Our visit to Khao Yai National Park wasn’t really planned, we just happened to end up in a city close by. When we realized this we changed our plans and took a 2 hour long bus ride to get to Pak Chong – the city to which parts of Khao Yai National Park belongs. Because, who wants to miss out on seeing some wild animals when you have the opportunity to? No one, duh.
Our experience turned out to be so good that we have to tell you guys about it. So, here’s a little post about our two days in Khao Yai National Park.
A $2 VIP-Bus-Ride From Khorat to Pak Chong
Once we’d decided to go to Pak Chong and visit Khao Yai National Park, we did some research about how to get there (cause we had no idea). First we thought we’d take the train. But we soon realized that the bus was a better option. This was due to the fact that the price differed by less than 60 cents and the bus had AC, the train didn’t. Also, we stayed in a place located 2 minutes from the bus station so it made things even more simple.
So, on departure day we went to the bus station, bought our tickets and jumped on the bus towards Pak Chong. It didn’t take long until we thanked ourselves for choosing the bus. The AC was lovely and the big, comfortable seats were well appreciated. From the bus station we got picked up by a driver from the tour company. We got into the pickup and enjoyed not having to walk with our bags for once.
We got dropped of at the guesthouse and checked in to our super cozy room in their lovely garden. After we’d settled down, we enjoyed an amazing lunch and waited for the clock to turn 3pm.
Day 1: Bat caves, Freshwater Springs and Temples
The first day was really only half a day, and it wasn’t really spent in Khao Yai National Park. I will tell you everything in a second. The tour should have started at 3pm, but due to heavy rain (it was literally pouring down) we left at 3.30pm. Oh yes, the rain was still pouring down. I tried to stay positive by thinking of something my mum used to tell me when I was a kid – “It’s just water Ophelia, you should be happy it’s not lemonade. That would’ve been very sticky”. She’s a very clever woman, my mother.
Anyways, it was Pajam and I, and 7 other people. We were the youngest people in the group. We all took a seat in the pickup, trying to avoid the rain by hoovering under the roof in our rain ponchos and rain jackets. Everyone was super excited though. The first stop was the bat cave.
Entering a Bat Cave and Visiting Temples
None of us had ever been to a bat cave before, so we had no idea what to expect. Our guide handed out flashlights and he led us down some steep stairs into a dark cave. We were welcomed by Buddha statues, pedestals and a frowsy smell. Our guide gave us some facts about bat caves and bats in general before we walked further into the cave. The smell got heavier and the darkness more obvious. Soon the only thing that lit up our way was our flashlights and the flashes from cameras.
It didn’t take long before we reached deep enough to see the ceiling filled with hundreds of bats. They all hung upside down, sleeping. Some got scared when they heard us and shifted sleeping spot by flying, not high above our heads, from one spot to another. It was now obvious what that weird smell was, because we were standing in layer after layer of “guano” – bat shit.
We kept on walking deeper into the cave. At some points Pajam had to nearly walk on his knees to not hit his head in the ceiling of the cave. This was one of those rare occasions where I am really, really happy about being short. Our guide had told us this cave contained between 400 and 500 bats. I still have a hard time believing there wasn’t more than that… It felt as if there were bats everywhere. The cave also contained several holy statues, pedestals and offering gifts from visitors.
Once we got out from the cave, the rain had stopped. On our way back to the car we passed several temples and greeted a couple of monks doing their daily businesses outside the temples. We got back to the car and there were cookies and water waiting for each one of us – yum!
Watching Bats Leave Their Cave In The Sunset
We got back into the pickup truck and started driving towards the spot from where we would watch millions of bats leaving their cave in the sunset to find food. To be honest, I had a hard time believing we would see millions of bats, like our guide had told us. I figured there would be a lot, but thought that the word “million” was used mostly to make it sound like a lot. Oh, how wrong was I… We parked the pickup next to a big field, in front of a big mountain, and waited…
Within 15 minutes falcons started circulating around the cave, up in the big mountain in front of us. Our guide told us that this meant that the bats shortly would start pouring out, since the falcons eat bats when they come out of their cave. Shortly thereafter bats came flying out in a huge line that never seemed to end. It’s really hard to explain… But this “thick line” of bats continued to pour out of the cave for at least 25 minutes. It was such a crazy experience, seeing millions (yes, millions) of bats flying out of their cave, forming beautiful patterns while flying in a perfect line, far into the distance.
Once the number of bats coming out of the cave decreased, the guides took out fruits for us to eat before it was time to head to the freshwater spring.
Visiting a freshwater spring
This probably would’ve been super cool if it wasn’t for the fact that it was pitch black outside by now. Initially, the plan was to start with the water spring, but they changed the plan due to the rain. So, when we finally went, it was way too dark to even consider taking a swim. Instead of swimming in the spring, our guide showed us some cool animals in the forest before we headed back to the guesthouse.
On our way back to the guesthouse, our guide spotted a snake on the road. I really don’t understand how he did it… It was dark, we were driving and the snake was tiny – still, he saw it. We stopped the car and jumped out to take a closer look. He gave us some facts about it and then put it back into the bushes and we continued driving back.
As soon as we got off the pickup, Paj and I sat down in the restaurant at the guesthouse and ordered an amazing dinner. Once our plates were empty (which didn’t take long), it was time to go to sleep. We sat the alarm at 6.45 and quickly fell asleep, very excited about the next day.
Day 2: Wildlife Safari and Trekking in the Jungle
Okay, so the first day was just a warm up. Today was the real deal. We were so excited about what this day had to offer! The only thing we knew was that we would be exploring Khao Yai National Park, by car and by foot, and that if we were really lucky, we could spot a wild elephant. We’ve never seen a wild elephant before, and I love elephants, so we basically slept with our fingers crossed for this to happen.
We started the day with a small breakfast containing some mixed, fresh fruits – yum! Once we’d finished our breakfast, it was time to get into the pickup and get going. It took less than 10 minutes before our guide spotted a snake in the bushes along the way. We stopped and walked straight through the bushes to get a closer look. Again, we got amazed by how these guides could spot animals just like that. The snake was not big nor very colorful. I know for sure that I never would have spotted it. 10 minutes into the day we knew it was going to be an epic day.
Spotting hornbills, a gibbon, monkeys and deer
We drove for a good while before we reached Khao Yai National Park. It didn’t take long from that until we spotted the first wild animals in the national park. Our guide took out his spotting scope and let us all have a look. We spotted two beautiful, colorful, big hornbills and one playful, young gibbon. This day couldn’t have started any better. We were both so excited for what to come!
After a while we got back to the pickup and kept on driving deeper into Khao Yai National Park. We stopped a couple of times to watch monkeys and deer along the way.
We drove for maybe 30minutes and then took a quick break at a viewpoint. I bet the view would’ve been wonderful if it wasn’t for all the fog and clouds that day. Anyhow, we were just happy it didn’t rain.
Before we went further into Khao Yai National Park, our guide handed out leech socks to everyone of us. They would protect against ticks and leeches while trekking in the jungle. I can’t say they were very fashionable, but hey, safety first guys! Once everyone had put their trendy socks on, we jumped back into the pickup and went to the next stop.
The next stop was right next to a lake. Our guide showed us birds, lizards, snakes and deer. Now I was not only impressed by how good his vision was, but his hearing and his ability to answer and call more or less every animal specie he heard was insane! He’s an animal whisperer. And what we didn’t know was that this was only the beginning… He would get even better.
Before starting going into the jungle, we got some time to walk around on our own. Paj and I walked to the other side of the street and it took less than 2 minutes before we spotted several monkey families and a deer couple. They were all trying to steal food and drinks from the restaurants nearby. The restaurant staff had to spend more time on keeping the monkeys away from the food than on cooking food and serving customers.
25 minutes later we were back in the pickup, on our way to where we would be starting the trek in the jungle. We were really excited about this part. Mostly because we had no idea what to expect. All we knew was that the trek would go on for about 3 hours and we would end it at the big waterfall in Khao Yai National Park. Before going into the jungle, our guide handed out some bananas and sticky rice for us to eat – mmm! And then, off we were!
We quickly realized that we would not have dared to do this on our own. The path was barely visible, spiders and other insects hid everywhere, all kinds of animals could be heard in the distance and we had to duck, jump, climb and turn here and there not to walk straight into trees and plants. Our guide kept on calling and answering animals in the far distance and stopped every now and then to give us interesting facts and show us what only he could spot. He showed us spiders in every sizes, lizards in every color, poisonous snakes and non-poisonous snakes, insects we had never seen before, bird nests, huge, black squirrels, beautiful plants and flowers, a tiny waterfall, a turtle and even a crocodile! It was incredible!
After a couple of hours we had a lunch break in the most epic scenery. We were already overwhelmed and only half the day had passed. Shortly after our lunch break we reached the waterfall. There we got to be on our own for half an hour, before it was time to go and look for elephants!
Spotting Our First Wild Elephant Ever
Our guide had told us that it’s very rare that they spot elephants in Khao Yai National Park. Not because they aren’t there (they definitely are, there’s elephant poop all over the place), but because Khao Yai National park is huge and it’s not like the guides can just ask the elephants to come out and show themselves (even if that’d barely surprise us after this day). Therefore, we didn’t have very high expectations (but very high hopes). Our guide told us that we would be driving around Khao Yai National Park for a while and look for elephants.
Paj and I looked everywhere for elephants when we drove around. We barely blinked. We simply couldn’t risk missing seeing the elephants. During the drive, we got a bit surprised. The driver was driving very fast (way faster than he’d done earlier that day) and he didn’t stop when we passed monkeys and deer (like he ‘d been doing all day). We didn’t think much of it though, we were too busy looking for elephants.
After a while the driver turned left and it was clear then why we had been driving so fast. There were three other pickups parked. My heart jumped. Everyone were looking in the same direction. This was it. The guides in the other pickups pointed towards the big bushes and trees. NO WAY. There he was. The biggest, most beautiful and the most magnificent elephant I had ever seen. The only thing I could get out was “Pajam!” and soon he looked just as amazed as I did.
We slowly passed him with the pickup. The driver parked and we got out. We walked closer. We were standing maximum 25 meters away from one of the most incredible animals on earth. It was insane. I can’t even explain the feeling. He was huge, and gorgeous. I just wanted to get closer and pet him. Luckily I did understand that this probably wasn’t the best idea. Somehow it was so peaceful standing there and watch him eat. He just accepted the fact that tenths of human beings stood and watched him while he enjoyed his dinner.
We got back into the pickup so that we could drive up next to him and get an even closer look. This was amazing. The driver stopped right in front of him. He kept on eating and watching us as he did. I was starstrucked. I’m not sure he was as amazed by me as I was of him however. Before we left he pooped in our direction… It didn’t matter though, I was so happy.
Back to the guesthouse
I think I smiled all the way back to the guesthouse. The monkeys and birds all of a sudden didn’t seem as cool as they had done earlier that day (sorry fellas). We got to see everything we had hoped for and much more during this day. It had been such a perfect day. Nothing could’ve made it better. Everything was top notch. Wow.
To top it all of, we ended the day with an amazing dinner at the guesthouse. That night I slept like a baby. I was so thankful for this experience and for being able to share it all with my best friend.
Greenleaf Guesthouse and Tour, Khao Yai National Park
We would love to give a huge shout-out to the tour company we went with – Greenleaf. What an amazing company.
We found out about this company by fellow travelers through instagram (@travelingfortwo, go check them out!). Once we heard about it we were nowhere near Khao Yai National Park but decided to check it out once we were. Due to (or thanks to?) Pajam spending a couple of days in the hospital, we got the opportunity to go to Pak Chong earlier than planned. So, we contacted Greenleaf and very smoothly booked a 1.5 days tour and two days accommodation.
Greenleaf is a family-owned guesthouse that organizes tours with their very knowledgeable guides. They’re located between Khao Yai National Park and the city of Pak Chong. Their facilities contain private rooms with either a fan or an AC, a super cozy garden and a restaurant that serves heavenly-tasting food.
They offer one half-day tour and one full-day tour. The two are very different, so it’s definitely worth considering doing both. During the half-day tour you’ll be exploring interesting sites in the area. The full-day tour is spent in Khao Yai National Park only. Our “Day 1” was the half-day tour and our “Day 2” was the full-day tour.
It seems to be maximum 10 people participating in each tour (excluding the guide and the driver). Every group gets to spend their days with amazing guides that speaks very good English and has a lot of knowledge about the area.
There are different prices depending on which tour(s) you decide to go with.
- Half day tour only: 500 baht/person (~ 16usd).
- Full day tour only: 1300 baht/person (~ 41usd)
- 1.5 day tour (both tours): 1500 baht/person (~ 48usd)
Every tour includes transportation, an English-speaking guide, snacks and water. The full-day tour also includes lunch, park entrance fee and leech socks. Also, if you book the full day tour or both tours, pickup from the bus station or train station is included.
Greenleaf also offer different types of accommodation.
- Basic private room with private bathroom, fan and no hot water: 300 baht/night (~ 9.5usd).
- Private room with private bathroom, AC and hot water: 600 baht/night (~ 19usd).
What Our Experience Cost Us
We did the 1.5 days tour and stayed in the basic private room for 2 nights. We ate every meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in the restaurant at the guesthouse. Keep in mind that we eat a lot (and this food was delicious, so we ate more than usual). Also, everything we drank and all the snacks we ate during these days were bought at the guesthouse.
For all this we payed 4300 baht (~ 136usd) in total, that is for two people. It was so worth it!