Part of the naturist A-list elite is Khao Yai National Park. The park has withstood the test of time and remains one of the oldest and most visited green spaces in the world, and every visitor to Thailand should make an attempt to frequent this natural wonder. Here, everything you need to know about Khao Yai National Park in Thailand.
Khao Yai National Park is a trailblazer of national parks in Thailand. On September 18, 1962, Khao Yai became the first national park in the country and remains one of the most visited ones, as well. A section of the park is even protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex.
This area of the park spans some 230 kilometers and is home to a number of rare mammals, birds, and reptiles. These species are part of the reasoning for making it a world heritage site, as a number of them are endangered. Visitors will have the opportunity to see these rare animals while exploring the park.
Where is it?
Khao Yai National Park is located about three hours north of Bangkok. The tropical treasure is so large that it reaches and compromises not one but four separate provinces in Thailand: Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachinburi, Nakhon Nayok, and Saraburi provinces. The park covers some 2,168 square kilometers consisting of jungle terrain, waterfalls, rainforest, meadows, and lush landscapes and reaches up to 1,000 meters above sea level in some parts of the park. It is the third largest national park in the country and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Should you book a tour?
It is highly recommended that all travelers to Khao Yai National Park book a guided tour. It is not suggested to venture into the park alone and extremely dangerous to stray from the trails that have been marked. Even if a trail is marked, it is easy to get turned around or lost as signs and guidance amongst the weaving paths is minimal (depending on the trail, of course). Kit and I explored Khao Yai National Park with the help of Green Leaf Tours, and we could not have been happier with the entirety of our experience. A one-day tour was ฿1,400 (approximately $US42) per person, which included the price of the entrance fee into the national park.
Things to see
In addition to wonderful scenery, visitors to Khao Yai National Park will have the opportunity to see a number of wildlife species. The tropical forest ecosystem here is ideal for a number of animals, including two species of gibbons, the spot-billed pelican, one to many spider species, tigers, deer, boars, macaque monkeys, and more. The most coveted animal to spot is Thailand’s national animal: the elephant.
Please keep in the mind that monkeys in the park have slowly but surely been migrating from their jungle homes closer to the main roads in hopes of receiving food from travelers. This has negatively impacted the park’s ecological system, and the park has even gone as far as to implementing fines for anyone caught feeding animals. While this could be considered a tourist attraction, remember that it is a home to animals first and should be respected as such.
Some of the top sites in the national park include the Nam Tok Haew Suwat waterfall and the Nam Tok Kong Kaew waterfall. The Nam Tok Haew Suwat waterfall is the most memorable of them all, probably because of its debuted in The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The rock in the area at the Heo Suwat waterfall is volcanic in origin and when water falls from its edges, the lower section continues to erode. The base of the waterfall is prone to flooding, so oftentimes visitors will be unable to explore the falls in its entirety as it is filled with water. Otherwise, it is a great spot to visit.
One of the most scenic trails in which to venture down in Khao Yai National Park is the Nong Phak Chi Nature Trail. It is three kilometers in length, and the walk reveals a magnificent and pristine evergreen forest. Giant fig trees are found just off the path and it is here that many of visitors may come across the monkeys residing in the forest. The trail takes about 2-3 hours to walk in total and is shaded almost entirely, making for a cool and comfortable walk. Be sure to leave any food at home as to not attract unwanted attention from nearby wildlife. Be sure to wear socks (leech socks if you have them), tennis shoes, and, of course, a camera to document all that you see along your journey.
When to go
During the high season, the national park can be extremely crowded with both locals and tourists alike. One of the best times to visit is closer to the rainy season between the months of May to October. It is during this time that visitors will get the best views of the waterfalls in full force and also run into smaller crowds around the park. It is also not recommended to go during the hot season in the months of March and April as temperatures can reach up to 105° F and exploring on foot would be almost unbearable.
How to get there from Bangkok
There are two main ways in which travelers can reach Khao Yai National Park from the capital. The first and certainly the most unique (and slow-going) way is by train. Be warned that this train is not known for its timeliness and is equipped with a handful of ancient fans in lieu of air conditioning.
That being said, taking the train from the Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok is a unique experience that travelers with time on their hands should especially utilize. The journey takes about five hours in total, and a train ticket from Bangkok to Pak Chong is ฿86 (approximately $US2.40).
If you do not have hours to spare on a tight itinerary, then travelers can take a bus or minibus to reach Pak Chong. Visitors can then get a songtaew (truck with two benches) to the park or to their accommodation option. Minibus tickets are ฿180 (approximately $US5.40). Then, it is about a 20 minute drive to the national park. Entrance into the park is ฿400 (approximately $US12) for adults and ฿200 (approximately $US6) for children.