After our well-deserved week of vacation on Koh Chang, we continued our trip to the east of Thailand, and more exactly to the Khao Yai National Park. This little adventure in jungle mode was our first of the trip (and probably not the last) and we were not disappointed!
We took this trip in December 2013, but the article was completely revised and updated in July 2022. If you see any price changes or have additional information that might be relevant, please feel free to leave us a comment!
Presentation of Khao Yai Park
To give you an idea, the Khao Yai National Park is the 3rd largest in Thailand! Listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, it is one of the natural jewels of the country! Imagine a luxuriant jungle with incredible flora (more than 2000 varieties of plants) where dozens of animal species find refuge, sumptuous landscapes, and almost infinite trekking possibilities…
Moreover, it shelters a waterfall which is often much more known than the park itself! If I tell you about Leonardo DiCaprio? Waterfall jumping? A crazy desire to follow him?
Well, no, I’m going astray… Anyway, you’ll understand, it’s Fabienne who’s talking to you! And I am of course referring to the famous scene in the movie The Beach. You know, that time when Leeeoooo still made us fall in love 😍?
Once again, Hollywood got excited and wanted to make everyone believe that this waterfall is on the island of Koh Phi Phi, but it is in this park that you have to go to hope to meet the beautiful apollo.
Otherwise, you can simply come to Khao Yai if you like nature in all its splendor! Well, I had to find arguments to make Benoit come too 😉.
But before leaving in search of Leo, we lived one of these famous lousy days where everything goes wrong. Don’t you know what I mean? Then read the continuation…
A chaotic journey from Koh Chang
This day spent in transport was placed under the sign of the famous same same.
To go to Khao Yai from Koh Chang, we had the choice between going back through Bangkok or taking a direct bus. It is same same according to our guesthouse… After looking at the map, we thought it would be faster to go directly. Big mistake!
The cab to the ferry
Everything started very early in the morning. Aware that the bus ride was going to last quite a few hours, we had set our alarm clock for 5 am to be at our guesthouse around 3 pm. Perfect!
So we wake up painfully and we take the direction of the main road to take a cab which must take us to the ferry. 5:30 am, no cab. We are told: “No problem, 10 min”. 10 min my ass, yes! We heard this sentence until around 8 am… Do you see the two idiots posted on the side of the road for 3 hours who tried in vain to stop everything that passed? Well, that was us!
Finally, a cab arrived and after a small 10 min detour, we were finally on our way to the ferry. Except that in Koh Chang, there are two ports with two ferry companies. The fares are the same, but not the schedules. Our cab driver kept repeating to us that it is same same. So, we let him drop us at the one where the other passengers were going. Second mistake: we had to wait again for 1 hour before the ferry left!
From the ferry to Pak Chong… or almost
Once on the boat, we noticed that the ferry was not going to the port we had arrived from. But once again, we were told that it was same same.
At the port of Trat, no bus… So we had to negotiate a tuk-tuk for the nearest bus station. Once there, we were lucky: a bus was leaving for the entrance of Khao Yai park, namely Pak Chong. Well… That’s what we were told, same same again. The trip was supposed to last 6 hours…
Ultimately, after 8 h 30 of bus, we arrived… in Khorat, the terminus of our bus 😱!
The ticket we were sold in Trat didn’t go all the way to Pak Chong but only that far… After negotiating a new bus ticket and eating our first bowl of noodles of this crazy day, we were finally on the last bus to Pak Chong. So we arrived, completely exhausted, at our accommodation at 1 am, instead of 3 pm 😴. Fortunately, they were lovely at the guesthouse, they even picked us up at the bus station!
Anyway, the moral of the story: never, EVER, trust when someone tells you it’s same same! Be smarter than us: get there from Bangkok!
The national park is located 175 kilometers northeast of Bangkok. The easiest way is to take a bus or minivan to Pak Chong, the gateway to the park. They leave Mo Chit station in Bangkok, and it takes about 3.5 hours for 270 bahts per person.
The train used to be an alternative for backpackers on a tight budget, but prices have soared in the last few years… Nevertheless, you should know that the Bang Sue Junction – Ubon Ratchathani line serves Pak Chong town.
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Hotel in Khao Yai
After reading about it on the net, we decided to stay at the Greenleaf Guesthouse. The rooms were basic, but clean, with cold water only. The double room cost 300 bahts. You can book by mail or by phone.
Beyond offering a room for an unbeatable quality/price ratio, the hotel organizes several treks in Khao Yai:
- Half day: cave tour and observation of many hidden animals, bathing in hot springs and bat watching at nightfall, 500 bahts per person;
- Full day: jungle trek with one meal included, 1500 bahts per person
- The 2 treks combined: 1800 bahts per person.
The price of each trek includes a park entrance fee (400 bahts), transportation, snacks, water, English speaking guide, and socks to avoid leeches.
If you book a trek at the Greenleaf before you come, they will pick you up and bring you back to Pak Chong for free by car. They even came after midnight to pick us up: we are very grateful! Other guesthouses offer the same service, just ask!
Some precautions before entering the jungle of Khao Yai
As I told you above, Khao Yai is one of the biggest parks in Thailand. In total, its area covers more than 2000 km2! It is a great playground to discover the different species of the park: elephants, bears, deer, pigs, macaques, gibbons, as well as more than 300 species of birds and other little creepy-crawlies or animals with lots of legs…
So you can easily imagine that to go into the jungle, a guide is mandatory. I think it would be a bit suicidal to go without one!
The dangers of Khao Yai
During our trek, our guide told us a lot of funny stories like: “One day, one of my clients stepped on a python. Fortunately, I was able to run and the python did not bite the lady”. Well, the python had bitten the guide pretty badly on the thigh! Or the time when he and his group were surprised by wild elephants, which charged them.
If you get charged by an elephant, the safety instructions are simple. You have two options:
- Climb a fairly large tree, but be careful to climb fast and high;
- Find a big tree and run around it! Yes, it’s stupid, but it tires the elephant. Be careful to choose a big enough tree, because elephants will not hesitate to make small wood with small trees!
Two fools of his group did not respect the safety instructions and got lost in the jungle for more than 3 hours… Guaranteed fear!
Get a guide
In short, don’t try to play Indiana Jones, and trust those who know their stuff!
A guide is at least the insurance to know when to panic. He knew exactly how much time you had if you were bitten or stung! For some snakes, it’s “No problem, 30 hours”! On the other hand, when the guide holds at the end of his stick a snake that can kill you in less than 2 hours without injection of the anti-venom, it calms down!
But we reassure you, no incidents to declare during our trek!
Moreover, you will see 100 times more animals with a guide than without. These small beasts are all around you, but well hidden! Without the lynx eye of our ranger, we probably would not have seen anything!
To find a guide, you can go through a tour organized by your guesthouse or hire a ranger for the desired trek directly at the Khao Yai Visitor Center.
Half-day trek in Khao Yai to discover the wildlife
Arrived at almost 1 am, we didn’t want to leave directly for a one-day trek. So we opted for the half-day to start.
We left the guesthouse at 3 pm to visit the Nam Sai cave, located outside the park on the same road as the pretty Wat Sa Nam Sai temple. In addition to all the stalactites and stalagmites, we also saw many species of animals that live underground and that we frankly did not suspect their existence…
This cave was also used as a Buddhist temple, and apparently, monks come there to meditate in the evening, once the tourists have left. Between us, I could be paid that I would not go to sit there in the dark to meditate. I just won’t be able to relax knowing all that is happening around me… I probably haven’t reached the level of calmness of the monks yet!
Our little excursion then led us to the Ban Tha Chang spring where we could dip before going to a field located below the Tham Khao Luk Chang cave. It is home to nearly 2 million bats, but the cave has been closed to the public to preserve them.
Is it a shame you may say? Not so much: closing this cave avoids that a daily horde of tourists scares away these poor beasts. Thus, we can continue to observe them when they go hunting!
At nightfall, all the bats leave the cave and fly into what looks like a huge tunnel towards the nearest lake.
By being in the field below, we are in the first row to observe this ball of Batman which will last almost 15 minutes! The noise and especially the impressive mass effect make these few minutes an unforgettable experience!
One-day trek in the jungle of Khao Yai
The next day, we put on our sexy overshoes to avoid the nasty leeches and set off for a day through the jungle!
Animals in abundance
We begin all quietly by a car tour, with spontaneous stops as soon as our guide saw a snake or another wild animal on the side of the road to show it to us.
After having seen our first gibbons, we sank a little more into the luxuriant vegetation to discover in the course of our walk full of snakes, scorpions, caterpillars, millipedes, as well as numerous macaques.
After a little more than 2 hours of walking in this jungle, we suddenly found ourselves in a large green area with a small lake, a place where elephants like to come and drink in the evening.
No pachyderms, but we witnessed three giant varans greedily sharing a poor deer that had fallen in the water… Seeing them get into its carcass and rip its guts out is not something I would have wanted to see just before my lunch! Conclusion: yuck, yuck and yuck again!
The waterfall from the movie The Beach
After the meal provided by the Greenleaf, it was time to go in search of Leeeeo at the Heaw Suwat waterfall!
Well, in the end, I didn’t find him 😭. So, I decided to keep Benoit!
But the waterfall is worth a look even without mister DiCaprio’s pectorals!
At the end of the afternoon, we got back in the car and the guide took us on a road where it is not rare to see an elephant coming out of the jungle! We were warned: no guarantee to see one, but we were going to try!
Seeing 100 % wild elephants in Thailand
In the end, we didn’t see 1, 2, or 3, but 4 elephants, which crossed our path at the end of the day! So, I’ll tell you one thing: you can be in a car, accompanied by a guide and all the rest, but when you see your first wild elephant coming out of the jungle, it’s something in your guts!
By the way, this is the first time of the day that we felt our guide a little tenser! At the same time, elephants are 100% in their natural state in Khao Yai. Therefore, they are much more unpredictable than those poor pachyderms that are used as photo models for tourists in all those elephant farms that are multiplying in Thailand.
Fortunately, our guide was on the ball, because one of the Mister Dumbo suddenly had a little urge to race. After staring at us for a long time, he started to charge… Ouch! At that moment, we feel tiny! But don’t worry: being in a car, we were able to speed up a bit and he quickly gave up his idea.
Find all the possible treks in Khao Yai on the park website. We did the Nong Phak Chi trail from km 33 with the Greenleaf Guesthouse.
To explore the trails without a guide, you can rent a scooter in Pak Chong! There are several rental agencies on the main street of the town and at the park entrance.
Video of our trek in Khao Yai National Park
In short, it was a day full of emotions and discoveries that we highly recommend! For a better impression, we prepared a small video to summarize our stay in Khao Yai. Don’t forget to follow our YouTube channel if you haven’t done so yet!
It’s time to leave Thailand to discover Cambodia and its mythical temples in Angkor! No doubt, we will return sooner or later to the kingdom of Siam 😉.
Now you know everything about Khao Yai National Park! Are you ready for a little trek in the jungle?