Thailand Tourism

Thailand Tourism

When you think of Thailand, you think of beaches, elaborate temples, or elephant rides through the jungle. But with nearly a dozen wineries having opened since the first one in 1995, Southeast Asia is producing palatable vintages—and attracting wine lovers from around the globe.

Begin your trip at Thailand’s largest winery, Siam Winery, 30 miles southwest of the capital. A rental car is the easiest way to get there, but for a far better taste of local culture (and to save arguing over who is designated driver), opt for public transportation—rickshaws, taxis, local buses and a rickety, rural train ride all get you there.

The tour begins in their cellar, where German winemaker Kathrin Puff offers an in-depth look at the winemaking process complete with barrel samples and a taste of their top-end wines, including a gold medal-winning white Shiraz. Enter the designated tasting room, where visitors are sometimes challenged to polish off each bottle opened—the blended red, white and rosé of the flagship Monsoon Valley range, all featuring indigenous grapes.

Ending where the winemaking process begins, the floating vineyards add a uniquely Thai air, though you won’t find any vines literally floating in the canals built to help irrigate the land during monsoon season. Essential items include your camera and a few words of Thai to converse with the viticulturist. Nearby the famous floating markets await to further fill your memory card.

Rather than lunching at the winery, head for the bustling streets of Samut Sakhon—the closest town to the winery. Any one of the family-run locales will guarantee a traditional Thai meal.

Back in the capital’s fabulously hectic Sukhumvit region, visitors are inundated with choice eating options, but one spot offers something original as well as tasty. Ultra hip and always busy, Bed Supper Club presents a rare chance to eat your evening meal in bed. The large, cushioned seats demand that you lounge while enjoying the ever-changing menu featuring fine fusion dining. Sip Siam wines with your four-course banquet and enjoy the flamboyant interactive performances that keep customers coming back, including singers, dancers and other artists who might just invite you to join in the show.

For a five-star sleeping option, try the sleek and stylish Siam Kempinski Hotel, which also stocks local wines from Siam Winery. For something less damaging to your wallet, Le Fenix is a boutique hotel that’s all about designer décor and rooftop cocktails, including their spicy mango margarita.

Bangkok naturally rules the roost when it comes to fine dining and chic sleeping options, but the Khao Yai region, 120 miles northeast is king when it comes to wine. With a handful of wineries already established and more set to sprout in the future, Thailand’s most lush wine route is nestled in the jungles and mountains of the Khao Yai National Park, famed for its elephants and waterfalls.

Hire a moped in Pak Chong, the closest town to the National Park and winelands, and start with the excellent vineyard and cellar tour at PB Valley. Taste their full range of wines, including the easy-drinking Chenin Blanc—perfect with Thai food—and the more complex reserve Shiraz.  The tour price ($25) includes lunch and a glass of your preferred wine to be enjoyed on the rustic deck overlooking vineyards. Continue the indulgence with dessert at the blissful Granmonte Estate four miles away; their delectable cheese and grape tart is divine with a glass of Syrah. Informal tastings of their full range of wines take place in the shop, where you can also stock up on foodie souvenirs.

For a perfect end to the day, make a beeline for the welcome serenity and pristine grounds of the Kirimaya Spa. Settle into a candlelit wine bath under the stars—designed to soothe sunburn and boost the immune system. The adjoining hotel has luxurious rooms but Bobby’s Apartments offers spotless, spacious rooms at bargain prices. You can even BYO at their superb restaurant without corkage fees.

Monsoon Valley blended white and blended red varietals are currently available in 17 states, including New York, New Jersey, California, Nevada and Washington D.C. In New York City, you can sample Siam Winery’s wares at The Holy Basil, Pongsri Restaurants, Boyd Thai, Noodle Bar and Kin Shop.

Published on January 31, 2011