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Lost in Thailand: The Incredible Khao Yai National Park

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What is Khao Yai National Park?

Khao Yai National Park is a protected area in Thailand known for its stunning landscapes and diverse wildlife. The park is located in the Sankamphaeng Range, about three hours northeast of Bangkok, and covers an area of more than 2,000 square kilometres. One of the main attractions of Khao Yai National Park is its rugged terrain, which includes dense jungle, grasslands, and towering mountains. Visitors can explore the park on foot or by vehicle, taking in the breathtaking views of lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and rolling hills.

The park is also home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. Some of the species that can be found here include elephants, tigers, bears, monkeys, and a variety of bird species. Visitors can also spot various reptiles, including cobras and pit vipers, as well as butterflies and other insects.

In addition to its natural beauty, Khao Yai National Park also offers a variety of recreational activities, such as hiking, bird watching, and rock climbing. There are several trails that visitors can take, ranging from easy nature walks to challenging mountain treks. Visitors can also camp in the park and explore the area at their own pace.

Khao Yai National Park is a must-see destination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. It offers a unique blend of natural beauty, adventure, and education that is sure to make for an unforgettable experience. Don’t forget, it’s one of the only places in Thailand where you can still see wild elephants, so it is definitely worth the trip!

One of the best things about Khao Yai is that most foreigners don’t even know that it exists.

Sunset over Khao Yai National Park
Sunset over Khao Yai National Park

How to get there

To get to Khao Yai National Park, you can take a bus or a train to Pak Chong, which is the closest town to the park. From there, you can take a minibus or a taxi to the park entrance. Alternatively, you can also rent a car or hire a driver to take you to the park. It’s worth checking with your hotel or tour agency, as they may offer transportation services to the park. Keep in mind that there are no bus services in the park, so be prepared to hitchhike or walk a lot.

There are two ways to get to Pak Chong from Bangkok:

  1. Take the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima coach or Bangkok-Pak Chong private minivan from the Mochit New Van Terminal and get off at Pak Chong.
  2. Take the North-eastern line from Bang Sue Junction (Bangkok-Pak Chong) and get off at Pak Chong station.

When I visited, I rented a motorbike in Pak Chong. This was an adventure in itself, as trying to find somewhere to rent a bike in the town proved to be difficult as Pak Chong doesn’t receive much tourism. Also, a short drive from the town to the park ended up taking almost two hours as we had to keep dodging police roadblocks.

Top tip here: make sure to get your international driver’s permit before getting to Thailand. It’s quick and easy to get, costs just $50, lasts for three years, and will save you so much hassle.

We finally managed to see an elephant
We finally managed to see an elephant. There is an army base on the park and they send soldiers to make sure the elephants are safe.

What are the costs?

The good news is that a trip to Khao Yai will not break the bank. The entrance fee for foreigners currently stands at 400 THB, which is around $12 USD. If you decide to camp, you will need to pay the entrance fee once. We ended up staying for three days, which I felt was a good amount of time to explore the park without rushing.

If you are entering with any kind of motor vehicle, you will need a permit for this too. You will pay this at the same time as you pay the entrance fee. A motorcycle costs 20 THB, and a car costs 30 THB, which is less than a dollar.

Camping fees in Khao Yai National Park vary depending on the location and the time of year.

The camping fee for a tent in the park ranges from 200 THB to 600 THB per night. The fee may also depend on the number of people in the tent and the number of nights you will be staying there. Additionally, there may be additional fees for amenities such as electricity and hot water. The best thing is that you don’t need your own tent; all the materials are provided for you.

It is recommended to check with the park’s official website or visitor center for the most up-to-date camping fees.

The good news is that a trip to Khao Yai will not break the bank. The entrance fee for foreigners currently stands at 400 THB, which is around $12 USD. If you decide to camp, you will need to pay the entrance fee once. We ended up staying for three days, which I felt was a good amount of time to explore the park without rushing.

If you are entering with any kind of motor vehicle, you will need a permit for this too. You will pay this at the same time as you pay the entrance fee. A motorcycle costs 20 THB, and a car costs 30 THB, which is less than a dollar.

Camping fees in Khao Yai National Park vary depending on the location and the time of year.

The camping fee for a tent in the park ranges from 200 THB to 600 THB per night. The fee may also depend on the number of people in the tent and the number of nights you will be staying there. Additionally, there may be additional fees for amenities such as electricity and hot water. The best thing is that you don’t need your own tent; all the materials are provided for you.

It is recommended to check with the park’s official website or visitor center for the most up-to-date camping fees.

How to see elephants in Khao Yai

There’s a wide range of wildlife to see in the park, and we did get to see a lot while visiting, from ghostly-sounding gibbons at sunrise to cobras and chameleons, but our main goal when we visited was to see wild elephants. After three days of visiting the common areas in which elephants are sighted during peak hours, nothing

We had begun to lose hope, but on the last morning, while heading to Haew Narok waterfall, a large figure emerged from the forest. Finally, we were able to see a large bull elephant, so if you don’t see elephants right away, don’t give up hope! Oh, and remember to keep your distance, as these are wild animals after all. We were close to being squashed when we thought we had time enough to stop and take some pictures. This wasn’t the case; as big and chunky as they look, elephants can close the distance extremely quickly.

There are several ways to see elephants in Khao Yai National Park:

  1. Guided tours: The park offers guided tours led by experienced rangers that will take you to the best spots for elephant viewing. These tours can be arranged through the park’s visitor centre.
  1. Self-guided safari: You can also explore the park on your own, using a map provided by the park’s visitor center. This can be a great way to see elephants in their natural habitat, but be aware that sightings are not guaranteed.
  1. Elephant Camps: There are some elephant camps near the park that offer elephant trekking and other activities with elephants. These camps are not within the park, and it is important to research and make sure they are ethical before visiting.
  1. Wildlife watching: If you are lucky, you may spot elephants while on a hike in the park. Keep in mind that sightings are not guaranteed, and it is important to be respectful of the animals’ space and safety.

Please note that it is not recommended to approach the elephants too closely, as they can be dangerous if they feel threatened. It is also important to be mindful of park rules and regulations regarding wildlife viewing.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Khao Yai National Park depends on what you would like to see and do during your visit. The park is open all year round, but the weather and the availability of certain activities may vary depending on the time of year.

November to February: This is the dry season in Khao Yai, and the weather is pleasant and cool. This is the best time to go hiking and see wildlife, as the animals tend to congregate around water sources.

March to June: This is the hot season, and temperatures can reach over 35°C. The park can be quite dry, and there might be less water and less wildlife, but this is the best time to see wildflowers and butterflies.

July to October: This is the rainy season, and the park can be very lush and green. The waterfalls will be in full flow, and the animals may be harder to spot. However, this is the best time to see the park’s spectacular thunderstorms, and the park is less crowded.

Keep in mind that the park can be busy during public holidays and school vacations, so it’s best to plan your visit to avoid these dates.

If you book in advance on the park’s website, they also offer a 30% discount during the weekdays. I would suggest visiting during the week when the park is quieter.

These hornbills are among many of the bird species you can spot while visiting the park.
A map of Khao Yai National Park. This map can be downloaded from the parks website.

Do you want help creating your very own trip to experience the nomadic lifestyle and the wonders that Mongolia holds? Contact me here for expert advice and trip planning.

Some pictures sourced from pixabay, freepik and pexels.

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