This whimsical resort in Thailand offers “Rail Room” suites and a brasserie – Robb Report
The inspiration for the new InterContinental Khao Yai dates back to the 1800s, when King Rama V of Thailand was among the first Asian monarchs to visit many key European capitals, including Paris, Vienna and London. Accomplished largely by rail, his grand tour was an eye-opener for the king and a consequence for his homeland, encouraging him to support the introduction of rail travel to Thailand.
The story of Rama V’s pioneering European odyssey has always resonated with the architect and designer Bill Bensley, who once spent summers “taking groups of old ladies on a train from Vancouver Island to Quebec City”, which he still describes today as “a great job”. And when asked to conceptualize a new resort nestled in the countryside of Khao Yai, his research showed that the area was close to old railway lines that once connected northeast Thailand to the rest of Thailand. Southeast Asia.
These various influences were channeled into the creation of Somsak, the fictional station master of Khao Yai Station (also invented) whose imagined aesthetic inspired the whimsical ownership. Upon arrival, guests check in at the Somsak ticket office, with its “personal” memorabilia in the form of antiques and heirlooms, placed throughout the property, intended to hint at the chef’s backstory. of station.
The theme continues in the radiant cobalt blue of Somying’s Kitchen, decorated with vintage-looking train posters. Named after Somsak’s mother, the casual eatery resembles an American diner crossed with a provincial train station and serves an all-day menu of Thai and international cuisine. Likewise, in the hotel’s 45 standard “rail rooms” (from $190 a night), you’ll find old travel guides displayed by the bed, TVs hidden behind station signs, and murals. pastoral scenes framed under glass panels, as if viewed through a train window.
But it’s the resort’s suites and villas that emerge among Thailand’s most distinctive accommodations. They began to take shape when Bensley noticed a Bangkok railroad yard full of rusting old train carriages, one tangled with ficus trees, just like the ruins of Angkor Wat. “I thought, ‘Would it be cool to recycle them?’ “, he recalls. Securing enough units proved not only surprisingly difficult, but also prohibitively expensive. “There are a lot of people who like to collect these things,” Bensley says of the heritage wagons. “To get the little we did was like pulling teeth.” But the effort paid off, with 19 cars now stylishly reconfigured into unique and surprisingly stylish accommodations (from around $320 per night).
Measuring just over eight feet wide, the cars are narrow but long, stretching up to a lush 66 feet, colorfully finished and offering generous outdoor space, including a soaking tub and large sundeck; five units also include a private pool. Bensley promises that the Heritage Railcar, made up of two full-size cars working together, will be “the sequel of the strangest proportions in the world”.
Strange, yes, but in the sense that engenders enchantment, not confusion. Whether you book a treatment at the Back on Track spa, dress up for a drink in the bar at Papillon or dine at the French-style Brasserie Poirot or watch black swans glide while enjoying scones and macaroons mango at Tea Carriage, Bensley’s creation is full of fun and playful imagination. Wonder isn’t a feeling you’d expect from a modern luxury resort, but once experienced, it’s easy to wonder why we can’t have more of it in the world.