Jul 20 2012
It’s not quite up there with Tuscany, Bordeaux or Napa, but Thailand’s Khao Yai wine region (aka “Asoke Valley”) in the cool air of Muak Lek near Khao Yai national park offers some refined varietals from a handful of vineyards peppered among family farms, country roads, green hills and fields of sunflowers. Most foreign travellers are unaware of its existence, but if you enjoy wine tasting, farm stands and country drives, the Khao Yai farm and wine trail is one of Thailand’s most pleasant surprises.
Beginning from Pak Chong town 2o kilometres north of the national park, head west (towards Bangkok) on route 2 (aka Mittraphap Road). You’ll first pass the large scale dairy/beef farm and popular local tourist destination, Farm Chokchai. This well-oiled operation offers farm tours and shows that are fun for kids, and they have some of Thailand’s best ice cream to go with a famous steak house. Unless you’re dying to see cows being milked and toy poodles strutting around in tutus, however, we recommend skipping the tour, grabbing an ice cream and maybe petting a few goats before moving on.
After Chokchai, continue west on route 2, keeping your eyes peeled for a blue sign pointing left to Supatra Vineyard. A couple of kilometres down a quiet country road, Supatra is a relaxed family-run winery that feels more like a farm stand. Sample their small selection of light, sweet wines and pick up some home-made grape juice or grape cookies. Supatra’s vineyards are set in the shadow of the Khao Yai mountains, and if wanting a closer look, rent one of their ATVs for an action packed hour-long tour of the grounds.
After Supatra, head back to route 2 and take a left, continuing west. You might take a detour at Suwan Farm, located right along the main road; it’s tough to miss thanks to a pair of giant and rather phallic corn-cob statues dramatically jutting forth from the ground out front. Suwan has one of the area’s best farm stands for sampling local products like corn juice, sunflower cookies, or the classic boiled sweet corn on the cob. After a quick munch, take a stroll around the grounds to enjoy some vibrant fields filled with flowers.
Back on route 2, continue west and stay to the left after a few kilometres, merging onto the separated shoulder road that runs parallel to the main highway. Follow the blue signs pointing left to Art Floating Market among a handful of other attractions and resorts, and soon the looming white Buddha perched elegantly on a mountain side above Wat Phra Khao will come into view. Make sure to have your camera handy.
Keep heading straight towards the white Buddha until, near the end of the road, you’ll find Prapatsorn Grape Farm on the left. Situated in an idyllic spot surrounded by vineyards and well-groomed gardens directly beneath the white Buddha, Prapatsorn doesn’t make its own wine, but the terrific tamarind juice is worth the stop.
If you take the left just before Prapatsorn if facing the white Buddha, the Art Floating Market is a couple of kilometres on to the east. While it’s far from a true floating market, this is a pretty, peaceful spot filled with streams, ponds, gardens, local art galleries, and some good cafes and restaurants, making it a perfect stop for lunch or a coffee break.
Afterwards, back-track to route 2 and continue west another few kilometres until you see the big red barn of Dairy Home Milk Farm on the left. Make a quick stop here for a creamy banana milk or fresh yoghurt (the best in Thailand), or skip it and immediately turn southwards, following blue signs for Khao Yai National Park, Flora Park and many more. Before long, this road begins winding past charming local villages, expansive flower gardens, quaint roadside cafes and tiny lanes draped with blooming trees, all nestled beneath the grand Khao Yai mountains to the south.
After several kilometres of enjoying some lovely scenery, you’ll reach Granmonte Winery on the right. One of Asia’s largest and most renowned wine producers, Granmonte puts out several varieties of whites and reds; their delicate, dry syrah has won several international awards.
Wine connoisseurs will feel at home with Granmonte’s well-crafted light to medium bodied wines (the viognier is also top notch), its refined air-conditioned tasting room, and its outstanding Thai-international restaurant, Vincotto, which compliments the wine by featuring local ingredients in fresh and creative dishes. After some tasting, don’t forget to stroll around and enjoy the scenery.
After Granmonte, continue south and keep right when the road cuts back west (Khao Yai national park is not far if you continue south), and follow the signs for PB Valley, another large vineyard that’s home to the area’s oldest and still one of its best producers: Khao Yai Winery. Here you’ll find a wide selection of light to medium bodied wines to go with home-made cookies and other products. After a little more sampling, PB’s expansive sun drenched hillside vineyard is a great place to snap a few more shots of grapes on the vine.
At this point, you could backtrack east and then north directly to route 2, head south towards the national park, or continue west past a few more charming little villages. If keeping west, you’ll want to continuously bear right to get back to route 2, at which point you’ll need to U-turn so as to return in the direction of Pak Chong. If there’s still some daylight on the way back, you might detour north through Muak Lek town and check out one of Thailand’s most unique waterfalls (stay tuned for a post on those).
To follow this day-long itinerary, you’ll need to hire a car or motorbike, or arrange a taxi for the day, all of which may be done in Pak Chong town — your hotel may be able to assist. This would also make an outstanding cycling adventure, but you’ll need your own bike as the only bicycle rentals we’ve found in the area are from resorts that don’t allow the bikes to leave the resorts’ immediate vicinities. If motorbiking, use caution while on route 2 — this is a major truck route so you’ll want to stay well off to the side and take advantage of the separated shoulder roads where available. Happy sipping!
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