Khao Yai National Park
Excerpts taken from Naked Farang: Four Weddings and a Coup
Exactly two years to the day after the tsunami and our trip to Phu Kradeung, Pim and I set off on our next great wilderness adventure, this time to Khao Yai National Park about 200km north-east of Bangkok.
At 5:45am, our train pulled out of Hua Lumphong Station and headed for Korat. We arrived at around 10:00am, went to pick up our rental car and set off for the village of Wang Nam Keaw where we had reservations in a resort.
At over 2,000 baht per night, it was over our usual budget, but worth very satang. We had a simple but beautifully designed and furnished one bedroom wooden house with a huge veranda on stilts built right on the edge of a large lily pond. There were a few other similar houses near us, but they were empty the whole time we were there, leaving us totally secluded. There was probably no-one else within a kilometre of us.
The resort on its own was worth a holiday, but it was only to be the base for our Khao Yai adventure. Nevertheless, we spent the first day just relaxing and enjoying our new surroundings.
After breakfast the next morning, we set off for Khao Yai in good spirits. It was a pleasant drive with the surprisingly good quality road snaking around reservoirs, over hills and through picturesque villages.
Once we entered Khao Yai National Park, we followed the road through the changing forests up to the visitors’ centre, passing signs that said “cobra crossing” or “tiger crossing.” I guess these are like the zebra crossings and pelican crossings we have in England. I’ve never seen zebras or pelicans there, either. We did see plenty of monkeys sitting by the roadside and lots of middle-aged men in green jackets with no sleeves and an excessive number of pockets staring at treetops through binoculars. I slowed the car as we passed, but neither Pim nor I could see anything worth getting the camera out for.
At the visitors’ centre they gave us a pamphlet with a map and lots of information on the park (in a language very similar to English and for free). Here are a couple of excerpts:
Khao Yai National Park (KYNP) was established on August 18 th, 1962 as the first national of Thailand. Due to the very fertile nature with plants, wildlifes, and beautiful landscapes, it became well-known among both Thai and foreigner. It is the outstanding part of Dong Phayayen – Khao Yai Forest Complex which the World Heritage Comittee, UNESCO had declared to be natural World Heritage Site on July 14 th, 2005.
KYNP cover an area of 2,168 sq.km. in 4 provinces. It separates High Northeasten plain from Central plain of Thailand. The park elevation range from 30 m. msl. At the southern border up to 1,351 m. at the highest peak.
Average annual rainfall is 2,200 mm. And everage temperature is 23 degree celcius. There are 3 seasons;_
-Rainy during June to October, the forest is green and the water falls are beautiful.
-Winter during November to February, the sky is very clear, the temperature is moderately cool. It is nice for camping.
-Summer during March to May, Although Thailand is hot but on Khao Yai it still be good weather.
Over 700,000 visitors a year come to Khao Yai, including school children on field trips, Thai and farang tourists, bird watchers and hikers.
Khao Yai is a great place for a hiking holiday. There are lots of campsites with tents already set up for you and miles of trails leading through the forests to waterfalls, scenic viewpoints and animal viewing areas, such as elephant salt licks and observation towers. With a little planning, you could work out a route covering some beautiful walks, spending the night at various campsites along the way. With Tommy to look after, this was not on our agenda this year, so we just planned to drive around and do a few short walks to some of the park’s many waterfalls. First things first, though. Pim hadn’t eaten for almost two hours, so our next stop had to be the restaurant next to the visitors’ centre.
With her appetite temporarily sated, we set off to explore the park, deciding to begin with the trail that the map showed started right next to the visitors’ centre. There was a sign pointing the way and indicating that it was 100 metres to Kong Kaew Falls. Next to the sign, a swinging bridge crossed a stream with a trail leading off into the forest on the other side, but the sign pointed away from the bridge. The map was pretty vague and not much help. We wandered around looking for another trail head but couldn’t find one. In the end, we decided to set off over the bridge and see where we ended up.
It was, indeed, the way to Kong Kaew Falls, but not only did the sign point away from the trail, it also gave the distance as 100 metres when it turned out to be almost a kilometre. Still, it was a pleasant walk through dense forest and not too far to carry Tommy despite the heat.
Next, we drove east to the road’s end, from where a short walk leads to Haew Suwat waterfall. On the way there, we stopped at one of the campsites. While Pim bought some food and fed Tommy, I wandered around watching monkeys sneaking around stealing any food they could find that had been left outside the tents. I tried to take some pictures, but they were too fast for me. There were also a couple of deer grazing at a more leisurely pace between the tents, and I managed to get a couple of photos of them.
Haew Suwat is a very beautiful horse-shoe waterfall with the river splitting and dropping about 10 metres into a plunge pool that you can swim in. A few brave souls were doing just that in the chilly waters to impress their girlfriends, but wouldn’t you know it? I left my swimming trunks back at the resort. After relaxing by the waterfall for a while, we slowly made our way back to Wang Nam Keaw before the tigers came out for their dinner.
When I had told a Thai friend, Ana, that I was taking my family to Khao Yai for our year end vacation, she told me of the times she had spent there as a child. Her father had been in the military and was stationed in the area, tracking down communist insurgents and deer. He had taken his daughter on a few expeditions around the park, and she had seen plenty of wildlife as there were far fewer tourists to scare the animals away in those days. She had even seen a tiger. We swapped a few stories and, much to my delight, she was the first person to believe me when I told her about the wolf on Phu Kradeung. There wasn’t much hope of seeing a wolf, never mind a tiger, on this trip. As we weren’t arriving at Khao Yai until late morning and leaving before dusk each day, we knew we wouldn’t get many opportunities for seeing any of the park’s fauna apart from the monkeys and a few deer.
We spent the next day just exploring the many beautiful sights around Wang Nam Keaw before heading back to Khao Yai on our last full day. Half-way between the entrance and the visitor’s centre, there’s a viewpoint. There’s also a checkpoint with a sign saying to stop and show your tickets to the guard, but when I’d done this on the first visit, I could only find a woman who seemed surprised to see anyone and even more surprised that a weird farang wanted to show her some tickets. She humoured me by explaining that the guard wasn’t there and wasn’t likely to be for the foreseeable future. Somehow, I wasn’t surprised.
This time, there was a car parked near the guard house, surrounded by monkeys with the farang driver and his Thai girlfriend throwing bananas to them. We stopped and watched for a while. I knew it was wrong and had seen signs saying not to feed the animals, but Pim and Tommy thought it was great fun to watch and, what the hell, so did I.
I drove us to the far side of the park to Haew Narok Falls. It’s a one kilometre walk from the car park, which is just about within Tommy range, so off we set. It’s a nice easy stroll through beautiful forests and across some streams until you arrive at the top of the waterfall, from where it’s a very steep descent to get to a viewpoint of the falls. Haew Narok is a much narrower and steeper waterfall than the others we had seen. It was the most spectacular, even though the water flow was much less than it would be in the rainy season.
After the falls, I drove around some more stopping at viewpoints and, of course, the restaurant, where Tommy had a close encounter with a friendly deer in the car park. Finally, we left Khao Yai for the last time on this trip. We definitely plan to go back again when Tommy is a bit older and we can do the hiking tour. I might wait until he’s old enough to carry me next time so that I can cry and poke him in the eye to get my own back.
Paul Snowdon - Excerpts taken from Naked Farang: Four Weddings and a Coup
Related article – Kratomhin Nuntapuk Resort: Wang Nam Keaw
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Have your say...
06 Jan 2013, 14:46
Nou, sniff zeg. Wat een prachtige reis hbeebn jullie gemaakt zeg! En wat
een lef. Jullie durven wat aan. Maar, hond en je wilt wat. Heeeeel erg
genoten van jullie verhalen. Orchidee road ja. De duurste straat van
Singapore? Een van die kennissen ben ik eens ooit op bezoek geweest met
Sigurd die in de bruiloft van Philip serveerde. Frank heet die kennis en
importeert vis naar asie. Die woont nu volgens mij op sentosa. Die heeft
het daar gemaakt. Een hele goeie reis naar huis en tot ziens in juni. Liefs
van je tante in Noorwegen.
09 Jan 2013, 03:50
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28 Nov 2015, 06:53
Hi, Nicole! Thanks for stopping by. I cgaehnd it over a while ago myself,
and it wasn't too difficult! I have noticed that the pictures in a few of
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right? Good luck with the new site! Can't wait to see it.