Many nature lovers in Bangkok are often looking for a place to relax that's not too far from the city. Khao Yai is always a favourite for those who are truly in need of a place where they can really get back to nature. The main reason is its relatively close proximity to the city.
Since being declared Thailand's first national park in 1962, Khao Yai has been a very popular attraction. People go there for various outdoor activities ranging from education, camping, trekking, wildlife watching, bird watching, mountain biking and even river rafting.
Access by road is easy and as you approach the park both sides of the road are lined with restaurants, mini-marts, guesthouses, resorts, lodges and golf courses. It may be that there are too many people coming here and the forest is in danger of being destroyed.
The destruction of Khao Yai has been so heavy at times that in 1992 the government of Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun ordered the park to be closed for reforestation purposes. Some hotels and resorts as well as golf courses were scrapped as a result.
After a while, Khao Yai was reopened and welcomes tourists again, but this time there was an attempt to be more cautious about tourism development.
Yet problems still remain, especially regarding encroachment and the amount of garbage caused by tourism. Please try to be good tourists and to travel with respect for nature.
Although various points of interest at Khao Yai can be easily accessed by car, our group of young, energetic and enthusiastic trekkers chose the more adventurous
There are five nature trails of different distances. Each trail has signposts that tourists can follow. Walkers can also request to have a park ranger from the national park's headquarters accompany them as a guide. In the rainy season, trekkers should beware of leeches. There's nothing to worry about you can use an anti-leech bag. During the rainy season you should also carry a raincoat.
The most popular route in Khao Yai is a half day walk from Dong Tiew to Nong Phak Chi Wildlife watch towers. The starting point was just opposite the park's headquarters. Followed the signs at the roadside and in a short while you will be in a dense forest. Further on is the jungle where the sounds of insects and birdsong replaced the noise of the cars on the road outside.
There was plenty of wild mushrooms, flowers, and streams to be spotted on this 5.4-kilometre trail. There were also great variety of birds, including Hornbills, Dollarbirds, red-headed Trogons, Drongos, Greater Racket-tailed Drongos and red-mottled Lapwings.
It takes about three hours to reach the Nong Phak Chi viewing point. The tower here is to help people observe wildlife at the nearby salt lick. You may be lucky enough to see wild dogs or even a herd of elephants. The watch tower is only a kilometre from the road, so it's quite a popular visitor spot.
A more adventuresome, one day hike is from the park headquarters to Heaw Suwat waterfall, a distance of 8.1 kilometres, and then to continue for another 4.5
kilometres to Thung Khao Laem.
Heaw Suwat is easily accessible by car but if you plan to test your physical strength on the long and tough route, it may be advisable to request a park ranger as a guide
The trail started very close to the office where you will be greeted with the echoing sounds of gibbons. With a guide you will not only feel safe but you will be able to observe him on duty.
The ranger will help pave our way through the wilderness, especially the parts where the trail was covered with piles of dead trees. He will be able to point out interesting plants and even wild animal tracks.
Normally the ranger's job is to search for the poachers who come into the jungle illegally to cut valuable wood or hunt wildlife. It's still a big problem for Khao Yai. Sometimes they come across the encroachers and have to exchange fire with them. Some rangers have lost their lives on duty and the world outside never hears about it. It is good to know rangers are so devoted to protecting the national heritage, and yet receive very little pay.
Birdwatchers on this trail will be delighted to see Oriental pied Hornbills, Silver-breasted Broadbills, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Black-crested Bulbuls and many other birds. The park is home to more than 300 bird species.
It is an exhausting six hours from the starting point to Heaw Suwat waterfall. From there is another 4.5 kilometres to Thung Khao Laem or Khao Laem prairie and the only way to get there was to walk.
After three hours tramping in the wilderness, you will see the vast green prairie stretching out ahead. Thung Khao Laem is a vast field of high grass. Legend has it that the area was once a rural community. Evidence of the existence of this community can still be seen and the ruins of an old temple remain.
Khao Yai was proclaimed a national park in 1962. It is more than 1,600 square kilometres spanning four provinces: Nakhon Nayok, Prachinburi, Saraburi and Nakhon Ratchasima. With its great diversity and abundance of wildlife, Khao Yai has also been honoured as part of the Natural Heritage of Asia. It has served as a prototype for other national parks in Thailand.
Khao Yai offers a wide range of accommodation for visitors. There are campsites at Pha Kluai Mai and Lam Ta Kong. The fee is 50 Baht per person. This is great value and travellers will be well cared for. The area is safe and level, an ideal place to pitch a tent for the night.
We ask that you bring your own tents, of course, and if you are more interested in hotel offers there are hotels in the area, but an authentic campsite is a great experience, so please do consider. The weather is usually wonderful and we offer the normal services available at any reputable campsite.
As you arrive at Khao Yai, go to the Tourist Service Centre for details on accommodation or to request a park ranger to accompany you on a trek.
Khao Yai offers a wide range of accommodation for visitors. There are campsites at Pha Kluai Mai and Lam Ta Kong. The fee is 60 Bahtper person.
The campsites can be quite crowded. There are public toilets and bathrooms.
Khao Yai is easily accessible by car. Take the Pak Chong or Prachinburi routes from Bangkok.
Prachinburi route: take highway No. 305 from Rangsit-Ongkharak road to Nakhon Nayok and follow highway number 33, then turn left at Naresuan ring road and follow highway No. 3077 and after about 10 km you'll reach the park headquarters. This route is a shorter distance from Bangkok but steeper. This route is also more scenic and has many points of interest. Heaw Narok waterfall is a short distance if you take this route.
Pak Chong route: Follow highway No. 1 to Saraburi province, then turn right to route No. 2 which goes to Pak Chong. Then take highway No 2090 for about 20 kilometres and you'll reach the entrance. The Pak Chong route is longer.