Khao Yai

Exploring the Beauty of Khao Yai

Khao Yai is Thailand’s most popular nature reserve and this is a real haven for anyone who has a love for the Great Outdoors. With 2,168 square kilometres of lush forest, the park is a sanctuary for the 300 bird species and 20 species of big mammals that shelter within its boundaries. Khao Yai means Big Mountain in Thai and the name refers to the Phanom Dongrek Mountains that make the park so special.

What to Do
Hiking and trekking are the most popular activities at Khao Yai National Park and a number of trails lead through the jungle. However, many of the park’s highlights are situated as far as 20 kilometres apart, making it almost impossible to cover them on foot. Therefore, it is best to either hire a motorbike or a car for the day to hop between trail points or hire a guide with a jeep who will be able to take visitors to all of the best trekking locations and other landmarks of Khao Yai. Going on a night safari is another exciting experience that should not be missed. Visitors can take a jeep ride through the park to for the chance to spot a large number of animals including herds of elephants, barking deer, sambar deer, civets and porcupines.

What to See
Bird lovers will be enchanted to discover that there are four different species of hornbill at Khao Yai as well as woodpeckers, yellow-browed warblers and red-breasted flycatchers. One of the best places to spot birds and animals at Khao Yai is from the top of Nong Pak Chee observation tower, which is situated close to a large watering hole. Khao Yai National Park is also home to Haew Suwat Falls. This 25 metre high waterfall starred in the film The Beach. During the wet season when the water levels are at their highest, visitors can choose to take the plunge, recreating one of the most famous scenes from the film. Khao Lem hill offers spectacular views over the park. Also nearby is Khao Luuk Chang (Baby Elephant Mountain) and visitors can sit on a rocky perch above the highest treetops of the surrounding jungle to take in breathtaking views.

Other Attractions
Khao Yai Shrine marks the entry point to the park and was built in 1962. This is a sacred site where may Buddhist pause to pay their respects before entering Khao Yai. Khai Luk Bat Cave can be found just over four kilometres from the north gate of the park and is home to around three million wrinkle-lipped bats. Visitors can stake out a spot close to the cave at sunset to watch the bats stream out of the cave just before dark to go hunting. Wine lovers can also take a tour of Khao Yai Winery, which was established in 1998 and is set in a very scenic location. 

Accommodation Options

Khao Yai is located just 120 kilometres to the northeast of Bangkok. It takes around two hours to reach the town of Pak Chong from Bangkok and the town offers a wide range of accommodation options to choose from. If you don’t mind roughing it a little, the National Park Dormitories are the ideal place to stay. Although basic, accommodation in one of the large wooden huts is very cheap. Pha Kluai Campground is ideal for people who love the great outdoors. The site is situated on the road to the Heaw Suwat falls. Visitors are welcome to pitch their own tent and for a small fee and the campsite features showers and toilets. Lovers of luxury can stay in style at Khao Yai Garden Lodge, which is situated on the road to Khao Yai. There is a wide range of accommodation here, from simple rooms with shared bathrooms to comfortable en-suite rooms with air-con.

Where to Eat
People who are planning to spend the day exploring Khao Yai National Park will want to make sure they take along plenty of water. Several café-style food stalls can be found scattered throughout the park, while food stands can also be found opposite the visitor’s centre and offer a scenic spot to dine overlooking the river. Other spots that offer food inside Khao Yai National Park include at Lam Tha Kong and Pha Kluay Mai camping grounds and at Haew Suwat and Haew Narok waterfalls. It is important to note that many of the food stands in Khao Yai National Park have irregular opening hours and it is best to pack a few snacks. The night market at Pak Chong sets up every evening at around 17:00 and a large number of the stalls serve cheap and tasty Thai meals and snacks. Pak Chong also boasts a large number of local restaurants and cafes that serve tasty Thai food as well as popular Western meals and snacks such as French fries, sandwiches, burgers and pasta.

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