When friends here in Bangkok volunteer to organize weekend trips away its a pretty sweet deal. You get out of Bangkok for the weekend, its usually pretty cheap and you’re exploring with a bunch of friends. I really can’t complain.
A couple of months ago our friend Melanie proposed a weekend camping trip in Khao Yai National park about 2.5 hours drive northeast of the city, we were more than excited. I went to Khao Yai earlier this school year but, not to camp. Phil had never been and he was very excited to dust off the camping gear.
11 of us made the trip, and after a few inevitable hiccups involving when the gate of the park closes for the night and when the offices that rent camping gear close for the night, we made it into the park early Saturday morning.
Melanie had booked the trekking company TonTan travel for our trip and on Saturday morning we met our guides, the Dutch photographer and nature enthusiast, Ton and the main guide of the company, Tan. From our campsite the two took us on about a 3km hike through the jungle of Khao Yai where we took in any of the beautiful flora and fauna that wasn’t scared away from 11 people chatting and singing on their morning hike.
Khao Yai is home to lots of wildlife including snakes, bugs, leeches (we were provided with very fashionable leech socks for the trek), elephants, civet cats, porcupines, monkeys bears and even a tiger or two. Ton and Tan did a great job of pointing out interesting plants in the jungle and bringing our attention to what our urban eyes are less likely to see. While all but the tigers and bears are often spotted by visitors walks are done with caution as you never know what might be around the corner. Some of us crossed paths with a python on the hike but it didn’t stick around long enough for a photo.
Following our hike we had lunch at a kitchen set up by our campsite. It’s nice that Khao Yai has these services so you don’t have to haul up your own food for the weekend, but don’t expect anything more than fried vegetables or some variation on fried rice or fried noodles. Have you noticed a trend in food prep?
After lunch we hit two waterfalls, one where they filmed a scene of the movie “The Beach” and one where we secretly took a dip and relaxed on the warm rocks in the sun. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
Following the waterfalls was dinner (more fried) and a “spotlight” night safari. Our group was split between two pickup trucks fitted with high power spot lights. After the sun set we drove through the park (which is only allowed when accompanied by park rangers) looking for wildlife. We saw an elephant having dinner, a civet cat on the prowl, a porcupine munching through a trash can and lots of deer (which were already infesting our camp site). The elephant was definitely the main highlight as no matter how long you’re in Asia its still pretty cool to see an elephant just hanging out.
We actually camped Saturday night and barring very aggressive deer breaking into our neighbor’s poorly stored cooler it was a pleasant experience. Sunday morning after one last Khao Yai fried special we head home. A great weekend away!
There are public buses and vans that go to Khao Yai from Bangkok but it is easiest to hire a driver as you’ll need one in the park. For 11 people we paid 1,000 baht for the driver, 1200 baht for the guide. With a work permit or Thai driver’s license you can enter the park at the local rate of 40 baht. Renting a camping space on the grounds of the park was another 30 baht. Used camping goods such as mats, tents, sleeping bags and blankets were all for rent on the grounds. Food, water and basic medical supplies are also for sale. Alcohol is prohibited in the park.