The mountainous region of Khao Yai in Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima province, a two-hour drive from Bangkok, is no stranger to themed hotels. The area is packed with properties inspired by cowboy ranches, Tuscan villas and the English countryside. But the latest opening, of the train-themed InterContinental Khao Yai Resort, raises the bar by a few notches.
Designed by superstar architect Bill Bensley, the brain behind over 200 projects across 50 countries, the train theme echos the region’s history as the railroad gateway to Northeastern Thailand during the reign of King Rama V. The American designer journeyed all across Thailand to source old train carriages, 19 of which have now been transformed into well-appointed suites and villas that transport guests to a romantic age of train travel – all without the rumble.
Refurbished vintage train carriages are just part of the draw at the InterContinental Khao Yai. The hotel, opened since August 2022, spans 19 hectares and has five lakes, with dozens of swans that roam the property. Although only a 20-minute drive away from Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the hotel’s own verdant landscape provides more than enough space for walks, biking and connecting with nature, thanks to its forested mountain views, towering fir trees, as well as exotic imports such as baobabs from Madagascar.
The storybook atmosphere begins right from the time you check in. The lobby’s decor resembles a ticket counter, with real and replica railway memorabilia, such as luxury leather trunks, from Bensley’s own collections. The staff welcomes you with a ring from the stationmaster’s bell and a refreshing glass of yellow dragon fruit juice, before escorting you past the landscaped gardens and grand man-made lakes to your suite.
The Glamor of Train Travel
All of the 19 upcycled train suites and villas, arranged lakeside in three parallel rows, are each uniquely designed and named after regional destinations, from Sri Lanka to Chanthaburi. Bensley’s interiors for these carriages range from rich paneling details and dark woods to Barbie-pink wallpaper and contemporary furniture. The smallest train suites are 47sqm, and it’s impressive how they’ve managed to fit a fully lined marble bathroom, full-size Byredo amenities and a connection to a spacious outdoor terrace with a sofa, working desk and bathtub with views of the lake.