Get in touch with nature at a resort not far from Bangkok which provides ‘first’ and ‘business’ class tents in a spectacular setting
By David James
Camping doesn’t exactly spring to mind when thinking of outdoor activities in Thailand. What with its hot, sticky climate, bugs, mosquitoes and even the possibility of snakes, it’s got a certain downside. And yet, spending a few nights under canvas in the great outdoors is rapidly gaining in popularity, with camp sites popping up all over the country, especially in the northern highlands which experience almost European weather from November to January.
But you don’t have to travel hundreds of kilometres to enjoy camping. Just one hour’s drive from Bangkok’s concrete jungle is a campsite located in a spectacular national park, complete with lush forests (particularly in the rainy season), mountains, lakes and waterfalls. There’s the added attraction of one of Thailand’s better zoos.
It has to be said, though, that Es-ta-te is somewhat different and a tad more luxurious than the kind of sites found in Europe, US and Australia. For a start, you don’t pitch your own tent. Instead, the resort features a choice of three semi-permanent tent types.
These range in size from the basic economy class 14 sq m tent, which is very cosy and big enough for two guests; the 35 sq m business class tent comprising two bedrooms connected by a balcony and living area; and the 120 sq m tent - camping’s equivalent of an airline’s first class section with TV, stereo, water heater, luxurious bathtub and toilets.
Having your own toilet is rather handy as every other camper has to head to the communal toilets, which are certainly well-maintained but lack a degree of privacy; curtains are used instead of proper doors to conceal one’s presence in a cubicle! Besides that, a trek to the loo in the middle of the night or during a downpour isn’t everybody’s idea of fun.
You don’t do your own cooking either. Es-ta-te has its own restaurant serving breakfast and a BBQ dinner. There are plenty of other choices on the menu. Separate function rooms are available for conferences and seminars.
So, in the absence of many of the elements of traditional camping, what’s there for guest to do?
Well, Es-ta-te is located within Khao Kheow Open Zoo, home to an impressive number of wild animals, including members of the big cat family, elephants, rhinos, hippos, bears, zebras, koalas, ant eaters, giraffes and all kinds of monkeys and birds. Most exist in cages, unfortunately, though they are well maintained and reasonably spacious. Occasionally, you do get to see unusual bird species flying overhead and some of the deers roam free – even in the main camping area.
Many of the inmates can be observed after-dark during the zoo’s night safari. This is held only when there are sufficient numbers.
Mountain bikers can enjoy a number of cycling routes within Khao Keow. None are especially steep, so it’s an activity for all ages.
Apart from the convenience of neighbouring Khao Keow Country Club, golfers-who-camp are within easy distance of other courses at Bang Phra, Laem Chabang and Burapa.
But the real joy of camping at Es-ta-te is an escape from the big city and a return to nature. The resort is surrounded by beautiful, unspoiled scenery that changes in character and sounds as night and darkness take over from daylight. So don’t think about those creepy-crawlies – get on with enjoying a fun way of life in this rather special place.