Finally, after 3 extended trips in Thailand (2001-03, 2008, 2016), I make it to the famous Khao Yai National Park for the first time!  We took a train to the small town of Pak Chong, about 3 hours away.  Then we found our way to the songthaews to the park entrance, and eventually ended up here.  We are greeted by park rangers informing us that it's a ridiculous 400 Baht-per-person fee to enter the park (it's 10 times more for foreigners than for Thai people), but what the hell, we came all the way here so we have to pay it.

Finally, after 3 extended trips in Thailand (2001-03, 2008, 2016), I make it to the famous Khao Yai National Park for the first time! We took a train to the small town of Pak Chong, about 3 hours away. Then we found our way to the songthaews to the park entrance, and eventually ended up here. We are greeted by park rangers informing us that it's a ridiculous 400 Baht-per-person fee to enter the park (it's 10 times more for foreigners than for Thai people), but what the hell, we came all the way here so we have to pay it.

Right inside the gate is a large shrine with thousands of animal statues, mostly of elephants and roosters.  Motorcyclists and cars are stopping to worship on their way in and out of the park.  We begin trying to hitch-hike to the park's visitor center, about 15km inland....

Right inside the gate is a large shrine with thousands of animal statues, mostly of elephants and roosters. Motorcyclists and cars are stopping to worship on their way in and out of the park. We begin trying to hitch-hike to the park's visitor center, about 15km inland....

... after only about 10 minutes trying to hitch, some friendly Thai tourists give us a ride to the large, modern visitor's center, which is surprisingly developed.  Dozens of deer are roaming around all around the visitor's center area, and are not shy at all around the people there.  We can walk very close to the deer to take their photos!

... after only about 10 minutes trying to hitch, some friendly Thai tourists give us a ride to the large, modern visitor's center, which is surprisingly developed. Dozens of deer are roaming around all around the visitor's center area, and are not shy at all around the people there. We can walk very close to the deer to take their photos!

After the visitor's center, a friendly park ranger helps us hitch our next ride, with 2 enthusiastic old Thai ladies, one of which works in Russia!  The ladies stop here to take in the scenery of the Sai Som Reservoir...

After the visitor's center, a friendly park ranger helps us hitch our next ride, with 2 enthusiastic old Thai ladies, one of which works in Russia! The ladies stop here to take in the scenery of the Sai Som Reservoir...

... at the beautiful Sai Som Reservoir inside the park, in mid-afternoon.  Feeling great!  There are a lot of Thai tourists around, though sadly we didn't spot any wildlife around the reservoir at this point....

... at the beautiful Sai Som Reservoir inside the park, in mid-afternoon. Feeling great! There are a lot of Thai tourists around, though sadly we didn't spot any wildlife around the reservoir at this point....

Soon, we pile back into the car and the ladies take us to the nearby Lum Ta Khong campsite... the place has a lot of campers around, but we find a spectacular spot right beside the river and set up our tents.  Feeling great!

Soon, we pile back into the car and the ladies take us to the nearby Lum Ta Khong campsite... the place has a lot of campers around, but we find a spectacular spot right beside the river and set up our tents. Feeling great!

Get to the park and get inside?  Check.  Hitch-hike to the campground?  Check.  Set up our tents?  Check!

Get to the park and get inside? Check. Hitch-hike to the campground? Check. Set up our tents? Check!

The Lam Ta Khong campsite is very developed, surprising to all of us.  There are probably over a hundred campers here, and there is also a restaurant, riverside cafe, lots of restrooms and shower areas, even a place to charge your smartphones and computers!  You can rent everything from tents, mattresses, blankets, pillows, cooking stuff, bikes, etc.  We are a bit disappointed it isn't so remote, but it's also very convenient and wonderfully lovely.  Great atmosphere....

The Lam Ta Khong campsite is very developed, surprising to all of us. There are probably over a hundred campers here, and there is also a restaurant, riverside cafe, lots of restrooms and shower areas, even a place to charge your smartphones and computers! You can rent everything from tents, mattresses, blankets, pillows, cooking stuff, bikes, etc. We are a bit disappointed it isn't so remote, but it's also very convenient and wonderfully lovely. Great atmosphere....

After setting up our tents, we explore the busy campground.  There are tons of deer roaming around all over, right next to the tents!  There are also monkeys, but for the moment they were staying in the trees on the perimeter.  I heard they are famous for going into tents when people are gone and stealing stuff, but thankfully they left our tents alone.....

After setting up our tents, we explore the busy campground. There are tons of deer roaming around all over, right next to the tents! There are also monkeys, but for the moment they were staying in the trees on the perimeter. I heard they are famous for going into tents when people are gone and stealing stuff, but thankfully they left our tents alone.....

On the creaky bridge and enjoying life in the park....

On the creaky bridge and enjoying life in the park....

View of the happy Lam Ta Khong campsite from the bridge...

View of the happy Lam Ta Khong campsite from the bridge...

Anna and Kristina crossing the bridge...

Anna and Kristina crossing the bridge...

On the opposite side of the bridge we find a short trail into the jungle....

On the opposite side of the bridge we find a short trail into the jungle....

crossing back over to our campsite....

crossing back over to our campsite....

Some of the many deer around the campsite, just hanging out.  They don't let you touch them, but it's easy to walk up right next to them....

Some of the many deer around the campsite, just hanging out. They don't let you touch them, but it's easy to walk up right next to them....

A civilized camp dinner for our first night in the park... cow pad with shrimp for me, and cha kheow yaen (iced green tea)... good times!!

A civilized camp dinner for our first night in the park... cow pad with shrimp for me, and cha kheow yaen (iced green tea)... good times!!

Surprisingly cold at night up here in the mountains, but other than that we slept comfortably....

Surprisingly cold at night up here in the mountains, but other than that we slept comfortably....

Last night, we saw some enormous Malaysian porcupines roaming around the campground!!!  They were amazing but I didn't get any photos.  But in the morning, I opened up the tent and literally right outside was this giant dragon!!!!  The damn thing had crawled up from the river next to our tent, and was just sitting there.  We looked at each other for awhile, and it didn't seem scared or shy at all, thought when I went outside it waddled a bit closer to the river...

Last night, we saw some enormous Malaysian porcupines roaming around the campground!!! They were amazing but I didn't get any photos. But in the morning, I opened up the tent and literally right outside was this giant dragon!!!! The damn thing had crawled up from the river next to our tent, and was just sitting there. We looked at each other for awhile, and it didn't seem scared or shy at all, thought when I went outside it waddled a bit closer to the river...

Anna inspecting the dragon before it goes back into the river....

Anna inspecting the dragon before it goes back into the river....

Pretty cool to wake up to this!!

Pretty cool to wake up to this!!

We spotted like 5 or so different dragons, each around 2 metres long, around the campsite in the morning.  Here is one in action, swimming away!

We spotted like 5 or so different dragons, each around 2 metres long, around the campsite in the morning. Here is one in action, swimming away!

I think Khao Yai Nat'l Park is the easiest place in the world i've ever hitched! In the morning, we pack up our camping stuff and plan to hitch to the Pha Kluai Mai campsite.  We hadn't even walked out of our original campsite before a truck stopped and gave us a lift there!  Good times!

I think Khao Yai Nat'l Park is the easiest place in the world i've ever hitched! In the morning, we pack up our camping stuff and plan to hitch to the Pha Kluai Mai campsite. We hadn't even walked out of our original campsite before a truck stopped and gave us a lift there! Good times!

Hitch-hiking in the park rules!!!!  We drive past tribes of monkeys, but still no chang (elephants)....

Hitch-hiking in the park rules!!!! We drive past tribes of monkeys, but still no chang (elephants)....

After checking into our new campsite and having the folks there hold our camping gear, we set off on the trail to the famous Haew Suwat waterfall.... the 3.8km trail goes through some amazing jungle!....

After checking into our new campsite and having the folks there hold our camping gear, we set off on the trail to the famous Haew Suwat waterfall.... the 3.8km trail goes through some amazing jungle!....

Lots of cool things to see on the trail, including some insane mushrooms!...

Lots of cool things to see on the trail, including some insane mushrooms!...

Huge trees covered in vines and other foliage all around the trail...

Huge trees covered in vines and other foliage all around the trail...

Before long, we make it to the Pha Kluai Mai waterfall, only 1km down the trail.  It's alright but not real special, and no spots to swim.  We take a snack break there and admire the jungle waterfall, while fish nibble at our feet sticking in the water...

Before long, we make it to the Pha Kluai Mai waterfall, only 1km down the trail. It's alright but not real special, and no spots to swim. We take a snack break there and admire the jungle waterfall, while fish nibble at our feet sticking in the water...

A bit further down the trail, we start to come across a lot of these signs!  gulp.... there is one single crocodile in the park, apparently someone had a pet crocodile and released it here, and although this is not its' native territory, they apparently decided to let it stay and give tourists something else to gawk at.  We cautiously proceed along the riverside trail, on the lookout for the solitary crocodile, but we never saw it, unfortunately...

A bit further down the trail, we start to come across a lot of these signs! gulp.... there is one single crocodile in the park, apparently someone had a pet crocodile and released it here, and although this is not its' native territory, they apparently decided to let it stay and give tourists something else to gawk at. We cautiously proceed along the riverside trail, on the lookout for the solitary crocodile, but we never saw it, unfortunately...

There are also apparently lots of monkeys on the trail at certain times, but we didn't see any of them, either.  We did, however, see some cool shit like these amazing mushrooms growing horizontally on a fallen tree....

There are also apparently lots of monkeys on the trail at certain times, but we didn't see any of them, either. We did, however, see some cool shit like these amazing mushrooms growing horizontally on a fallen tree....

some more cool mushrooms along the trail...

some more cool mushrooms along the trail...

Soon, we reach the finish line of the trail, and the Haew Suwat waterfall, which was made really famous in the 2000 movie 'the Beach', when Leo DiCaprio and his French bimbo jumped off the top of it.  I've always wanted to come here and do that jump (20 metres!!) since watching the movie.... there is a really nice restaurant hut next to the waterfall selling delicious and cheap Thai food!!

Soon, we reach the finish line of the trail, and the Haew Suwat waterfall, which was made really famous in the 2000 movie 'the Beach', when Leo DiCaprio and his French bimbo jumped off the top of it. I've always wanted to come here and do that jump (20 metres!!) since watching the movie.... there is a really nice restaurant hut next to the waterfall selling delicious and cheap Thai food!!

Welcome to Haew Suwat Waterfall, probably the main attraction of the park other than the abundance of wildlife...

Welcome to Haew Suwat Waterfall, probably the main attraction of the park other than the abundance of wildlife...

At the top of the 20-metre waterfall... there is the spot that Leo DiCaprio jumped off of!  But sadly, and much to my dismay, nobody is allowed to jump it anymore....

At the top of the 20-metre waterfall... there is the spot that Leo DiCaprio jumped off of! But sadly, and much to my dismay, nobody is allowed to jump it anymore....

... even more to my dismay, nobody is even allowed to swim in the water at the bottom of the waterfall, which is really disappointing cuz it's literally perfect for swimming!  I guess it just got too touristy :(

... even more to my dismay, nobody is even allowed to swim in the water at the bottom of the waterfall, which is really disappointing cuz it's literally perfect for swimming! I guess it just got too touristy 🙁

Hanging out at the bottom of the very impressive waterfall.  We were lucky to come at the end of the rainy season, where the waterfall is at its' most impressive.... we walk around the edge for awhile but it's very hard not to just jump in and swim.

Hanging out at the bottom of the very impressive waterfall. We were lucky to come at the end of the rainy season, where the waterfall is at its' most impressive.... we walk around the edge for awhile but it's very hard not to just jump in and swim.

Today is Loi Krathong, a big Thai festival where locals all over the country make floating 'baskets', usually from leaves, light a candle and set them off in water.  Although we missed the festivities in Bangkok or a city, we did spot Thai people throughout the day setting their baskets free in the water around the park.  This lady sets hers in the water below the waterfall we are at...

Today is Loi Krathong, a big Thai festival where locals all over the country make floating 'baskets', usually from leaves, light a candle and set them off in water. Although we missed the festivities in Bangkok or a city, we did spot Thai people throughout the day setting their baskets free in the water around the park. This lady sets hers in the water below the waterfall we are at...

Anna is enjoying the Haew Suwat waterfall... but no swimming!  There are signs everywhere warning of 1,000 Baht fines to anyone caught swimming.  But actually, I just went up to the top part of the waterfall, where there are no tourists at all, and went for a swim up there!

Anna is enjoying the Haew Suwat waterfall... but no swimming! There are signs everywhere warning of 1,000 Baht fines to anyone caught swimming. But actually, I just went up to the top part of the waterfall, where there are no tourists at all, and went for a swim up there!

After our hike and waterfall experience, we are once again very easily able to hitch-hike back to the ol' visitors center.  Once again, this park may be the easiest place to hitch-hike that i've ever been....

After our hike and waterfall experience, we are once again very easily able to hitch-hike back to the ol' visitors center. Once again, this park may be the easiest place to hitch-hike that i've ever been....

There is a small convenience shop in the buildings near the visitors' centre, which is tastefully named '7 elephant', haha...

There is a small convenience shop in the buildings near the visitors' centre, which is tastefully named '7 elephant', haha...

Starting another trek on a different trail... monkeys in the trees to greet us!

Starting another trek on a different trail... monkeys in the trees to greet us!

a cocoon of some sorts on this park sign...

a cocoon of some sorts on this park sign...

action from the trail!  we cross over many creeks, still in the search of the elusive chang but we haven't seen any yet...

action from the trail! we cross over many creeks, still in the search of the elusive chang but we haven't seen any yet...

unbelievably amazing super-tree in the middle of the trail... look at how big the roots are!

unbelievably amazing super-tree in the middle of the trail... look at how big the roots are!

lots of interesting mushrooms on the trails...

lots of interesting mushrooms on the trails...

we make it almost to the reservoir...

we make it almost to the reservoir...

at the lovely reservoir again, same place we arrived with our ride last afternoon!  And we saw a big turtle swimming in the water...

at the lovely reservoir again, same place we arrived with our ride last afternoon! And we saw a big turtle swimming in the water...

After a nice day of hiking and waterfall-spotting, we finally get back to the Pha Kluai Mai campsite, where we will stay for tonight.  We set up our tents...

After a nice day of hiking and waterfall-spotting, we finally get back to the Pha Kluai Mai campsite, where we will stay for tonight. We set up our tents...

Good times!  I read on internet that this is a better campsite than the one we stayed at last night, but to me it's far worse... has no river to swim in, and none of the abundance of animals (deer, porcupines, monkeys) roaming around.  It is less developed and has a lot less tourists, but also a lot less scenic and worse atmosphere.  And also, a group of lowlifes nearby were super-loud all night long so it was hard to sleep.  Oh well...

Good times! I read on internet that this is a better campsite than the one we stayed at last night, but to me it's far worse... has no river to swim in, and none of the abundance of animals (deer, porcupines, monkeys) roaming around. It is less developed and has a lot less tourists, but also a lot less scenic and worse atmosphere. And also, a group of lowlifes nearby were super-loud all night long so it was hard to sleep. Oh well...

sunset at our campsite.... and the super-moon, apparently the brightest moon in 58 years, is rising in the clear skies!

sunset at our campsite.... and the super-moon, apparently the brightest moon in 58 years, is rising in the clear skies!

lovely sunset, the clouds changing colours.  The super-moon was clearly visible from above and was nice to gaze at from this camping area...

lovely sunset, the clouds changing colours. The super-moon was clearly visible from above and was nice to gaze at from this camping area...

4 Responses

  1. Great adventure!

  2. Beautiful park! Those huge trees remind me of the banyon trees we saw in Hawaii. 🙂

  3. That elephant was AWESOME!

  4. I’m copying a couple of these to frame. <3

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