Experience old-school train travel glamour
InterContinental Khao Yai is going full steam ahead to keep you on track with an upscale vibe while getting you in touch with nature.
Having opened in September, the resort's first phase sees 45 stylish guestrooms and suites in residential buildings named after local railway stations. Somying’s Kitchen, an all-day dining restaurant with a farm-to-table concept, and Tea Carriage, which offers a formal afternoon tea with a breathtaking view, were also unveiled. The resort welcomes you aboard with sleeping car rooms that are reminiscent of train travel glamour. Nineteen suites and villas are housed within repurposed heritage railcars, alongside a spa and dining cars.
The resort has pulled off its train-inspired concept, built in a way that preserves nature. When I first heard of a train-themed resort in Khao Yai, I had my doubts about the concept as it might not blend in with the hilly destination that is reputed for cool weather. Plus, the train theme was a trend in Kanchanaburi or Samut Songkhram, where tourist attractions are related to the history of Thai railcars. American architect and interior designer Bill Bensley was tasked with designing the resort and he inspiration from the tale of Khao Yai during King Rama V’s reign, some 120 years ago when the region was a gateway for railroad travel to the northeast of Thailand.
I was amazed by the lobby, which is a replica of a train station dubbed "Khao Yai Station". A white and green wooden house with a familiar gable roof, surrounded by a dense, beautiful garden. It wows with the decor that transports one back to the golden age of rail travel; think of a ticket window, a classic departure board and vintage wooden benches, all of which had me piqued about what else awaited in my sleeper car.
Heritage Railcar 1 Bedroom Suite.
Hopping on the Khao Yai Express, the revamped train cabin I stayed in was a well-appointed 47m² suite. Each cabin features a different theme depending on its assigned destination. Mine was headed to Khon Kaen and looked outstanding with the interiors and furnishings done in dark purple and dull gold. Rattan decor and Thai patterned fabric from Thai silk label, Jim Thompson, adds a rustic touch. This is a first-class sleeping car, where the suite is separated into three parts: living room, bathroom and bedroom. However, the catch was the stuffiness I felt when I closed the sliding door that splits each room, though some light still comes through side windows. To get some more air, head outside to a private porch that is equipped with a sofa and workstation. A bathtub and sun bed are also in the outdoor area; though the space isn’t very private to be in your birthday suit. A minor detail I would love to give credit for is a small sensor light mounted on the wall in each room, so I do not have to blind myself when turning on the lights to use the bathroom during the night.
The lake park is serene, and it is well worth noting that not many resorts in Thailand have a backyard with their own ecosystem of swans frolicking around. The landscaping is man-made, though, and took 12 years to create. It replicates a scenic hill that boasts a lake in the middle, with a dense forest park on one side. A bicycle is the best way to explore the park along a leisurely 1.2km path while taking in the views.
Classic Lake View.
Besides the 19 themed suites and villas unveiled in the second phase, the resort has welcomed two dining outlets. Poirot Brasserie is an elegant French restaurant. Adjacent to the restaurant car is Papillon, a bar that puts the spotlight on classic French cocktails. Set inside an upcycled heritage railcar, the Back On Track Spa boasts four luxurious, self-contained treatment rooms where a range of treatments using natural and organic skincare products are delivered.
The nearby Toscana Valley whisks you off to Tuscany Italy, for a day. It is where you can marvel at Renaissance architecture, which includes the “Leaning Tower Of Pisa”. Although the place provides countless photogenic spots to step up your Instagram game, a few areas are restricted to residents and guests only. Head over to Kirimaya Khao Yai, which is hosting a light installation festival, "Forest Of Illumination At Kirimaya" (until Feb 19/ tickets via icvticket.com). For this year's theme, Snoopy and Woodstock, along with the rest of the Peanuts gang, embark you on a sparkly journey.
The pool bar.
The arrival of InterContinental Khao Yai has made the hilly destination's travel scene more interesting. Although Khao Yai National Park is closed at hand, you do not have to leave the resort, as the lake park offers serene and private surroundings. Under the "Stay Three, Pay Two" package, book for three consecutive nights and your third night will be free. Visit bit.ly/3VXM1Lx.