InterContinenal Khao Yai: New luxurious resort celebrates Thailand’s railway historical past

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Khao Yai, Thailand (CNN) — Railways have lengthy been a supply of fascination for vacationers, permitting us to expertise journeys at a slower tempo and revisit a time when packed airplanes and crowded airports weren’t the norm.

Thailand has its personal storied railway historical past courting again to the early 1900s, when Bangkok’s urbanites would climb aboard the wheels of metal to get out of city for seashore escapes or cooler climates.

The InterContinental Khao Yai, made up of greater than 65 suites and villas, features a collection of upcycled Thai practice carriages which have been transformed into luxurious lodging.

A few 2.5-hour drive from Bangkok, outdoors Khao Yai Nationwide Park, the resort’s design was impressed by the early days of Thai rail and the realm’s historical past as a gateway to northeast Thailand throughout the reign of King Rama V (1868 to 1910).

Company are enveloped prior to now as quickly as they stroll into reception. Situated in a stand-alone constructing resembling a traditional Thai railway station, it is crammed with journey trunks, picket benches, traditional practice elements, illustrations and historic images.

The eye to element is outstanding, although anticipated with any property with Bensley’s identify connected to it.

Phrases like whimsical and fantastical are sometimes used to explain the Bangkok-based American’s work — and rightfully so. Bensley is unmatched in his capability to let his creativeness run wild in all the perfect methods. The result’s properties that inform a narrative, with each element a intelligent anecdote that provides to the pages.

Logistical challenges

Within the case of the InterContinenal Khao Yai, Bensley says his lifelong love for practice journey impacted the design. He is journeyed on many main luxurious trains on numerous continents and spent a summer season taking teams of aged vacationers on coastal rail journeys throughout Canada.

When he got here throughout a Thailand rail yard crammed with decommissioned trains, he needed to act.

“I used to be taking a look at all these rusty, outdated carriages and I assumed to myself, ‘Oh, God, they’re simply sitting there rotting…actually, we needs to be doing one thing with that,'” he remembers.

“Six months later, we have been shopping for up as lots of them as we might…You need not construct every part from scratch,” he provides.

Subsequent got here the arduous half. Transporting a bunch of heavy, decaying outdated trains into the resort’s hilly panorama proved to be as difficult as one would anticipate.

“We had deliberate to drive them in on rails,” he says. However a pointy flip on the finish of a highway within the resort the place they wanted to put the carriages meant calling in some additional assist to complete the job.

“We employed this large crane that should go up about 70 meters into the air. Then we flew the carriages in and set them down onto the slope. That was one hell of a day… It was a really costly crane, however we bought all of it completed within the day,” says Bensley.

Along with luxurious suites, the resort’s upcycled carriages additionally home a spa, a youngsters’ membership and three foods and drinks retailers — Poirot, Papillon and the Tea Carriage.

“We initially have been pondering that the entire carriages can be for lodging, however then as we began to work with them, we actually fell in love with the entire concept of Homicide on the Orient Specific. In order that’s the place Poirot is available in,” he says of the French restaurant overlooking close by Swan Lake.

Papillon, proper subsequent door, is a jazz-themed speakeasy serving sturdy cocktails and, on the weekends, reside music. The Tea Carriage sits in one other space of the superbly landscaped resort, the place company can strive quite a lot of drinks comparable to iced coffees and a beautiful afternoon tea set.

Breakfast is served in Somying’s Kitchen, a spacious all-day eating restaurant that includes cubicles harking back to eating automobiles and brilliant blue and white interiors. Exterior the restaurant there is a small pool and the Terminus Bar, which additionally bears conventional Thai railway motifs.

Even when you’re not capable of examine into one of many upcycled carriages, the opposite rooms and suites are nothing to scoff at. Every one, designed to seem like a traditional railcar, is exclusive and options dramatic paneling framing scenic wallpaper.

There are interconnected suites with bunk beds for bigger teams, whereas others function lake-view balconies and personal plunge swimming pools.

Architect Bill Bensley transformed a series of decommissioned rail cars into villas.

Architect Invoice Bensley remodeled a collection of decommissioned rail automobiles into villas.


Company are inspired to go out into the nationwide park — extra on that beneath — but it surely’s price spending a while having fun with the resort.

The InterContinenal Khao Yai’s 19 hectares are crammed with greater than 30,000 timber and several other lakes, the most important of which is occupied by a number of black and white swans — therefore the identify, “Swan Lake.” Free bikes could be signed out on the lake path, whereas there are many locations to sit down and watch the swans waddle by.

Khao Yai Nationwide Park

Although extremely widespread amongst Bangkok residents on the lookout for a weekend getaway to flee town, Khao Yai is not a high draw for overseas vacationers, who have a tendency to go for Thailand’s seashores or to Chiang Mai, the gateway to the mountainous north.

The cachet of getting a Bensley property managed by the InterContinental will little doubt give the realm a lift on the worldwide stage.

The landscapes outdoors Khao Yai Nationwide Park are sometimes in comparison with the Italian countryside and a number of the resorts, cafes, eating places and wineries play into that vibe.

There’s just one internationally branded resort within the space in addition to the InterContinental, a Movenpick that contains a sprawling castle-like lodge and an 18-hole golf course.
Guests who actually wish to pursue that Italian getaway fantasy can head for Toscana Valley — a mixed-use mission with a reproduction of the Leaning Tower.
Khao Yai National Park is home to as many as 200 wild elephants, according to park officials.

Khao Yai Nationwide Park is residence to as many as 200 wild elephants, in accordance with park officers.

Pratya Chutipaskul/AFP/Getty Photos

However at its core, Khao Yai stays a high vacation spot for nature lovers. A part of the UNESCO-listed Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Advanced, it is Thailand’s oldest nationwide park and is made up of greater than 2,000 sq. kilometers of forest and grassland.

Climbing trails cater to numerous skills, many providing entry to stunning waterfalls. Among the many most well-known is Haew Narok, which Leonardo DiCaprio’s character jumped off within the 2000 movie “The Seaside.”

Wildlife contains elephants, bears, gibbons and tigers (although people not often spot the massive cats). Park officers supply nightly wildlife recognizing journeys, which could be booked by way of the customer heart.

Bensley says the InterContinental’s location close to the nationwide park is what drew him to the mission within the first place.

“I am a wilderness man, so for me, being so near major forest is absolutely what makes me buzz, to have the ability to rise up into that park and see a number of the few remaining wild elephants left in Asia… that is for positive my favourite half.”

Although most company arrive by automobile, it’s potential to take the practice from Bangkok to Pak Chong station, which is about 40-45 minutes from the resort.

Sooner or later, Bensley says they wish to prepare weekend practice journeys throughout which costumed company will play Homicide on the Orient Specific.

Company, no matter whether or not they’re touring to Khao Yai from Bangkok by automobile or rail, could discover the erection of a size of elevated rail tracks — these are a part of the delayed Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed practice route that may ultimately head by way of Laos and into China.

The 250-km Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasmia line is because of open in 2026, in accordance with latest media experiences.

As vacationers start to dream of the approaching years when high-speed rail makes it simpler to whiz by way of the Thai countryside, it is good to know there is a resort that pays tribute to the nation’s rail historical past, too.

InterContinental Khao Yai Resort, 262, Pong Talong Sub-District, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30450; +66 (0)44 082 039; charges from 8,700 baht ($265) per evening.