We were bouncing around in a tuk tuk from the boat landing to the centre of Siam Reap in Cambodia. The two ladies sharing the ride mentioned a magnificent bat-cave in the town we just came from, six hours away by boat. My boyfriend’s eyes almost popped out: a bat cave! How could we have missed it? He loves bats. He let out a sigh of disappointment. He was willing to do the boat trip back at that very instant just to see the cave. I however, wasn’t. So we made a deal: I find another good bat cave we can visit in the near future and he will let go the one we missed.

Khao Yai National Park

And so it was I found out about Khao Yai National Park, a very popular spot among Bangkokians when they want a weekend escape into nature. It’s close to Bangkok, accessible by car or public transport, and magnificently beautiful. Besides, it has the famous Khao Luk Chang Bat Cave. Best visited at sunset or dusk when hundreds of thousands of wrinkled-lipped bats emerge to feed on insects, Khao Luk Chang provides the surreal  experience of seeing a live flying cloud.

 

Established in 1962, Khao Yai was Thailand’s first national park and is now its third largest. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains a large area of intact monsoon forest, where many wild animals still find refuge. It is the home of some of the last wild elephants in Thailand, Asiatic black bears, gibbons, gaurs and Sambar dear. There were even reports of resident tigers. It is also popular with bird watchers and flower lovers. There are more than 50 kilometres of hiking trails maintained in the park. They can be walked independently or with a guide who will take you to some of the main attractions, such as caves and waterfalls, including a visit to the 80-metre-high Heo Narok and Heo Suwat waterfalls, used for scenes in the iconic movie The Beach. You can also embark on a night trek, to hear and spot some of the nocturnal creatures of the forest. And a tip for Jurassic Park lovers: there is a dinosaur footprint inside Khao Yai!  A four day trek is required to reach it, so book some time off if you decide to do it.

 

Khao Yai National Park is very popular among Bangkokians also for its milder climate. While Bangkok is sweating all year round, Khao Yai sees an average annual temperature of 23 degrees Celsius. The best time to visit the waterfalls is after the monsoon rains in October when they are superb, although they are sufficiently resplendent throughout the entire wet period – from May to October. Don’t forget how good for our psychological and physical health those negative ions released by free flowing water are.

waterfall Khao Yai National Park

The national park can be reached by car from Bangkok in 2.5 hours. Alternatively, take a bus there or a train to nearby Pak Chong from where you can get a sŏrngtăaou to the park’s northern gate. The entrance for foreigners is 400 baht per day. You can stay in the park itself where there are bungalows and campsites available, or you can sleep in one of the guesthouses or hotels in Pak Chong. Here you can also arrange tours of the park.

 

There are many reasons for visiting Khao Yai National Park: enjoying unspoilt nature, viewing animals and plants, cooling down….or making a loved one happy if he craves a missed bat cave. So get yourselves there!

Khao Yai National Park