Khao Yai National Park

On my day off from working at the English camp, myself and two other amigos headed out from our bungalows, rented bikes, and drove up to Khao Yai National Park for the day.  This post will tell you what’s good.  For clarity, we entered through the north entrance near Pak Chong.

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One of many signs warning visitors about the wild elephants of Khao Yai, though we never saw any!

What makes Khao Yai National Park special?

Khao Yai National Park is the 3rd largest national park in Thailand and was established in 1962.  The park covers an area of 2,168km and is mostly comprised of thick highland jungle as well as some grasslands.  Khao Yai National Park is famous for its abundant wildlife including wild elephants, monkeys, and deer.  It also has two big beautiful waterfalls to visit with Haew Suwat being the scene of the famous waterfall jump in the 2001 Leo DiCaprio movie The Beach.

How to get there?

Khao Yai National Park is about 3 hours north of Bangkok and would make an excellent weekend retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Guesthouses and hotels can be found in abundance around the approaches to the park and in nearby Pak Chong.

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The mighty jungle

Once at Pak Chong, or just outside the north entrance to the park, you can rent motorbikes for the duration of your stay.  Having a motorbike to ride through the park makes a hell of a difference.  It was super convenient as it meant that my friends and I were able to get to see everything we wanted on our own timetable.  Plus, on a bike it is much easier to see wildlife as you can stop where you want to take pictures and not have to worry about missing out like you would if you were part of a tour.  Just be sure to gas up before going in, you don’t want to run out of gas out in tiger country! (Joking, tigers are rarely seen now in this part of the park).

What to see/do?

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Haew Suwat, made famous by The Beach.  Where they jumped was debated as the waterfall has changed a fair bit since the movie came out over 15 years ago.

Most of the park is covered in thick highland jungle but there are some grasslands.  There are also several waterfalls to visit, the most notable being Haew Suwat, of The Beach, and Haew Narok.  If you only have time for one, I’d recommend Haew Suwat.  Not only is it more famous but it really is more exotic, not to mention that the trail to Haew Narok gets extremely steep and is not for those of lesser inclination.  I should also note that while people have jumped the Haew Suwat 25 meter waterfall, you are now prohibited from doing so and it has been like this for at least 10yrs as there have been deaths.

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A bit of a hike to get to down a steep path, but still quite an impressive sight to see!

The other major attraction, besides the beautiful surroundings of the jungle, is the abundant wildlife that inhabits the park.  It is possible to see deer, gibbons, elephants, tigers, leopards, bears, wild dogs, and other species throughout the park.  You will almost certainly see deer as they like to hang out around the Visitor Center.  You will also probably see monkeys including gibbons.  On the way to Haew Narok we saw a ton of monkeys.  As for the elephants, obviously a big draw for tourists, it is harder to say.  We didn’t see any, but we saw plenty of elephant poop out on the road to Haew Narok so they must be out there!  The other animals likes the tigers, leopards, bears, and wild dogs, are rarely seen and mostly only come out at night but especially in the less visited parts of the park away from the trails and roads.

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Deer hanging out by the Visitor Center

Besides going for hikes down the numerous trails or driving around looking for wildlife, another cool thing you can do is actually camp inside the park at one of several designated camping grounds.  This is totally safe, though you might wake up to find deer gently grazing outside of your tent. Another word of warning, if you do decide to go hiking along the trails, stick to them!  Every year people get lost in the park, sometimes for days, after wandering off the trails….

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We saw lots of monkeys on the road to Haew Narok.

Another really cool thing we did was go bat watching.  We drove our bikes out into the countryside, after leaving the park, and went to a spot where it is possible to see literally thousands of bats flying together in arching trails through the sky.  The best time to go is just before sundown.  We went on our own but it is possible to pay to get a guide to take you there.  This was arguably the highlight of our day, it was incredible to see so many bats and the sound they made as they flew all around us.

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Giant monitor lizard chilling on the bank of the river near the Visitor Center
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Giant spider as big as my hand trying to get a leaf out of its web, this was on the trail down to Haew Narok….definitely poisonous!

Food and drink?

If you are entering the park at the north entrance near Pak Chong, it is a short drive to the Visitor Center where nearby are a number of food stalls and restaurants/cafes with seating areas.  There is also a small convenience store there for snacks, drinks, ponchos, etc.  It might be an idea to bring your own food and drink.

How much?

It is 400 baht to get in to the park for farangs, but the ticket does allow you to go in and out of the park on that date.  To take a motorbike in it costs an additional 30 baht.

Food can be found in the park for under 100 baht depending on what you are looking for.  It is also more than possible to eat cheaply in Pak Chong and the surrounding area if you eat Thai food.

Motorbikes can be rented for around 300 baht a day but that may change depending on where you rent it.  Typically just a copy of your passport is needed to rent a bike.

Accommodation can be found for as low as 400 baht a night and up near the park and in Pak Chong.

I hope this post proves useful to any trips you make out to this beautiful part of the country!  Like if you enjoyed the post! Leave a comment about your own experience! Share to a friend if you know they’re making a trip this way! Subscribe if you want to see more posts like this!

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A Day in Ayutthaya

Thailand is a Buddhist country blessed with an abundance of natural and also mystic beauty.  While Phimai Historical Park is arguably Thailand’s number one site to visit temples of breathtaking beauty and serenity, the sites to be seen in Ayutthaya are not to be missed either!

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Getting to Ayutthaya

The city of Ayutthaya is only about an hour and a half away from Bangkok which makes it perfect for a day trip or a stepping stone on the way up north to Chiang Mai or south to Bangkok.  Buses to Ayutthaya run from Mo Chit bus station and Victory monument.  There you should be able to get a van ticket for only 60 baht.  You can also take the scenic route by catching a train from Hualamphong station in Bangkok.  Tickets start as low was 20 baht!

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Getting about

Since the temples are spread out across the center of the city you will need to get some way to transport yourself around.  The cheapest but most time consuming way, because you will have to wait around and do some more walking, is to catch a songthaew.  These should cost no more than 10 baht a ride and there are quite a few driving around the city.  For those more physically inclined, and perhaps staying the night, you could rent a bike for a less than a hundred baht at most hostels or guesthouses.  If you prefer to feel the breeze in your hair, then you can rent a motorbike for a few hundred baht with a full tank of gas.  Then there is the option which I took, hiring a tuk tuk to ferry you around the city for a few hours.  900 baht for 3hrs is what I paid but split between a group of people it is arguably the best option after you have been walking around in the blistering heat and just want a break between temples.  You can get taxis, songthaews, and tuk tuks from the bus and train station.

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How much?

Farangs (foreigners) pay 60 baht to enter the different temple areas while Thais pay 30 baht, I believe.  For expats who work and live in Thailand I have read that if you can show them proof that you live in the country, like showing your visa or work permit, you can pay the Thai rate.

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Which temples to see?

Now this is a matter of taste, because I only had a day in Ayutthaya I chose to go to the four most popular temple sites but really you could easily spend 2, 3 or more days exploring the full extent of the temples and ruins spread out across the city.  Personally I went to Wat Phra Si Sanphet (the largest temple in Ayutthaya), Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit (which houses a large bronze cast image of Buddha), Wat Phra Mahathat (with a tree growing over the head of a Buddha statue), and Phet Fortress (great views of the river!)

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After the temples

I found Ayutthaya to have a real chill laidback vibe to it and definitely backpacker friendly.  At night a good place to go to is the night plaza where there is a market selling food, clothes, souvenirs, and generally the usual stuff you expect to find at a market in Thailand.  Nearby for dinner or drinks is the Cowboy bar and restaurant.  There you can get Thai and Western food at reasonable prices, it also has a pool table and live music.  For those wanting to go to a club or just have drinks, I recommend going to Zeedzaa Pub and Restaurant.  While calling itself a pub, it is closer to a club the later you go with DJs and live music.  There was a closed off room with a TV playing sports, which I guess was the pub portion.  No dance floor, but people start dancing at their tables once the beats begin to drops and the drinks flow.  I was the only foreigner there but I was made to feel welcome by Thais giving me cheers.  I will say that drinks were a little more expensive than I would normally pay (120 baht for a big Singha), but I was with a date so I couldn’t complain.

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If you’re wondering why this girl pops up in a few of the pictures, that was my Thai guide and date!

So I hope you find time in your travels to fit a day in to visit Ayutthaya.  I will say that you should bring lots of water as it can get very hot if you’re visiting during the hot end of the dry season (40 Celsius when we visited!!!) If you’re just looking for a day out of Bangkok, interested in Buddhism, or you like to see Asian ruins, Ayutthaya is just what you’re looking for.  Please comment and like if you found the article helpful for your future visit!

Next up I will write about how I got on at the 10th Annual Chiang Mai Ultimate Frisbee Hat Tournament. Catch you later!