Cover A view of the InterContinental Khao Yai Resort from one of the largest lakes in its vicinity. All hotel images: Courtesy of InterContinental Khao Yai Resort

Visiting Bangkok soon? Why not visit the picturesque Khao Yai for the InterContinental Khao Yai Resort, a new hotel just two hours from the city, offers a soothing escape from the busy capital

“Creatively curious” is the mantra of hotel design guru Bill Bensley, the founder of his eponymous firm that’s based in Bangkok and Bali. For the InterContinental Khao Yai Resort in Khao Yai, Thailand, the American landscape architect and hospitality designer has taken this to heart with a property inspired by the old-world glamour of rail travel.  

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Set to open officially this October, the resort will also welcome eager early birds with limited rooms available to be booked from August 22. Located on a spacious and lush 100-acre site, the property enjoys proximity to golf courses and a Unesco World Heritage site, the Khao Yai National Park.  
 
A two to three-hour drive from Bangkok, the area is known for a hilly getaway for wealthy local families and soon will attract more curious travellers in search of a serene escape from the city bustle. Plus, its locomotive-inspired design details (more on that below) also alludes to the historical significance of the region as a hilly gateway for train travel in northeast Thailand during the 19th century reign of King Rama V. 

“It is a beautiful part of the country with mountains and cooler weather—a novelty for Thais who travel there, many from Bangkok, hoping to get their annual dose of greenery, a chance to wear a sweater and be transported elsewhere for a while,” shares Bensley, whose studio is based between Bangkok and Bali. “Khao Yai was always overlooked by international luxury travellers who instead headed to Chiang Mai; the city has a chance to become the next great nature destination in Thailand for foreign travellers with a pleasant drive from Bangkok, rather than getting on another plane.” 
 
He adds: “As with all of our projects, this needed to have a unique story that would make this a destination in and of itself. The client and I previously worked together to create the Rosewood Luang Prabang, which melded storytelling with restoration and building in a way that preserves nature; we have a wonderful friendship—as soon as I showed her the new plans for a train-inspired hotel, she was truly on board! It is great to work with clients that are also friends, as we have a lot of fun dreaming ideas up, visiting the mockup trains, and collecting rare items for this special project.” 
 
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Here, we highlight some of the most notable features of the property to look forward to: 

Into the Woods

Situated close to Unesco World Heritage site Khao Yai National Park, the resort sits on a 100-acre site that takes inspiration from its verdant surroundings—its sprawling grounds feature over 50,000 trees and seven lakes. 
 
What’s more, all the suites, villas and guestrooms—64 keys in total—are connected to the outdoors; each accommodation comes with an outdoor balcony, or a spacious indoor-outdoor terrace that offer stunning views of lush greenery. 
 
To make the most of the property’s connection to nature, guests can also check out an outdoor jogging trail and biking tracks in the vicinity; maps are offered, along with kid-friendly bikes as well as geared bicycles available for rent. An outdoor pool, which overlooks the property’s largest lake, provides another serene spot to lounge. 

Ticket to Ride

As with every Bensley project, there is a heartfelt narrative that drives the design: the team has imagined the hotel as the home of a train conductor who grew up near Khao Yai, and had purchased land to design a station and ticket office in the style of the 19th century architecture that he loves. Locomotive-inspired details include station signboards, luggage racks, and bunk beds, as well as numerous train memorabilia that can be found throughout the interior.  

Taking Root

Aside from featuring an entrance and 45 unique rooms and villas inspired by historic railway stations, Bensley will also transform 19 abandoned train carriages into luxurious hotel suites; these will be made available for bookings later this year. Each of these formerly abandoned carriages has been found from all over Thailand, some of which are enveloped by Ficus trees that have taken root on the roof and around each cabin.  
 
“I have always been a fan of upcycling and recycling, so repurposing train carriages was a dream come true,” shares Bensley. “This is the first time such a big hotel operator backs upcycling on such a big scale. I hope that more follow suit and follow the lesser-tread path of major upcycling and recycling, as it brings huge appeal to any project and so much character.” 

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