Khao Yai National Park – Plan Your Best Jungle Experience
Khao Yai National Park is the oldest and most remarkable national park in the country that offers its visitors a unique experience of getting close to the wildlife. Beyond numerous species of reptiles, birds and insects you get the chance to admire wild elephants, nimble gibbons and adorable macaques. There are more than 50 kilometers of trekking tours winding in the steamy jungle where except for impressive fauna and flora you can find numerous majestic waterfalls. Not many people know that one of them was a place where they shot Leonaro DiCaprio movie – The Beach. Most of Thailand’s visitors connotate the film with popular paradise-like island – Koh Phi Phi.
The best way to explore a jungle is to take a tour with a local guide. Naturally, you can do the trekking on your own, but I guarantee you that you’ll not spot as many wild animals as you can see with an experienced Thai. On top of that, locals have impressive knowledge about different species so you can also learn a lot. I personally recommed to take a tour with Greenleaf Guesthouse & Tour. Those guys take care of everything for you, so you can take the most of your jungle escapade and enjoy the nature without any concerns.
Getting to Pak Chong
Pak Chong is a small town located to the northeast to Bangkok, about 4-hour train ride. This is the primary base for the Khao Yai national park escapades and can be reached by multiple options. The cheapest (not the fastest though) and my favorite one is train. You can take it from the main Bangkok’s station (Hua Lamphong). Depending on the train (oridinary, rapid, express) you choose it costs 35, 75, 350 baht accordingly ($1, $2, $10). However, don’t fall for their “nicknames”. It takes pretty much the same time to travel with all the kinds of trains. You can find a timetable with specified details here. Also take into consideration that trains in Thailand are usually late (our wasn’t though), so count one more hour when you plan a tour.
Buses for about 150B ($3.5) leave from the Northern and Northeastern bus terminal and take you to Pak Chong within 3 hours. Minivans (180B, $4.5) set off from Victory Monument and the ride takes around 1.5 hours.
If you settle upon Greenleaf company, you do not need to worry about a shuttle to your accomodation. They offer a free pick-up and drop-off. If you travel from different destination than Bangkok, you can always email them and ask for advice. They are very helpful and certainly will recommend you the best option.
Around Pak Chong
We took 1.5-day tour starting with a half-day part on the day of our arrival. We set off at 3pm beginning our exploration with refreshing bath in the natural spring. The place is very popular among locals as well and tourists serve as a kind of attraction for them (and other way around too :)). I expected the water to be a bit warmer, especially that temperature near the rainforest is not as high as in burning Bangkok. Still, it was nice to swim and relax a bit in the clear water before the exploration.
On our way we got the chance to see the first wild snake during our tour. It was very impressive how our guide spotted a slim white animal while we were riding 50km/h on the main road. They have a good eye for that. I’d probably not be able to see it from one-meter distance. Our Thai guide was not only able to discern the snake on the colorful background, but also knew many facts about the spiecies. This snake was not poisonous. There are many of them in the jungle and while they are in stress they change their skin color to darker one.
From the natural spring chill we headed to the bat cave in one of the buddist temples. There are about 500 bats living there together with whole panoply of nasty insects. 500 is a really small number as there is also another cave close by (that we came to without getting inside later on that afternoon) where around 2-3 milion bats have their home.
When we walked deep down to the dark cave we got warm welcome by local celebrity. Frederic (pic below) is not like any other bat who inhabits the cave. Frediric is a kind of star in the bat world. He feels best when he’s in the limelight. That’s why he always waits for tourists in front of the entrance of the cave where he can gracefully pose to pictures and videos.
Naturally, Frederic has thousands of roommates who share the cave with him, including different species of bats, insects and reptiles. However, he is not keen to hang out with his mates. It doesn’t suprise me tough. I wouldn’t want to get along with creatures who just wait to bite you, sting you and inject deadly poison into your veins.
Our last stop was another, bigger cave that I mentioned above. We did not get inside because of one practical reason: guano. The place is packed with millions of bats, so we wouldn’t have gone out clean. Instead of getting dirty inside, we watched as all bats were leaving the cave in search for food. The never-ending stream of flying bats started its hunting spree before the sunset. It took more than an hour for millions of bats to fly out from their cave. The interesting fact is that they all do that every single day at the same time. I just wonder if they have some kind of order in this daily activity. Do they need to reserve places in the line or is it just whoever’s first? Probably this question will remain unaswered.
That was day one of our amazing tour. Perfect warm-up for the real jungle with unique wildlife I don’t see often.
Khao Yai National Park Exploration
We set off to the park around 8am. The whole tour on the second day was a combination of trekking and observing wild animals. The guides make sure you can see and learn as much as it’s possible, but they cannot guarantee you will spot specific animals. They are not in charge of the wildlife, but they have impressive knowledge about it. I’d see 10% of what I actual saw without the guide. I’d probably spot an elephant only without their help. And maybe macaques. But snakes, lizards, gibbons? No way!
In fact, I was not even able to discern a small green snake that was chilling on the tree. It took me about 15 minutes an involved camera zoom, spyglass and at least 5 people who tried to explain me its location. On the other hand, our guide casually spotted it from the trekking trail. Here are the shots from the full-day trek.
The jungle exploration was crowned with short break by the Haew Suwat Waterfall where The Beach was filmed.
On our way back we stumbled upon a flock of macaques. This particular kind is especially adorable. Monkeys’ faces looked as if they’re wearing full make-up. Bluish eyeshadow and purple eyeliner underlined their eyes and brown lipstick highlighted lips. We spent a while watching the monkeys playing and fooling around.
After tiring trip we went back to our lovely guesthouse to have delicious Thai dinner.
Greenleaf Guesthouse & Tours
Greenleaf Guesthouse & Tours is a perfect place if you want to experience real wildlife and nature in the most remarkarble Thailand’s national park. The staff there take care about everything and do its best to make sure your jungle tour will be an unforgettable experience. They offer pick-up from and drop-off to the train/bus station. The guesthouse is a lovely place to stay and have authentic Thai food. You’ll feel like at home!
If you have any questions about the jungle tours leave me a comment!