Rooftop infinity pool at Ad Lib Hotel Khon Kaen

Franco’s Thai-tanic Adventures: Part 2

The Khon Kaen Chronicles!

A Wild Ride Through Thailand’s Hidden Gem

I don’t often get THIS excited about travelling in Thailand, but on this trip I visit somewhere NEW: Khon Kaen in Isan, the northeast region bordering Laos and Cambodia.

From Bangkok, it’s just a one hour flight with departures from both Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi airports…

By Franco Sessini | Director of Sales – UK & Ireland

(All photos taken by Franco)

Franco quad biking in Phuphaman National Park, Khon Kaen

Arriving in Khon Kaen

I arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at Khon Kaen’s shiny new airport where I was welcomed by the hotel management team from Ad Lib Hotel Khon Kaen and some representatives from Thai Tourism officialdom, all working hard to put Khon Kaen on the map.

It’s just a 15-minute ride from the airport to Khon Kaen’s centre, but it took us three hours as we stopped along the way for lunch and to explore the city’s lakes, popular with  locals and visitors for running, walking and relaxing. They quickly recognised that I need all the spiritual help I can get, so we popped into Wat Thung Setthi temple – a serene spot blending tradition with modernity. Well worth it!

Ad Lib Hotel Khon Kaen

Next, we zipped to our hotel, the sister to Ad Lib Hotel Bangkok – which I adored – and the Khon Kaen property didn’t disappoint either. This 27-floor tower is intimate, cool and beautifully designed with Isan materials. What’s more, it won the APAC Hotel Design Award for Thai Hotels.

The modern reception features a grab-and-go café, but the real magic is when you travel up to the restaurant with panoramic city views. This is the hub of the hotel from where you access the rooms, the award-winning ‘Food by Fire’ restaurant, a rooftop pool, a live music venue (Jazz, Pop, Latin), and a stunning rooftop bar. Trendy yet welcoming, the staff are professional, friendly and impeccably turned out.

The rooms are just as wonderful as the public areas. Like Ad Lib Bangkok, the lead-in rooms are compact and bijou, designed to maximise every nook and cranny, and the views are stunning. Higher categories offer larger rooms with the same focus on functionality and aesthetics. The corner suites are simply glorious and worth every Thai Baht.

The hotel management made sure my first visit to Khon Kaen was anything but relaxing! Chris, the General Manager and a Californian (although I forgive him for the latter), and Miss Kay, the delightful Executive Assistant Manager who is from the local area, were ultimate hosts and passionate advocates for their hotel, the city and the province.

So what to do in Khon Kaen?

Where to begin? The people here are a blend of Thai, Lao and Cambodian ethnicities. This is reflected in the delicious, locally farmed food (beef, chicken, sugar cane, vegetables) and the local materials and design elements that are in use everywhere – including the Ad Lib Hotel.

Restaurants, food stalls and coffee shops are everywhere, thanks to Thailand’s booming coffee culture (did you know it’s Southeast Asia’s largest coffee producer?). Specialty coffee houses with their own roasts and blends are abundant. The vibrant night market is a rival to many other well-known markets in Thailand – and is right on Ad Lib’s doorstep.

Khon Kaen’s nightlife surprised me: the music scene is huge, with the city home to a major university which contains a prestigious music school as well as a world famous medical research unit. Live music fills the bars – jazz, T-Top (like K-Pop but better), cover bands, pop, blues, Latin – it’s all in earshot. The bars are lively, full of friendly locals and barely a westerner in sight. Oh, and the beers are excellent. Also, don’t miss the local folk music and dancing – slightly crazy, but very entertaining.

Now, to be delicate… Thailand’s nightlife has a certain reputation – not necessarily true, but I think you know what I mean. However – not here! It’s refreshing to be asked where I’m from without an ulterior motive. Say no more…

Now, I didn’t just eat and drink for 3 days, although my waistline may disagree. There are 3 national parks in the region. We headed to Phuphaman, about 90 minutes away. Glorious countryside with bat caves, lakes, waterfalls and rocky outcrops attracting free climbers. We did a quad bike safari through the vast forest which was beautiful. The locals were incredibly friendly and equally as intrigued by a short, stocky, hairy white dude. It was a joy to immerse myself in all the attention! I’m often disappointed by museums, but the Treasury Museum in downtown Khon Kaen was an exception. Modern, visually inspiring, and interactive. An hour with a guide is time well spent.

So, thank you to Ad Lib, Khon Kaen and the wider Isan area. Its been utterly wonderful and I could quite happily spend another few days exploring this undiscovered and hugely fascinating place. If you love Thailand, you’ll REALLY love Khon Kaen.

Contact us for more information about Ad Lib Hotel Khon Kaen…