Text by M.L. Chittawadi Chitrabongs, PhD
What is interesting about Sala at Khao Yai is not exactly the building. Onion architect designs the landscape. The path towards Sala is surrounded by the mass of the purple Guinea Grass, a subtle plant that invites us to walk uphill. Each step makes us wonders what is there on the summit. In a strange way, Sala does not seem like a resort but a pavilion in the middle of the white Fountain Grass. The absence of rooms including villas sought to underline the concept of Sala as a ‘temporary structure of the public rest-house.’ Every accommodation is hidden behind the peak. Onion architect knows that there should be nothing else on the mountaintop besides a pavilion, a connection of terraces, and a swimming pool. It allows the mountainous landscape to dominate its design. If this resort were next to the ocean, it would not be surprising if the surface of the swimming pool stretches out to the horizon of the sea. At Sala, the swimming pool offers its guests a new type of aesthetic experience. It links the water and the horizon of the mountain. We may imagine ourselves swimming amidst the sky towards the direction of the sunset. While the landscape is gradually hidden by darkness, the dining area is lit by the candle chandelier. Its dim light is always almost vanishing. However dark it may be, Sala continues to offer us a lingering gaze to the horizon. But this is not quite a reason for our sublime experience. The fantasy is rather that the mountainous horizon is still looking at us. And this is precisely why Sala at Khao Yai is a special place to spend a night.
Located next to the National Park of Thailand, Sala at Khao Yai has seven types of room, namely three Deluxe Rooms (forty square metres), two Pool Villas (forty two square metres, and two Pool Villa Suites (fifty square metres). Its site is one hundred rai spreading across two mountains. One of them is one hundred and sixty metres higher than the sea level. This is where the first phase of Sala was built. The central object of Sala is the oval swimming pool. It is surrounded by the lobby, the restaurant and the network of oval walkways. Accommodations are hidden underneath the slanting ground. In order to approach the Pool Villa, we walk through to its roof terrace. On the roof, we see the outdoor bed, the fire place, and the stair that leads us down to the bedroom, the private swimming pool and the private pavilion. The Deluxe Rooms are below the lobby. They all face the East and welcome the sunrise.
The structure of Sala is the reinforced concrete. Its finishing materials are wood especially old wood in the locality and cement plaster mixed with the colour earthy pink similar to the red soil of the site. Bamboos tied up with ropes are placed on top of the roof terrace in order to protect each villa from the heat. Cushions beside the swimming pool are bluish green, the same colour as the swimming pool together with the sky.
Location : Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
Completion : 2009
Owner : Tos Chirathivat , sala resorts and spas group
Architect : Onion; Siriyot Chaiamnuay , Arisara Chaktranon
Interior architect : Onion; Siriyot Chaiamnuay , Arisara Chaktranon
Landscape architect : Onion; Siriyot Chaiamnuay , Arisara Chaktranon
Structure engineer : Post
System engineer : Mitr Technical consultant
Photographer : Pruk Dejkhamhaeng , Kitti Attakitmongcol