Moneys, wild elephants, hiking, camping, and beautiful, lush forests; Khao Yai National Park sounded like a dream to me. I had been wanting to visit Khao Yai since I found out I was going to Thailand, and last weekend I finally made the trip! I loved Khao Yai. Let me repeat, I LOVED Khao Yai. Yes there were some things I would have definitely done different, BUT I still had an amazing time andddd I’m already planning a trip back.
Getting to Khao Yai National Park from my town/city of Nakhon Ratchasima was relatively easy, even though it took longer than expected. Traveling in Thailand is like that though. ALWAYS expect delays. Always. So rolling out of bed and getting on the bus at 1pm is not the way to go. I was told that Khao Yai was only a two hour trip, but altogether it took about 5. Typical Thailand. Anyway, Ryan (my boyfriend) and I took the bus from Nakhon Ratchasima to the town of Pak Chong, which is right next to the National Park. The bus tickets were SUPER cheap, about 70 baht each. When we got off the bus in Pak Chong it took a minute (or 30) for us to figure out that the Song Taos to Khao Yai were right across the street. The Song Tao to the Khao Yai gate was 40 baht a person and it took about an hour. After getting to the gate, which is the last stop on the Song Tao, we paid the 400 baht per person fee and then stood on the side of the road to hitchhike. Hitchhiking turned out to be VERY easy getting into the park and traveling within the park. Usually trucks stopped and let us hop in the back. We hitchhiked to the visitors center, and then walked 500 meters to a campsite.
The best times to go:
So it turns out the weekend I decided to go to Khao Yai was the WORST to go because literally ALL OF THAILAND was there. Apparently long weekends in early December are popular days to go to Khao Yai. Oops. So I would recommend going on a regular weekend, or even during the week, which is when I am planning to go back.
Camping at Khao Yai was so much fun! It was also very cheap. It was 60 baht a person for the campsite, and I believe I paid 100 baht for 2 sleeping bags for 1 night. We brought our own tent. However, when I was there it was absolutely jam packed. Tents were SO incredibly close to each other. There were a lot of Thai families there, which made for a really nice atmosphere. Thai people are very serious about cooking at campsites (or at Khao Yai at least), it seemed like people were cooking and eating for hours into the night.
Some things to keep in mind: It gets cold in Khao Yai in December at night. I was very thankful that we had the sleeping bags! Also, the portable toilets are squat toilets. Yeah.
We did SO MUCH hiking at Khao Yai! On Sunday we hiked from 9:30am till about 5. We hiked alllll day. So if you like hiking you will love Khao Yai. There are short 45 min hikes and longer 3-5 hour hikes as well. We decided to do all the hiking on our own instead of hiring a guide. There were some advantages and also disadvantages to this. We had independence and got to explore where we wanted BUT we also didn’t really know where we were going or anything about the plants and animals around us. I believe the tour guides know a lot about the foliage and where the animals are, so next time I might try a tour. However, the forest was BEAUTIFUL, the air was clean, the trees were huge.
Khao Yai is a National Park, not a zoo, so seeing animals is not guaranteed. However, in the one and a half days I was there I saw and heard a lot of birds, I saw baboons, I heard but didn’t see any gibbons and I also saw deer and porcupines. Oh and I saw a few HUGE spiders. It was scary. I did not see any elephants unfortunately. But I believe a big reason that I didn’t see elephants was because the park was so crowded that weekend. Pro Tip: If you want to see animals, go to Khao Yai on a day when there aren’t a million people there.
Overall I had an AMAZING TIME AT KHAO YAI! Khao Yai is one of those places that you need to go more than once, because you never know what you’ll see when you’re there.