Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

This is the final article about the Khao Yai area in Nakhon Ratchasima, a province in northeast Thailand. The first post featured Palio Khao Yai, an Italian-themed village, and the second Farm Chokchai, home to Thailand’s largest dairy ranch. This article showcases Khao Yai National Park.

Khao Yai National Park is Thailand’s oldest and second largest national park covering 2,168 square kilometers (1,350 square miles) in the foothills of the Dong Phaya Yen Mountains. It lies two hours by car northeast of Bangkok and is a popular getaway destination.

The Royal Thai government designated Khao Yai a national park in 1962. In 1984, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations named it an ASEAN Heritage Park, and in 2005, UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site under the name Dong Phaya Yen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, noting that it “contains more than 800 fauna species, including 112 species of mammals, 392 species of birds and 200 reptiles and amphibians. It is internationally important for the conservation of globally threatened and endangered mammal, bird and reptile species that are recognised as being of outstanding universal value. This includes 1 critically endangered, 4 endangered and 19 vulnerable species.”

The name “Khao Yai” originated from a small mountain township (in Thai, tambon) incorporated in 1922 and abolished a decade later when the residents were relocated to the nearby plain.

Humans and animals continued to co-exist in the area after the national park was established. In addition to small villages along the park’s feeder roads, large-scale developments, from dairy farms and wineries to hotel resorts and residential communities, have sprung up in and around Khao Yai. This has led to debates over land use, local development, conservation, environmental sustainability, and wildlife protection.

We spent a weekend in February 2012 camping near the park. It was an odd setting for a camping trip as we stayed in tents on the grounds of Cabbages & Condoms Resort (also known as “C&C” for those who avoid mentioning its full name). Camping on manicured lawns on a terraced hillside amid uniform palm trees in the shadow of a Buddhist monastery was a far cry from the wilderness camping that I enjoyed while growing up in the western United States. Nevertheless, it was an excellent introduction to camping and “roughing it” for my young son.

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (1)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (3)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (7)

During our campout, we went hiking in the park and enjoyed its scenic beauty. The trail passed through subtropical forest that reminded me I was in Southeast Asia.

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (10)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (15)

I couldn’t quite forget that we were staying in a resort. Tempting as it was to use the pool, I resisted the urge to soak in the chlorinated water. If I couldn’t have an authentic camping experience, at least I did my best to rough it.

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (16)

Although we didn’t see any of the big game animals — elephants, tigers, or Asiatic black bears — along the way, we encountered some monkeys, lizards, geckos, and other wildlife as well as gorgeous flora.

We also saw some not-so-wild creatures such as an ornery gaggle of geese and the biggest rooster I’ve ever seen. After he crossed the road, I tried to ask him why, but he gave me a “don’t mess with me” look. I left him alone.

Signs of humans were evident throughout Khao Yai. Small farms lined the road all the way to the park’s doorstep. Unlike the large developments built in recent years, those who had lived in the area for decades seemed to have found a way to inhabit it without leaving an intrusive footprint, as evidenced by the “school bus” truck taking students home after school.

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (28)

On the last day of our camping trip, we drove through the rest of the park. Along the way we passed by villages, vineyards, homesteads, and gated communities. One moment we saw villas that reminded me of Tuscany and the next,  a Buddhist temple. It was an odd mix of development that left me amused and bewildered. I wondered whether the park would survive in the long term with this kind of encroaching sprawl.

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (30)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (31)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (32)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (33)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai

I think the area will ultimately find the right balance. Thailand has found a way to flourish organically, and Khao Yai is a heterogeneous microcosm of all there is to love about this wonderfully diverse place.

If you’re looking for a fun daytrip out of Bangkok that will give you a taste of the eclectic side of Thailand, Khao Yai is a great choice.

More About the Khao Yai Area of Thailand:

Palio Khao Yai, an Italian-themed shopping center near Khao Yai National Park.

Farm Chokchai, Thailand’s largest dairy farm with theme park-style attractions and entertainment reminiscent of the American Frontier.

Map picture


buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

    • mgedwards

      It was so beautiful! I thought I was camping in a postcard. 🙂 I know…my son hasn’t had many opportunities to do things like camping and Cub Scouts, so we’re making up for lost time. We plan to do more in the “fall”…well, there’s no fall really because it’s hot all the time, but the end of the year is a little cooler. Thai camping food? Oh, it was buffet at the C&C restaurant, but psst…don’t tell anyone. We were “roughing it.” 😉

  1. Lada Ray

    Wow, great pics, Mike! Loved this adventure. Palm trees, what can be better. How hot is it right now? And is it very humid there? Also, do you know how close this area is to Chiang Mai?

    • mgedwards

      Thanks, Lada! It’s been fun going through my photos. WA’s off to Korea next week. LOL camping under palm trees is fun. At the moment the weather is hot and humid but bearable…somewhere in the low 30s C. The daily rainstorms cool things off. Khao Yai is quite a way from Chiang Mai. I heard that CM is a 10 hour drive from Bangkok, and Khao Yai is just about the same in another direction. Keep on blogging!

      • Lada Ray

        Thanks, Mike. Have you ever been to Chiang Mai? If you have, would love to see a blog post about that. 🙂
        I heard interesting things about CM and a friend of mine lives there. I am very curious what your opinion is.

        • mgedwards

          We haven’t been to CM yet. We almost went for Songkran, Thai New Year, but decided to wait and take a later trip — maybe early next year. I hear it’s gorgeous with a lot of opps to enjoy nature. BTW, we’re going to visit the Tiger Temple in late July. Photos coming soon! 🙂

          • Lada Ray

            Yay! Can’t wait to see them!
            My husband loves your posts too and is asking, where do you get so much time to travel? Seems like every week. He travels on business a lot and already forgot how much we traveled for fun when we first met. 😉

          • mgedwards

            Cool! Ha ha, that’s my secret. 😉 Seriously though, I have a decade’s worth of travel photos to go through, so it looks like we travel nonstop but really don’t. I haven’t left Bangkok in weeks. We try to get out of town once a month and every quarter leave the country, although it doesn’t always work that way. I’m itching to hit the road again. Living overseas hopping from country to country is a great way to do lots of fascinating regional travel. You should try to travel more locally for fun like the kind you post on your blog. They’re great posts!

          • Lada Ray

            You are such a gypsy, just like me. We must be related somehow. 😉 Itching to travel is such a Sagittarius trait, too. You are def a typical Sag (if you are into astrology).
            We always traveled a lot locally, every single weekend, and I’ve got tons of pics. We know the US Northeast backwards and forwards. Perhaps will post one day. Right now, we both seem to be incredibly busy with our current projects. He travels on business and I think he’s a bit tired of traveling. One day, it’s just like – I’ve seen all that already… You know what I mean?
            I, on the other hand, might take a few months off and go back to Eastern Europe: The Black Sea, Odessa, Moldavia, Bulgaria, The Balkans, Cyprus, perhaps Turkey. Still lost of pristine, quiet places there. I miss those parts terribly.

  2. mgedwards

    Well, I suppose so! Whenever people ask me my sign, I usually answer “stop.” 🙂 Seriously though, I’m actually a Scorpio…beware my sting! Maybe I’m a closet Sagittarius. Funny, I know what you mean about travel fatigue. We were feeling it too and slowed down — my wife’s back injury forced us to defer some travel for a while. It’s that moment when you say “Should we go to K.L., Hong Kong, or Singapore? Are they really that different? Let’s just stay home.” (We went to Hong Kong.) Eastern Europe is one part of the world I haven’t been to yet. My wife really wants to go to Europe, but I tell her that I’d rather wait until we move there in the future on another overseas assignment and focus on regional travel here. She loved Bulgaria and wants to go back. There’s a Greece/Turkey trip waiting for us when the euro crisis and Syrian-Turkish tensions cool off.

    Keep on writing! My book outline is almost done.

    • mgedwards

      Hi, thank you very much! I’m glad you like it. I try to update it once or twice a week with new travelogues from around the world. The pool is part of a resort called C&C Khao Yai Resort. Part of it has been set aside for camping (which we did) and the other has a hotel with a pool. It’s a great place to stay. Here’s the website: The reference to cabbage and condoms has to do with the fact that it’s run by an NGO that support sustainable farming and responsible family planning.

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