along our river, new street lamps added and vehicular traffic is now a constant. Numbers are visibly down, and dramatically so, since we first came here 10 years ago.

My sparkle may not survive but for now I still take great delight in taking a stroll at dusk to watch their magical show and marvel in the synchronous beauty of their last and final beautiful dance of light.

Building our Glamping Domes:
Day 16 – Finishing Decks

Rain, Rain but Still Steady Progress on our Glamping Site

So the rain came a little earlier than we had expected. Fortunately it wasn’t the thunderous downpours that we do occasionally get at the time of year. Instead it was more London style rain: consistent, annoying but generally harmless.

We did lose a few days but we feel we were so far ahead that it makes no difference. Also with the present covid situation, which is pretty bad but not yet disastrous, we probably couldn’t make a Oct 1 opening anyway. Most likely it will be Nov 1 instead.

Glamping Decks Arising from the Ground

Mainly this video looks at how we are building our decks. We would loved to have built wood decks but the conditions here are just not right. Our domes will sit over our rice fields which we deliberately flood during the growing season. This plus heavy rain, strong sun and the proximity of termites make this using wood and maintaining wood difficult.

So we have decided to build strong concrete decks that will last 100+ years if needed. There is a video that takes you through the process below.

So far though our state is still calm, within budget and progressing at the right speed.

Building our Glamping Domes:
Day 9 – Deciding on Bamboo

A Steady Calm As Our Glamping Site Rises From the Ground

This is now day 9 (day 5 of actual construction) of our Glamping Geodesic Dome Site and I would describe the building site as having a good thick layer of calm covering well managed progress.

All the heavy vehicles, including the diggers and tractors, have done their job and left. This has reduced the noise level to virtually nil as well as reducing the dust level back to very breathable.

At the moment, the focus is on getting the foundations finished including the column posts that will support the Dome Tent decks as well the column posts into the ground for the walkways. We have a little race against time as we really want to finish this before the rains come. We have been lucky as the construction start date coincided with a period of drought. The forecast is for this to continue till Wednesday next week or four days away.

So we should be okay…..just.

Falling in Love With Bamboo

As with any project, you cant have everything you want on the budget you want (unless you are uber rich obviously which we are not).

We really had our hearts set on having a bamboo walking across our rice-fields to connect to the domes. Recently we have fallen in love with bamboo as a construction material. This inspiration started with seeing beautiful pictures of rice-fields bamboo walkways in other countries such a Vietnam, China and Cambodia. Also though it was seeing the stunning architecture using bamboo especially in Bali but here in Thailand.

To Bamboo or not To Bamboo

As Bamboo is both cheap and readily available, we believed this would be both a low cost and aesthetically pleasing solution.

However, Bamboo can last a year before crumbling into dust or last hundreds of years. The difference between the two is how the bamboo is treated before use as well as the constructions method used:

  1. Age: Bamboo for construction should be at least 5-7 years in age
  2. Pesticides: Bamboo is high in starch and hence a favourite food for pests like termites
  3. Drying: Bamboo has a high water content and will bend and splinter if not dried properly before use
  4. Rain and Sun: When Bamboo lasts hundreds of years it is because it is kept out of the sun and rain typically by using large over-arching roofs. Treating with a waterproof & UV seal can extend the life of bamboo when used in exposed conditions (such as walkways) but only to 10-12 years.
  5. Craftsmanship: Using fish mouth technique and bamboo dowels instead of nails and screws.

Sadly what we discovered is that there is no one in Thailand that is properly treating bamboo for construction. Typically bamboo is sold ‘green’ or untreated and then just replaced as it breaks. Being a small resort, we simply don’t have the time or funds for this. Also we don’t want to put anyone at risk by walking over damaged bamboo.

We did look at importing Bamboo. Hanoi, which is just 12 hours drive away, has many bamboo factories producing well treated bamboo fit for purpose. And cheap too! 1,500m of 2 inch Bamboo would have cost just 30,000 baht. However, when we added on transportation and tax this also became prohibitive.

A Golden Business Opportunity

So we have in the end we wiped away our tears and decided to reclaimed wood planks for the walkway. We will use some locally bought bamboo as decoration. We have also bought black, purple and green bamboo seeds and will experiment with growing our bamboo to enhance the garden garden.

However, we do believe that there is a golden opportunity to grow and properly treat bamboo for construction here in Thailand. Once we are through our Dome Project, and covid, we may look to see if we can start doing this here in Thailand.

Nakara Glamping – You Can Watch It All Here

You can watch the project unfold on our youtube channel: Nakara Villas & Glamping though you can watch today’s episode below. We have tried to both tell our own story but also share tips, tricks and learnings so you can save the money and avoid the disasters that we didn’t.

Building our Glamping Domes:
Day 6 – Columns Rising

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day (and Neither Was Our Glamping Site)

So this is day 6 (day 2 of actual construction) of our Glamping Geodesic Dome Site. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will out Glamping Site.

Having said though I do think we are moving at a pace far quicker than Romulus and Remus ever thought possible. Which is good as the rains are around the corner and we need to finish the foundations before they arrive. The weather forecast at the moment is unusually good for this time of year with no rain forecast for the next 5 days.

Good for our Glamping Project, though for bad for our garden which is rapidly turning from green to brown. Anyway we make foundation columns while the sun shines.

Here in Isan we use a fairly standard technique of using rebar column and feet for structures built out of rebar skeletons and then cased in concrete.

What is interesting is that in this part of the world, until recently there were no companies building housing projects…if you wanted a house you built it yourself. So everyone here literally knows how to build rebar columns and feet!

Columns Arising

This mini update is really just in case anyone following our progress (presently 4 people) are thinking of doing their own projects in Thailand. In which case we have added some more details on how we are building our rebar feet and columns.

From our experience, if you get this right than your house, your project will last decades and even longer. However, if you don’t then there is a good chance your project will fail before it even gets going.

Nakara Glamping – You Can Watch It All Here

You can watch the project unfold on our youtube channel: Nakara Villas & Glamping though you can watch today’s episode below. We have tried to both tell our own story but also share tips, tricks and learnings so you can save the money and avoid the disasters that we didn’t.

Building our Glamping Domes:
Day 5 – Breaking Ground

Today We Start Building Our Glamping Site

So it really begins today as this was our first day of actually building our Glamping Site. For now it will be just two 7m geodesic dome tents. Hopefully in the future we will add more domes as well as more tent varieties.

The morning started off with an impressive parade of trucks, lorries and a big mechanical digger arriving at our house. Noisy, dirty and exciting.

In terms of materials, all we need to build the foundations arrived first thing meaning nothing to stop us starting. This including rebar, sand, gravel and concrete. In addition, the metal beams and concrete posts for the walkway also arrived. So this means, material wise, we have everything for the first week or so.

And our team arrived too: one leader with seven people. That’s a good size team for a project of this size so we should make quick progress. And that’s important as the heavy rains are just around the corner so a small delay could catch us out and mean postponing the project till winter.

Dig, Dig Dig,

The main task today was just laying out where the decks for the Dome will go; essentially just hammering some sticks into the ground to pinpoint where the support columns will go. I always enjoy this bit and it feels much more symbolic than it really is. It also a little nerve racking as its really the first actual physical representation of what is in your head.

It also feels really small. I have done detailed, down to the cm, floor plans but when you look at a half dozen sticks in the ground you do start to wonder if you planned it big enough. I am sure we have though especially as we opted for 7m tents over the 5m tents most glamping sites choose.

The next job was digging the holes for the foundations and I was impressed that by the end of the day, our mechnical digger had dug every hole as asked and we even had a few rebar columns standing proud.

Nakara Glamping – You Can Watch It All Here

You can watch the project unfold on our youtube channel: Nakara Villas & Glamping though you can watch today’s episode below. We have tried to both tell our own story but also share tips, tricks and learnings so you can save the money and avoid the disasters that we didn’t.

thank you!

Thank you for contacting us and for giving us the chance to host you at nakara Villas & Glamping

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