A day at Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

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Khao Yai National Park was on my list of places to visit when I planned the Thailand itinerary. Cos, when I googled it up, the pictures were filled with elephants, birds, hornbills, even tigers, and gibbons. I have never seen a gibbon before and I was curious to catch a glimpse of it in the Khao Yai National park. How difficult would it be to spot it? After all, it belongs to the family of monkeys and monkeys are seen hanging around everywhere right. And so with that thought, I set out on the voyage to Khao Yai.

route to khao yai
Khao Yai synonym to greenery

I boarded the train from the railway station right opposite Bangkok International airport to Pak Chong. It is a train with a sitting option only but you get confirmed seats to sit, so not a problem. It is the same train that passes through Ayutthaya. Although this train starts from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train station, you can get in from the Don Muang station. Once the train crossed Ayutthaya, the scenery changed. It was all green. A thick fluorescent green that makes your eyes go wide. It was also the monsoon season and hence the addition of fresh tinge of green. The route was alternating between farms and evergreen forests. In about three to three and a half hours we had reached Pak Chong.

Pak Chong Station
The pretty Pak Chong Station

Pak Chong was a proper city and was about 30 odd km away from Khao Yai. It is not really East Thailand but the number of people who speak in English start to dwindle. We had booked our stay with a simple homestay called Jungle Planet which was close to the national park. And being backpackers we were trying to figure out the cheapest way to reach the homestay. The owner of the place, Paphon, had given us clear directions as from where we could get the blue truck that would drop us close to the homestay. Yet, we walked around the streets of Pak Chong like lost chicken. The streets were lined with restaurants. They had simple dishes like deep-fried chicken or noodle soup. We settled for the one who was able to tell us which one was pork and chicken. It was fun trying to communicate without a common language but I have to say this was one helluva meal

pork ball noodle soup
Noodle soup with pork balls

The blue truck is more like a bus that starts from in front of a 7/11 and it goes all the way till the park. From the railway station, you can walk straight to the main road and continue walking on your left until you see a big blue truck. We kept asking multiple songthaew until we noticed the big truck. It is a truck and not a bus πŸ˜€ It departs every one hour from the town to the park. So you can actually even halt at Pak Chong and do the national park. Now there are two ways you can do Khao Yai,

  • One is to do the high funda stuff. This is like looking at a slice of Europe in Thailand. There are exotic sheep farms, wineries, cow farms, themed places like hobbit house and a slice of Tuscany and so on. You can visit one of these themed places or even stay there and enjoy your staycation with a trip to the park. There are some really expensive but beautifully maintained resorts around the area too. This blog by Trip Canvas gives a glimpse of some of the exotic things you can do at Khao Yai.
Primo Piazza Khao Yai
Just a pic from outside – Primo Piazza Khao Yai
  • Two is to be a backpacker, stay at Pak Chong and do the park trails. You can hire two-wheeler from Pak Chong or take a songthaew to park and walk up to the visitor center. I stayed at Jungle Planet after reading many good reviews about it. And it was one of the best stays (humble simple one). Paaphon knows the forest, arranges trips, arranged vehicle, he can speak good english, gave us ideas and helped us navigate through our way.

Am gonna elaborate the backpacker way. The blue truck dropped us in front of a small pathway leading to our homestay. It was monsoon time, July end and the road was all slushy. My biggest worry was if it rains, no animals will come out. I kept my fingers crossed and hoped that the next day would be bright and sunny. It was evening and we had planned to go watch the bats of Khao Yai. It is a natural phenomenon and there is no way you should miss it. Millions of bats emerge out of the Khao Yai caves at dusk and go out into the fields looking for food. It is like music in the sky. After watching this spectacle we returned to our room, I could not sleep hearing to the thunderous pour!

More pictures and about the bats of Khao Yai here – Dancing of a million bats at Khao Yai National Park

Bats of Khao Yai
Bats of Khao Yai

The next day we were up early and left to the national park which was close to the homestay. You still need a vehicle because the park is huge. The visitor center is far from the main gate. From the visitor center, you can also hire bicycles. Most of them had hired two-wheeler bikes. I also saw some riders zipping past through the national park in bulky beasts. The park is huge filled with walking, trekking trails, and far-flung waterfalls. And they all are far apart. For example, some of the trails you can start on foot and then ask the vehicle to pick you up at the exit. The drive to the visitor center itself was through hills and it was such a pretty sight. The previous day rain had pulled down many trees and the park was quickly clearing it off for the vehicular movement.

Khao Yai national park
Driving to Khao Yai National Park

Dong Phayayen Forest Complex

The first stop was a viewpoint. This viewpoint gives a look into the Dong Phayayen forest range. Dong Phayayen comprises five protected forest sanctuaries that span between Thailand and Cambodia. All these five national parks under the Dong Phayayen forest complex are declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site. And from this particular viewpoint, we get to see a glimpse of Khao Yai National Park. I was taken aback with all the greenery. It stretched far as much as my eyes can see. I was like, green is my favorite color, it brings so much happiness. It is an evergreen forest. So no matter monsoon or the dry season the forest is gonna remain this green. If rain helps during the monsoon, the groundwater helps during the dry spell. And if you look at the park from this viewpoint, it is as though every form of the forest has a place here. This every kind of forests provide a habitat for every kind of living being.

Dong Phayayen
Dong Phayayen Forest Complex
Dong Phayayen Khao Yai
Khao Yai National Park from the viewpoint
Dong Phayayen forest complex
Greenery everywhere

Haew Suwat Waterfall

Haew Suwat waterfall is the most famous waterfall in the Khao Yai national park. Until I was there, I was not aware that “The Beach” movie was shot here as well and not just Maya Bay. Remember the scene where he jumps off a waterfall cliff. That video shows very less water in the fall but I was there during the monsoon and it was so full. It is also one of the easiest hikes to the waterfall so the most commonly visited. On an easy descent you arrive at a viewpoint from where we can see the waterfall in full glory.

Haew Suwat Waterfall
Beautiful Haew Suwat Waterfall

Further, a trail takes you down to the base of the waterfall. The path was wet and uneven. There are steps at certain places and just tree roots at other places. It is so beautiful when you reach there. Streams all around. The pool is cool and refreshing. You cannot dive from the cliff like Learnado De Caprio nor swim in the pool. We were just hovering around for a while enjoying the view and then came back

Haew Suwat Waterfall
Base of Haew Suwat Waterfall
Haew Suwat Waterfall
Can you see the steps? πŸ™‚

Hiking Trails around the park

The park has many hiking trails. Some are well marked and simple that you can go by yourself. There are a few trails which you need to hire a park guide so that you don’t get lost in the park. And it is mandatory to take along a park ranger. Am not a trekker nor very adventurous and with rain all around I did not want to go on anything tough. We chose the shortest which is a 2km walk around the visitor center.

Khao Yai national park hike trail
On the trail

This path was well defined. But it is not really a hike. It even has a paved path and not like a mud trail. Just that the trees run through at places and whatever was knocked down by rain was just lying there. I was keeping a lookout for gibbon but so far no sign. With a constant drizzle tapping on my head I was sure gibbon is not gonna come out.

Khao Yai national park hike trail

I stopped for a moment to take a picture of the trail and I felt the first prick! The prick of a leech bite. I hate leeches and that is half the reason I don’t go on treks. Dear trekkers, don’t judge me here, I don’t want anything crawling on me. I flicked it in panic and the blood would not stop. And by then I noticed two more had got on my legs and were dancing in the air to get a grip. I screeched and started to walk fast.

Khao Yai national park hike trail
A scenic spot to stop by

There were leech socks for sale in the visitor center, it was pretty expensive for polythene covers converted into leech socks. And who wears them for just a kilometer walk around the office? I was totally wrong. It was like leeches were waiting for breakfast and I was their bakra that morning. They hooked on to me out of nowhere. I could not even stop to flick them off me. I got careful with every step especially when I had to cross a tree or a bark lying across. At one point I even heard a monkey bark, I was wondering if it was gibbon. And stood in that direction for a minute and then saw a leech hook on and I ran.

Khao Yai national park hike trail

The weird part was, the leeches completely spared my friend. I was wearing shorts, she was also wearing shorts but she was strolling around and I had the leech attack. At one point there was a small stream or mini waterfall types and my friend wanted a closer picture of it. I was determined not to walk through the bushes and decided to just wait at an empty area. There was literally no tree around or bush around. And I suddenly look down to see two suckers had got on me out of thin air!! On my knee! Did they jump from far off tree aiming so high up. That is it. I ditched my friend and ran at top speed to the entrance. This was the fastest hike I have ever done.

And so I did not get to see the gibbons. When it is not raining you do get to see even elephants on the road I believe. I just got to see a couple of sambar deer and macaque. Oh, the macaques were like beasts. One male macaque was like the villain of the show. He walked down and sat right in the middle of the road. Vehicles were waiting behind him patiently and he wouldn’t budge. Then he pulled aside a female too. Total monkey business.

Macaque khao yai
The king of the park πŸ˜‰
Macaque mating
Awkward πŸ˜‰ Macaque mating

Things to do in Khao Yai National Park

There are a lot more stuff you can do at Khao Yai than what I have done. I just saw a tiny glimpse of it. So here is a list of things you can do

  • Watch the bats emerge out of the cave at dusk. This is not in the park but in the range of it.
  • Take a night safari through the park. If you are lucky you can get to see elephant too
  • Go on a birding trail in the morning. This might not be a recommended thing to do on monsoon. But otherwise, it is definitely a space to see exotic ones. Take an experienced naturalist along
  • Hike to the waterfalls. There are about four main waterfalls within the park that you can hike to. Haew Suwat waterfalls and Haew Narok falls are the most famous.
  • Spend time lazily at the watchtower. There are viewpoints and watchtowers at multiple places that you can just sit by and observe life.
Khao Yai national park
One of the view points
  • Go on hiking trails and please wear the leech socks. The pamphlet at the visitor center read 6 hiking trails. Two of which are fairly easy and you can go by yourself. The other four trails you need to have a park ranger with you.
  • Go rafting. Am not sure where you can do this. I did not see any potential place to do this. But apparently monsoon season they do arrange rafting.
  • Camp at the park. There are two campsites in the park. The cafes in the park close by evening so am not sure how you get food at the campsites. They also have a cottage or cabin type of accommodation that you can avail.
  • Ride around the park. Be it cycle or bike. Be careful as some of the sections are about climbing hills. And watch out for the macaques.
Driving through Khao Yai National Park
Driving through Khao Yai National Park

Useful Links

I followed these websites while planning for Khao Yai National Park so here you go,

  • Wikitravel – Has all the information and important contact information – Khao Yai Wiki
  • Blog by Alex in Wanderland – has all the hiking trails and things to do listed in detail – Link to her site
  • For guided tours through the park. In fact for all the national parks in Thailand, you can find information here – Thailand National Parks
  • Book Khai Yai National Park tour – Klook provides lot of discounts on their tours. Book one here – Klook Khao Yai packages
Macaque
Hello hooman πŸ™‚

Best Season to visit Khao Yai park will be October to March. From March to May it is going to be hot and dry waterfalls may not interest you. May to early October is monsoon time. Though the park was lush green and I have no regrets of doing it at this time of the year, other time of the year easier to navigate through trekking trails and spotting animals.

Khao Yai charges 400Bhat as entrance fee to foreigners.

Also read – Hike up to watch the seven tiers of Erawan National Park

Also read – My yet another favourite favourite national park of Thailand you must visit – Khao Sok National Park

Where to stay?

I stayed at Jungle Planet close to the park. It is simple but a very good deal. You can find it here – AirBnb Jungle Planet. If you are looking for more comfortable stays and themed resorts in and around Khao Yai, you can find them here – Khao Yai bookings

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6 Comments

  1. Niranjan R December 21, 2018
  2. mayuri patel December 26, 2018
    • Chittra M December 27, 2018
  3. Kanpuria Guy January 18, 2019
    • Chittra M January 19, 2019

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