It’s not quite up there with Tuscany, Bordeaux or Napa, but Thailand’s Khao Yai wine region (or “Asoke Valley”) offers some refined varietals from a handful of vineyards peppered among family farms, country roads, green hills and fields of sunflowers. If you enjoy wine tasting, farm stands and country drives, the Khao Yai farm and wine trail makes for an enjoyable excursion beyond the national park.
Beginning from Pak Chong, head west on Route 2 and you’ll first pass Farm Chokchai, a large beef and dairy farm. Busloads of Thai tourists visit for the steak house and farm tours that are fun for kids, ending with free samples of Chokchai's Umm Milk ice cream. 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 country road, Supatra is a laidback family-run winery with a great farm stand. Sample their small selection of sweet wines and pick up house-made grape juice or grape cookies. Supatra’s vineyards are set in the shadow of the Khao Yai mountains; if wanting a closer look you could 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 make a stop at Suwan Farm, located right along the main road; it’s tough to miss thanks to a pair of giant corn-cob statues out front. Suwan has one of the area’s best farm stands for sampling local products like corn juice, sunflower cookies and the classic boiled sweet corn on the cob. After a quick munch, take a stroll around the grounds to enjoy the flowers.
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 blue signs pointing left to Art Floating Market among a handful of other attractions and resorts, and soon the giant white Buddha seated on a mountainside above Wat Thep Phithak Punnaram will grab your eyes. 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. Set 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 tamarind juice is worth a stop. Afterwards you might climb the 1,250 steps up to the graceful Buddha image, known as Luang Por Yai.
If you take the left just before Prapatsorn if facing the white Buddha, the Art Floating Market is a couple of kilometres down to the east. While it’s far from a true floating market, this is a pretty, peaceful spot filled with streams, ponds, gardens, art galleries and some good cafes and restaurants, making it a perfect stop for lunch or a coffee break.
Afterwards, backtrack to Route 2 and continue west another few kilometres until you see the big red barn of Dairy Home Farm on the left. Make a quick stop here for a creamy banana milk or fresh yoghurt, or skip it and immediately turn south on Highway 1016, following blue signs for Khao Yai National Park and many more. Before long, this road winds past quaint villages, large flower gardens and lanes draped in blossoming trees, all nestled beneath dense mountains to the south and limestone cliffs in the west.
After several kilometres of enjoying some of the Khao Yai area's finest scenery, you’ll reach Granmonte Vineyard on the right. One of Asia’s most renowned wine producers, Granmonte delivers several varieties of whites and reds, including a dry syrah that has won several international awards. We've been to most of Thailand's wineries and in our opinion, this is the best one around.
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 fine-dining restaurant, Vincotto, which pairs the wines with dishes inspired by California, Italy and Thailand. After some tasting, don’t forget to stroll around and enjoy the scenery.
Continue south from Granmonte 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 one of Thailand's longest-running wine producers: Khao Yai Winery. Here you’ll find a wide selection of wines to go with cookies and other products. After a little more sampling, PB’s huge rolling vineyard is a great place to snap a few more shots of grapes on the vine.
At this point, you could backtrack west and then north directly to Route 2, or head southeast towards Thanarat Road and the national park's northern gate. 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 Chet Sao Noi Waterfall.
To follow this day-long itinerary, you’ll need to rent a car or motorbike or arrange a taxi for the day, all of which can be done in Pak Chong town; otherwise your hotel may be able to assist. This would also make an outstanding cycling adventure if you have the energy. Use particular caution on Route 2, a major trucking road. If you want to avoid Route 2 completely, you can hit Granmonte, PB Valley and some of the other attractions by heading west on 1016 a few kilometres north of the park's northern gate (look for signs for Granmonte and Muak Lek).
Farm Chokchai: 169 Route 2, Pak Chong; T: (044) 328 485; www.farmchokchai.com; open Tue-Sun 09:00-17:00.
Granmonte Vineyard: 52 Moo 9 (off Highway 1016), Pak Chong; T: (086) 133 6000, (081) 622 6662; www.granmonte.com; open daily 08:00-18:00.
PB Valley: 102/2 Moo 5 (off Route 1016), Pak Chong; T: (036) 226 415, (044) 756 241; www.khaoyaiwinery.com; open daily 08:00-18:00.
Prapatsorn Grape Farm: 92 Moo 9 (next to Wat Thep Phitak Punnaram), Pak Chong; T: (081) 567 7899, (086) 531 0985; open daily 08:00-18:00.
Supatra Vineyard: Off Route 2, Pak Chong; T: (044) 322 232; open daily 07:00-18:00.
Suwan Farm: 298 Route 2, Pak Chong; T: (080) 158 8680; facebook.com/suwanfarm/; open daily 08:00-18:00.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 7th September, 2016.