Tourist Thailand: Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai first came to my attention from several other PCVs mentioning their trip and the bugs they had placed on various parts of their body. Planning my Mom’s visit to Thailand, I knew we had to make a stop after reading again and again how staggeringly beautiful this park is.

On the edge of Nakon Ratchasima (Khorat to any Thai person), you get off the bus (or train) in Pak Chong. Most accommodation is somewhere within town or close by. Our guesthouse, Greenleaf, picked us up on the side of the road and swept us out-of-town. We arrived with just enough time to get some lunch before the half-day afternoon tour started. It felt a little rushed at the time, but looking back, I’m so glad we did it.

Our first stop was a natural spring that was beyond magnificent. I saw it through my Mom’s winter-tired eyes that made it seem like an explosion of green and blue with the crystal clear water that we swam around in. We weren’t the only ones, with a few groups of Thais joining in the water and armed with picnic lunches. It wasn’t crowded despite it being the start of high tourist time (winter for Thailand), but I imagine during the long afternoons of hot season, it would be packed.

Water looks inviting doesn't it?

Water looks inviting doesn’t it?

After our swim we were off to the bat cave, Bruce Wayne not included. I was a little freaked out as we descended underground, but once we got there, I was ready to get up close and personal with some creepy crawlers. And boy, did we.

This is the same kind of bug they used in Harry Potter.

This is the same kind of bug they used in Harry Potter.

This temple is just outside of the bat cave. I loved how the light was hitting it at the end of the day.

This temple is just outside of the bat cave. I loved how the light was hitting it at the end of the day.

The guide picked these little guys up and told us to put them in our mouths as tasty snacks. They surprised us by popping the moment they touched our wet tongues.

The guide picked these little guys up and told us to put them in our mouths as tasty snacks. It surprised us by popping open the moment they touched our wet tongues.

I found the bats equal parts fascinating and disgusting. More than once I felt wings flapping in front of my face once we turned our flashlights off. Never before had I seen so many bats in one place, and babies too! The cave we went inside was apparently quite small compared to our next stop outside of a different one. As the sky turned dark we watched millions upon millions of bats flood out in search for dinner. It was really difficult to capture in a photo or on video, so dear blogette, you’ll just have to go yourself one day to take it all in.

Oh hey, what's up guys?

Oh hey, what’s up guys?

The next day we were in for a whole day of hiking within the national park. We spotted gibbons up in the trees, toucans in the sky, and a family of wild elephants who roam freely (they have a couple hundred within the park). The hike we did with our guesthouse was very doable, even if you aren’t in any sort of exercise shape. More difficult treks are available though too with camping in the park. I’ll let the photos tell the story from here.

These guys were bold enough to accept food from people's hands. We were told not to encourage them though.

These guys were bold enough to accept food from people’s hands. We were told not to encourage them though.

Not the first photo I've imitated a bear in a national park...

Not the first photo I’ve imitated a bear in a national park… don’t forget your leech socks!

Didn't hurt but it wouldn't be comfortable either.

Didn’t hurt but it wouldn’t be comfortable either.

This day I learned female spiders are usually bigger than their male counterparts so the gals can eat them after mating. Must be nice.

This day I learned female spiders are usually bigger than their male counterparts so the gals can eat them after mating. Must be nice.

This is one of the coolest trees I've ever seen. You could climb inside and no one would even know you were there if you didn't want them to.

This is one of the coolest trees I’ve ever seen. You could climb inside and no one would even know you were there if you didn’t want them to.

No the bugs weren't done after day one.

No the bugs weren’t done after day one.

Mid-hike, we leave the rain forest for the grasslands. It was so beautiful watching the different directions of the wind in the grass.

Mid-hike, we leave the rain forest for the grasslands. It was so beautiful watching the different directions of the wind in the grass.

One of the guides taught us a little scorpion lullaby... clearly this guy is in need of one.

One of the guides taught us a little scorpion lullaby… clearly this guy is in need of one.

Totally uninterested in us.

Totally uninterested in us.

Mid-day lunch break (provided) at this scenic spot. I'd say they picked a good one.

Mid-day lunch break (provided) at this scenic spot. I’d say they picked a good one.

We ended the day with a visit to one of the many waterfalls within the park.

We ended the day with a visit to one of the many waterfalls within the park.

Even if you’re not a nature or hiking kind of person, I would definitely suggest a visit to Khao Yai. I cut a few days off of Bangkok sites so that my Mom and I could have time in Khao Yai instead and I think we were both glad for that schedule change. It’s developed enough for non-Thai speakers to be able to get in and out easily, but not overcrowded in the least. An awesome alternative to the Bangkok-Chiang Mai-Phuket itinerary that many travelers stick to.

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