A Trip from Bangkok to Khao Yai Reserve
Khorat Province and Ayutthaya Province
Fascinating and diverse tourist destinations can be found a mere three to four hours’ drive away from Bangkok.
There is no need to fly to the North in order to hike among waterfalls and rainforests. There is also no need to go all the way to Cambodia to see ancient temples, and it is really not necessary to go far in order to ride elephants in the jungle or visit artist villages.
All this and much more can be discovered and seen in a two to three day trip without any flying, for a surprisingly low cost and under quite luxurious conditions: A big air-conditioned car, a personal driver and guide, four-star hotels and amazing meals.
I went on a three-day (two night) trip from Bangkok to Khorat Province. Our tour guide, who asked us to call him “Bill Clinton” (since his Thai name was hard to pronounce) was very knowledgable and spoke excellent English.
After an hour’s drive we stopped at a typical fruit market in Nakhon Nayok province where we received an explanation about the wonderful fruits of Thailand.
After some taste-testing and buying fresh and dried fruit (absolutely delicious, and for ridiculously low prices) we went on to the main attraction of the first day: Khao Yai national park.
This park was the first to be declared a national park in Thailand. It is the third biggest of all the national parks in Thailand and contains one of the biggest rainforests in Asia. The park was recognised in 2005 as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
The park boasts excellent hiking trails, viewing platforms, and several impressive waterfalls. One of the waterfalls appeared in the famous film, “The Beach”. The park’s visitor centre screens a film about the park several times a day. We trekked to two waterfalls, the more impressive one being the tallest in the park, Heaw Narok. Along all the trails we were accompanied by dozens of colourful butterflies. The path to the waterfall passes through a forest of tall, thick trees and ferns.
The park houses several hundred elephants, many deer, porcupines, elephants and even tigers. It is a popular bird-watching destination thanks to the 320 different bird species nesting there.
Outside of the park, like in any place in Thailand, is a Spirit House – except this one looks more like a Noah’s Ark thanks to the myriad animal statues adorning it.
Near the park, we went on an elephant-riding tour through the jungle along a river which we crossed several times while riding. The elephant enjoyed itself in the water and sprayed us a few times.
In the evening, after a refreshing visit to the pool of Juldis Khao Yai Resort and Spa where we were staying (a charming hotel with blooming jungle gardens) and a fantastic dinner among magical scenery, we returned to the park for the Night Safari, organised by the park rangers. We drove along the dark trails of the park in a safari truck, with only the rangers’ flashlight to light the area. During the hour-long tour we could see many deer, gazelles, porcupines, and with some luck, tigers, elephants and even bears.
The next day we headed out to Phimai to visit its famous temples in Prasat Hin Phimai (Phimai Historical Park). These are the ruins of the Khmer temple from the time of Angkor, which are considered to be the most impressive outside of Cambodia. The park has had some major restorative work done and the ancient buildings are awe-inspiring. The main building is 28 metres high and made of white sandstone, while the shorter buildings around it are made of clay and pink sandstone. The doorposts and windows are beautifully and artistically handcrafted.
Nearby is a giant banyan tree that grows on an island inside a water source and is called “Sai Ngam” by the locals. You can walk around the tree’s branches and aerial roots. The locals enjoy having picnics between its branches. Also between the branches is a colourful spirit house. The Thai believe that the tree is holy and one common belief there is that if a bird, fish, turtle or any other animal is set free close to it while making a wish – the wish will come true. Just in case, we set free both a small bird and some catfish. If it won’t help us, at least it helped them. The various animals you can set free can be bought for a tiny sum in stalls near the tree. Besides animals for setting free, the many stalls sell typical Thai souvenirs (like in any Thai market) and of course, food.
After lunch in a nice restaurant in the centre of Phimai we continued on to a short visit in an archaeological site called Ban Prasat where there were a number of excavation sites displaying skeletons and pottery from thousands of years ago.
The excavation site sits in the heart of a small village, and touring it on the way to the site allowed us to see up close the living conditions of the locals in one small village in one of Thailand’s biggest provinces.
For the last attraction of the day, we visited the pottery village of Dan Kwian which has been producing clay pottery for hundreds of years. The village has hundreds of shops and stalls selling pots, dolls, sculptures and pictures made of clay. You can tour some of the factories to see the potters and craftsmen at work.
Prices are so cheap that if it weren’t for the weight limit for bags on flights I would have bought several dozens of pots, fountains and sculptures. I settled for buying small and charming souvenirs for laughable prices.
People who like shopping and markets can spend long hours at the place...
We stayed in Nakhon Ratchasima in a classy hotel called Sima Thanai hotel which has an excellent buffet with a rich selection of international foods.
Our last day was dedicated to visiting Ayutthaya (roughly 85 km North of Bangkok), the ancient capital of Thailand. Ayutthaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand’s previous name) for 417 years until 1767. It is located in the converging point of three rivers and was, in its past, surrounded by a wall and full of impressive temples. Today, however, little remains of the wall and the original temples, which were destroyed in wars with Burma. Mostly, it features historical sites and restored temples. (Only one original temple remains, as it is where the Burmese who conquered the city stayed.)
Next to every temple and historic site is a local market where you can quench your thirst (Ayutthaya is hot...) and buy interesting foods.
The road from Nakhon Ratchasima to
Ayutthaya passes by a huge, excellent outlet shopping
Outlet Village Khaoyai, full of shops of
known brands such as Adidas, Nike, Levi’s and many more.
Anyone looking for authentic brand products for
excellent prices can spend hours in this place.
In short, this is a wonderful trip which combines nature, animals, ruins, temples, markets, and shopping. The best of Thailand, authentic, with hardly any foreigners, relatively short distances to travel, no flights, no nonsense, and at a great price.
You can purchase this trip (Booking ahead is recommended!) from Greenhouse, a travel agency in Bangkok operated by pleasant and hardworking people who can offer you many more tours as well as help you find lodging all over Thailand, all for great prices.
More Thailand articles:
Animal Encounters for Families
The Jungles of Bangkok and the surrounding
Special Guided tours in Thailand
Family Vacation in Phuket
Vacationing in Koh Chang
Family holiday in Northern Thailand with Private Guide
Family Holiday in Koh Samui
The Islands of Thailand
Vacations Trips and Luxurious Hotels in Khao Lak