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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Roadtrip to Cambodia

I’m back!  Due to a combination of factors; a change of school, no wifi, a touch of laziness, and frankly nothing happening, I have been tardy in posting.  So it gives me pleasure to write about my latest adventure; a border run to Cambodia!

As you may have read before in my previous post about my visa run to Laos, you can see and do a lot as well as meet some great people to make your time worthwhile.  The difference in this trip, to the Baan Pakkad-Phsar Prum border crossing, is that it was not the destination that was the highlight of the trip but the journey itself!

I mentioned to a co-worker that I needed to go to Cambodia to get my visa stamped for another 30 days on arrival back in Thailand and he suggested I take my motorbike.  I think he was half joking but I took him seriously, did some research, asked a friend to join me, and that weekend off we went!

My friend and I, another Canadian, met up for breakfast and did some last minute fact finding before we set off.  As our luck would have it, it started to rain heavily.  The rain was so heavy that I could barely see in front of me from all the rain distorting my vision that I put my sunglasses on.  This helped me somewhat and ultimately helped persuade me to stick to the mission and not head back.

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What really made the drive more enjoyable, after the rain had lightened to a drizzle, was the beautiful scenery; luscious green landscapes for miles around, mountains off in the distance, the occasional waterfall, and the bemused looks of soldiers at occasional checkpoints to see a farang that far out in the countryside driving a motorbike.

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For those who are interested in driving motorbikes on long distance journeys, as opposed to just jetting about in town or on an island, I found no problems on my small bike and I just followed what other Thais on their bikes were doing; stick to the side of the road and you should have no problems!  Occasionally this is not possible and you will have to mix it up with cars but if you just drive responsibly and move out the way for oncoming cars, it shouldn’t be an issue.

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At the Thai side of the border, Baan Pakkad, things were very simple.  We just went to the immigration building, got our passport stamped, had them inspected again at the checkpoint, and walked over to Phsar Prum in Cambodia!  After walking a couple hundred meters through the ‘no man’s land’ we went to the Cambodian immigration building and filled out some forms to get our Cambodian visa which cost 1500 baht but could be cheaper if you pay in USD, which is the de facto currency in Cambodia.  They asked for a picture for the visa but we didn’t have any and it was not a problem.

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Now, because we were only in Cambodia for the afternoon we didn’t write how long we expected to stay in Cambodia.  When the immigration official asked how long we intended to stay we were vague and said a day, this turned out to be important for when we went to leave.  They said ok, and then handed back our passports with the green Cambodian visa attached.

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Immediately after walking down the main road to have a look for somewhere to eat we had guys on motorbikes asking if we needed a ride and if we wanted to go to Battambang.  We politely declined their offers and kept on walking.  The main attraction of Phsar Prum seems to be casinos.  I had not known it before going there but there were at least four casinos in this small town.  My feeling is that because gambling is illegal in Thailand, wealthy Thais come to the Phsar Prum to gamble.  We went inside one of the casinos to have a look and inside we were surprised to see how busy it was.  Inside were mostly middle aged men smoking while playing slot machines, blackjack, poker, and roulette.  My friend inquired as to whether he could play with just 1000 baht and they said yes but what I figured was going to happen would be that he would have to buy in to certain games and that ultimately if he won big, he might not walk out of there with money as we were just two foreigners in a country famous for scams and corruption.  He wisely decided against playing and we left to find a spot to eat lunch and enjoy a beer before crossing the border back to Thailand.

At the Cambodian immigration building we were thinking about what they were going to say considering we had just come to Cambodia a couple hours ago and now we were leaving but figured they must be used to it as to my knowledge quite a few foreigners were doing the same as us; dipping into Cambodia to return to Thailand to get the 30 days on arrival visa*.  To my mild surprise the official said that we had to stay the night because the Cambodian visa was for a minimum of one day.  I said that we had to get back to Thailand that day because we had urgent business.  Then he said, ‘ok, 300 baht’.  I honestly laughed because this was totally something I was half expecting to happen.  After a brief discussion we agreed to pay and then the official promptly stamped our passport and off we went back to Thailand.  I suppose we could have argued with them and asked to see their superior but I felt it just wasn’t worth the hassle.

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Back on the Thai border we had no such problems besides a funny look knowing we had just left and came back, clearly just for the purpose of getting the 30 days as our visas were about to expire.  And with that, we were back on our bikes with a sense of relief and accomplishment with the rain having stopped.  With the rain having stopped and there being less traffic, we were able to cut the drive down to about an hour and a half.  All in all it was a productive day and a new experience for me; a road trip on my own bike in Southeast Asia.  The first of many I hope!

Stay tuned for more posts and thanks for your continued support! J

 

*I should also state that 30 days on arrival by land is for G7 countries and was only relatively recently changed from 15 days.