Imagine yourself in Khao Yai, the jungle of Thailand, with meters high trees (you know those jungle plants you have at home), lianas everywhere and where birds, monkeys, Asian elephants, black bears and tigers live. Khao Yai is Thailand's first National Park and is Thailand's third largest National Park.
And now you may be thinking, why have I never heard of Khao Yai? Khao Yai is especially popular with the Thai population. During the Thai holiday season, the people of Bangkok are looking for an escape to nature and Khao Yai offers it.
The park is about a 2.5/3 hour drive north-east of Bangkok. If you are staying in Bangkok, you can also do a day trip to Khao Yai, but my advice is to go longer, so that you can spend at least a full day in the National Park.
The park provides a home for a variety of wildlife. Here you will find monkeys, gibbons, countless species of birds, about 220 Asian elephants, leopards, and 17 tigers. The leopards and tigers are really in the interior of the park and do not show themselves to visitors.
If you see the elephants, you are very lucky. When I was there, the rangers and tour guides had not seen any elephants for a week and unfortunately this was also the case with me. We did see fresh tracks of elephants that had just crossed on the road. And could you smell that they had just walked by.
The park has many beautiful waterfalls. If you visit the park in the rainy season, the falls are even more impressive. I myself visited the park in January, when there is little rain. The waterfall I visited was still very beautiful, but I can imagine it would be even more impressive in the rainy season.
You can enter the NP for 400 Baht (about 11 euros). I myself have doubts about doing a tour or exploring the park on my own.
Still I chose the tour and this was really the right choice! The tour guides are the real experts and you see so much more than if you only go into the park. This way he could easily find the monkeys in the tree, even the gibbons who are shy and don't like to show themselves or the special birds in the trees.
During the tour you will also go hiking through the jungle. In addition to the aforementioned wild animals, you are surrounded by greenery. You will encounter the most beautiful old trees and green, greener and greenest plants during the hike. The guide will take you along and tell you extra information about the jungle!
If you want to get the most out of your visit to Khao Yai, go with a tour guide. These experts have years of experience and provide so much information about the jungle, so that you not only enjoy the beautiful nature, but also understand how nature works.
Another advantage is that you cannot get lost in the jungle with a guide. You can easily get lost there and most of them, like me, will be a beginner in the jungle. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that someone gets lost in the park.
Good parties where you can book a Khao Yai tour are:
I went with Bobbys Jungle Tour and my group consisted of 6 people in total (no idea if this is always the case), other tours sometimes have larger groups of 15 people. If you want to do a smaller group or a private tour, it is good to check and indicate this when booking.
From Bangkok you can do a day trip to Khao Yai, but I would advise you to go a little longer. You can then enjoy more of what Khao Yai has to offer.
In the National Park you can spend the night in hotels, cottages and even camping or just outside the park where there is more choice. There is plenty of choice, so there is something for every budget. You can also choose to spend the night in Pak Chong, the neighboring town where most rangers and guides live.
If you opt for an overnight stay in the park, it is useful to have your own transport, and you should also take into account that the restaurants close at 6 p.m. and you will no longer be able to get food after that. What I really want to tell you is that the (small) monkeys that stay in the park are anything but shy. So it is important to properly store your belongings and food.
I slept in a wooden cabin in Pak Chong at Ruan Kanchanok. This is a town with 40,000 inhabitants and triples in high season with tourists from home and abroad. In Pak Chong you will find many restaurants, a night market (where you can get good food) and also many places to spend the night, such as hostels.
If you go in the low season, like me, the city is considerably quieter. The advantage is that you can sleep cheaply in beautiful places. For example, I was in a rustic wooden hut a little further from the main street, surrounded by greenery and nature. You know it, a place where you wake up with the sound of the birds.
It is best to travel to Pak Chong by train or bus (mini-vans) from Bangkok. If you go by train, you can also make a stop in Ayutthua. The train from Bangkok makes a stopover here.
You can book train and bus tickets at the many tour companies, but you can also arrange them yourself online. If you would like to arrange your trips yourself or book far in advance, the site 12go.asia is a good and reliable site.