Enjoy the winter chill with hot tea, tepees, and blankets at The Escape Khao Yai.
By Shruti Kothari
Who would imagine a winter wonderland just a stone’s throw away from Bangkok? A two-and- a-half hour drive from the bustling centre of the capital takes you to Khao Yai, which is bursting with luscious green landscapes, made exponentially more charming by the unbelievably cool weather. The Escape Khao Yai by the Sansiri Hotel Collection takes the temperature to another level with their inspired, Nordic decor that whisks you away from the heat and humidity of Bangkok, straight to Danish hygge . Definition: hygge /‘HEW-guh/
A feeling of coziness, comfort, or conviviality that is the cornerstone of Danish culture.
As someone who grew up in Bangkok, every time I think of a weekend getaway, I automatically think of Pattaya, or Hua Hin. However, after my recent trip to Khao Yai, I’ve personally re-discovered this other way to holiday. The drive down is beautiful, passing fields, mountains and vast vineyards. While you can take a bus to Pak Chong and request a pickup from the hotel, i highly recommend taking a car instead, to enable you to conveniently explore the region during your stay.
I reached for my shawl as soon as I got out of the car; the difference in the weather is truly amazing, and the air is tangibly cleaner. I was welcomed with refreshing cold towels and tea, and watermelon skewers. Check-in was a breeze; I never even made it to the desk, the team brought everything to me so I could enjoy the view and atmosphere while they sorted me out.
Each of the property’s 55 rooms is themed; floral, wood, earth and forest are the four available aesthetics, so you can select your preference right from the beginning. I stayed at the Grand Escape One Bedroom Sunken Heated Poolvilla, with a floral theme, where the cool blues of the fittings offset the natural greens and browns nicely. Upon entering the room, there was a small, open kitchenette to my right, giving guests the option to whip up their own meals if they so chose. On the counter was a basket with some minibar offerings, like Pringles; I always find free minibars that extra bit welcoming. Also in the living room was a large glass table well-situated for work or meals, and then to the side, a comfortable couch and a huge smart TV with Netflix and YouTube capabilities (vital for proper relaxation).
You enter the bedroom through a sliding door; it’s bright and simple, and the bed faces the TV so you can enjoy it through the glass from under the covers if you want. If you open
up the curtains, you get to the highlight: a broad patio with deck chairs, and a temperature-controlled plunge pool with shrouding shrubbery to ensure privacy. Given the weather, this was my favourite hangout spot for quiet reading, lounging in pyjamas, or simply relaxing in the water. While the room does come with a bathtub, I would choose the warmed pool under the cool, starlit sky, every single time.
The Escape Khao Yai is certainly used to hosting company events; I witnessed some wild karaoke involving cowboy hats by peeping into one of the meeting rooms. They’ve also transformed the space for weddings, which are stunning with the backdrop of mountains and fields. The only limitation is the size of your party, but anywhere up to 100 guests works perfectly.
During the course of your stay, you can borrow bicycles from reception to ride across the property, indulge in massages from the comfort of your own room, burn some calories at the well-equipped gym, swim in the pool (where you can borrow fun floats and games), or, excitingly, visit the organic vegetable farm. While it is modest in size, guests are invited to harvest their own produce; I selected a few tempting lettuce heads, which I presented to the team at the Green Oak restaurant. They promptly made a delicious salad from my gatherings, and I can confidently say I’ve never eaten a fresher meal. As the General Manager of Sales, Tassanee Panja, explains, “Here, we try our best to stay eco-friendly. We initiate and implement in-house sustainability projects, like growing our own vegetables, using solar cells and bio-gas, providing chargers for electric cars, and purifying waste water. We also maintain a strict no-plastic policy. When guests get involved in this farm-to table experience, it really lets them be part of our ethos.” The love for nature, community involvement, and generally healthy living is clearly instilled in each one of the team members, too.
Khao Yai National Park, the third largest in Thailand and a UNESCO World Heritage Site which attracts more than a million visitors a year, is situated just a 15-minute drive away from the hotel, so you can easily visit for an hour-long gander or a day of adventure, depending on your mood.
Perhaps the most defining aspect of this property is The Escape Yard, situated right beside the pool. White ribbons and fairy lights strung through verdant trees sway gently in the breeze; white cloth tepees, wooden benches, and picnic mats complete the festival atmosphere. This spot is Instagram heaven. There are carts of craft beers, and piles of blankets, which, coupled with the music and the general mood, guarantee a perfect time. It looks beautiful in the afternoon, when you can order a tiered tea set and enjoy the surrounding mountains in the light, and at night, when the bulbs begin to glitter and people start to congregate.You’ll see a mix of couples and families: while the atmosphere is romantic, there are play areas for kids both at The Escape Yard and by the gym. They offer a sumptuous barbecue buffet, which, as a vegetarian, I did not indulge in, but other guests assured me it was top notch.
Enjoying the outdoors is highly recommended at this venue. However, mosquitoes abound, so stay safe and itch- free by slathering yourself in repellant. Spray bottles are available at the restaurants, and you can request to keep some in your room to ensure protection around the clock.
While a cursory glance at the menu does not show much in the way of vegetarian food, when I notified the hotel of my dietary needs, they custom-made each meal around my preferences at Green Oak. I recommend the Thai food; the Chef, from Korat, doesn’t hold back on the spice. The most exciting component of the menu was the cocktail selection. Each of their signature varieties was served innovatively; the Ginger cooler, for example, was served in a mason jar housed inside a mini ice bucket, and accompanied by a dish of jelly beans. For me, that drink was representative of what The Escape Khao Yai offers: an intriguing take on a classic theme.
Just a five-minute drive from the hotel is the GranMonte Vineyard, a family winery which started off as a retirement project and then grew into something spectacular. Enjoy a tour and tasting, where you will learn about the intricate process of wine-making, and sample a few of their award- winning wares. I highly recommend VinCotto, the on-site restaurant; go for the Italian food, because the local cheeses taste like they’re from Europe, and coupled with the weather, you are truly transported elsewhere.