Mystifying Khao Yai
Mystifying Khao Yai
The hilly eastern part of Thailand hides a relative mystery to international travellers.
Benny Teo
Set about 3 hours east of Bangkok, Khao Yai is not the easiest place to get to. For golfers travelling to the Land of a Thousand Smiles, there are plenty enough to choose from around the capital city, or even Pattaya just half that distance away.

However, for those who commit to making the commute, Khao Yai offers a resplendent panoply of golfing and surprising lifestyle pleasures not commonly found this part of the world.

Khao Yai offers a resplendent panoply of golfing and surprising lifestyle pleasures not commonly found this part of the world.

If you’re right now thinking a-go-go girls and walking streets, stop. Don’t get me wrong, Khao Yai’s a great place but not like that. With its gentle climate, beautiful national park and awesome waterfalls during rainy season, it’s a hit with visitors. The entire area is filled with little enclaves of attraction, much like film sets in Hollywood, except that they are actual places to visit, restaurants to dine in and hotels to stay at; it is kind of like a world within a world, with cowboys and horses astride waterparks, a hobbit’s lair and Tuscan village.

Our first stop was to Sir James Resort and Country Club in the Mauklek district. Named after Sir James Richard Holt, who survived a spell in an internment camp during the Second World War, the resort boasts a hilly 18-hole golf course as well as an adjoining hotel.

Designed by John Rogers, the golf course undulates through the land and the famous mountain ranges that provide a picturesque backdrop, especially for its signature par 5 14th hole; a straight downhill covering 560 yards from the pro tees with water and bunkers guarding the green.

After a delicious lunch, the management explains that the club plays host to foreign golfers primarily from Korea and the Thai PGA, and that they play an average of 1,000 rounds per week. An intense workout for the golf course, which is a testament to its popularity, but it also means that some of the greens look a bit worn out. When we finally got there, it actually looks it but thankfully it doesn’t affect the consistency of the golf course. With fairways tightly strung at approximately 20 metres between cuts, spanning 6,560 yards off the men’s tee, it presents an interesting challenge even for seasoned golfers.

After another refreshing snack stop, Khao Yai threw us all a little surprise when our driver pulls over by the side of the road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, near shrub land and some foggy mountain ranges. There I was thinking, “Huh? Are we sleeping in tents tonight?” Then we spotted a lane about 500 metres long that leads to the hotel. After some skilful manoeuvring, we arrived at the Belle Villa Resort, our home for the next two nights.

A quiet retreat containing 40 standard and 4 deluxe rooms and 3 villa-styled homes, there wasn’t much in terms of attraction surrounding this hotel, but if you want to get away from the world, Belle Villa will surely provide you with privacy and seclusion.

It is from here that we travel to our next golfing stop and the gem of the lot - the Jack Nicklaus designed Kirimaya Golf Resort. Comprising of a wide range of holes to challenge even the finest golfers, irrespective of handicap range, its expansive land also tested our stamina irrespective of body fat index, sending us meandering through the course since no two holes were laid beside each other.

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March 2020