Three hours by road from Bangkok, the cool air of Khao Yai is a boon for the adventurous traveller. David Bowden stays at a cosy hotel and gives it the thumbs-up
THAILAND doesn’t need much of an introduction to Malaysian holidaymakers with Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai being well-known and much-visited destinations.
There are a whole host of other destinations which are more difficult to get to but well worth the journey for those prepared to get off the beaten track.
A new hotel is also something which ignites the travel flame so a plan was hatched to travel three hours by road northeast of Bangkok to enjoy the cool misty mountains and valleys and also around Khao Yai National Park.
Dusit is a Thai hotel brand that is going global and its ir dusitD2 brand is just a notch lower than the full five-star Dusit but one which offers contemporary styling, lively touches, creative flair and, of course, gracious Thai service.
Using the dusitD2 as a base to explore the Khao Yai district will appeal to adventurous travellers who are willing to hire a car to get there and explore attractions such as the national park, five golf courses, two wineries and a range of outdoor adventures from mountain biking to a water theme park. Another attraction for some is that the hotel is pet-friendly.
Khao Yai hasn’t yet made it onto the world tourism stage and it’s almost as if the Thais want to keep this as a secret retreat all for themselves.
Therefore, most of the visitors are Thai but frontline staff at the dusitD2 have a very good command of English as well as being young and enthusiastic.
The area is popular with Bangkok residents as it is the perfect driving distance for a weekend in the countryside, so Friday and Saturday nights are popular for weekend retreats.
Malaysian visitors should best travel here during the week when it is less crowded and rates are more competitively priced.
Any hotel that features a pillow menu must be taken seriously and the dusitD2 offers six different types for guests to select.
Not all six appear on the bed at any one time but housekeeping staff will swiftly deliver, if required, a contour massage pillow, soba pillow (containing buckwheat hull) and anti-snore pillow with memory foam, among others.
I have to admit that whether it’s the soba pillow or anti-snore pillow, a great night’s sleep at dusitD2 is one of the hotel’s most endearing qualities.
Firstly, the air here is quite cool, being situated at about 400m above sea level, and with a backdrop of rolling mountains, it’s possible to sleep with the window open and the ceiling fan gently whirring above.
Secondly, the layers of padded material on the mattress provide a heavenly rest.
Add to this the darkness of the agricultural setting and even insomniacs would find it hard to resist sleep here.
The bed takes dominant place in an open-styled room with virtually no interior walls apart from the toilet and a free-standing shower.
Being a new hotel with contemporary styling, guests enjoy the latest facilities such as complimentary in-room WiFi, flat-screen television, mini-bar, in-room safe, international power points and coffee/tea-making facilities.
DUSITD2 KHAO YAI
678 Moo 18 Tambol Moosi,
TEL 66 44 003 000
KHAO Yai is located near Pak Chong, about three hours’ drive northeast from Bangkok. The hotel can arrange transport. An alternative is to hire a car, which is a good idea so you can explore the attractions of Khao Yai.
Spacious and sophisticated without being ostentatious and with a sense of a rustic rural retreat befitting the hotel’s location. The hotel rooms have an open plan which means the bathroom is not separate and a large soaking bathtub in part of the living area.
The only interior walls enclose a free-standing shower and toilet. The balcony is functional in being big enough to sit on. While the room is unique in not being like most standard hotel rooms, it is luxuriously appointed with contemporary flair and style.
Khao Yai National Park is a Unesco World Heritage site. The lowlands are mostly agricultural land with five golf courses, many locally-owned country retreats, some stylish restaurants, two wineries (GranMonte and PB Estate Winery) and a range of outdoor recreational activities in a relatively cool mountain and valley location.
There’s a fitness centre, massages can be aranged and there’s a climbing wall plus a funky pool and jacuzzi with attached communal seating areas at pool level for enjoying sunset drinks.
Dining outlets include Musi Grill (all-day dining), Cacoon Tree-pod (private dining), Gourmet de Khaoyai, The Lounge and the Pool Bar. Musi Grill features an open kitchen and a beverage list that serves local Thai and international beverages and wines. Choose from dishes such as antipasto, lobster bisque, steaks pizza and pasta on the Western menu and Pad Thai, massaman curry and mango with sticky rice on the Thai menu.
The minute you alight from your air-conditioned transport, the outside air seems almost as cool as in the car. While it’s tropical Thailand, Khao Yai is a microclimatic of cooler weather.
The vegetation at the entrance lobby is slowly growing with towering eucalypts to be a thing of the future. Young and bubbly staff are eager to assist guests settle into their rooms as soon as possible.