Situated about three hours from Bangkok is the beautiful Khao Yai National Park. Here you can find wild elephants roaming (well at least you will find steaming piles of fresh poo meaning they had to be there somewhere), wild monkeys at the scenic overlooks begging for food from visitors, cobras (or at least the big sign that says “cobra crossing”), leeches, waterfalls, and much more.
It had been a while since we had left Bangkok and my body was craving fresh air or at the very least the lack of the nasty smell coming up from the khlong that is so pungent I can taste it in my mouth as I walk home. We rented a car for very cheap from Sixt rental off of Soi 24, packed up the bag and the toddler and took off during the holiday weekend. The traffic out of town wasn’t bad when we left around 9:30am and as soon as you were out of the city you couldn’t help but notice the lack of gray smog hovering in the air. Freedom!
What to do
We had an idea of what we wanted to do during our time in Khao Yai but nothing was set, we wanted to go with the flow. Here are the fun family activities that we did during our stay.
I made a reservation for the three of us to go on the winery tour and tasting in the early afternoon. We arrived around 12:30pm, we planned to be there earlier for a relaxed lunch but the GPS program on the iPhone through Apple was total garbage and took us about 30 minutes the wrong direction. I would suggest you use Google maps.
The restaurant at the winery has a Western and Thai menu that will please anyone in your group. You can relax on their patio with a reservation or enjoy the air con while you dine inside the restaurant. The setting is serene with flower gardens filled with butterflies, a pond, and a small play area for kids to work out that pent-up energy from the car ride.
The winery has tours every day at 10:30am, 1:30pm, and 3:30pm lasting for about 90 minutes. This is an easy tour to do with your child because there are several stops where you can explore. My son loved the tractor ride to the winery, where we learned the history of the winery and how everything is made. After learning all about the process we were taken to the tasting. This was our favorite part; we enjoyed several different wines while our toddler enjoyed the grape juice. After the tasting, we hopped back on the tractor with the group and made our way through the vineyards and other orchards full of different fruit trees.
The tour is only 250 baht per adult and children are free of charge. What a fun, inexpensive afternoon. After the tour, be sure to stop in the wine shop to pick up a couple of bottles of wine, jams, and their other offerings.
We went for three different hikes during our time in Khao Yai, because you know most toddlers are not going to allow for an entire day of hiking on top of the fact that daddy can’t carry the kid in the baby backpack all day. As we approached the park, we saw the prices to enter (all written in Thai) were a little steep but luckily we had brought out passport with our work permit and visa; after we showed that the entrance fee was minimal.
As we made our way through the park, with the windows down and the cool air whipping through our hair with the music playing, it felt like we were back home taking a drive through Caesars Head; the closest thing we are going to get to the feel of fall in Thailand. The first overlook is beautiful but be careful of the wild monkeys. Yes, they are cute but don’t be stupid and get close to them and be sure to hold your little ones close just in case. It’s always important to remember a wild animal is just that WILD!
There are several overlooks where you might be lucky enough to spot the herd of wild elephants. There is also a trail you can take to the observation outlook. This is a very easy hike for the family to enjoy. We made our way to the visitor’s center for a map, a look around to learn more about the national park, and an iced coffee and we were back in the car to make the drive to the “easy” hike since we had the toddler.
The easy hike and waterfall the visitor’s center suggested was to see Haew Suwat Falls. This is the same waterfall filmed in the movie The Beach, not that we had any idea. It was an easy hike with a wide path, lots of people, and no leeches. You do have to ascend down a very steep staircase but nothing that we couldn’t handle with a toddler on our back. Once at the bottom, we continued climbing over rocks to get a little closer to the falls (see my photos of the park here. Taken with my Nikon D3100). It was a lovely hike and then it was back to the car to see what else we could find.
On our last day, we left the hotel very early to get to the park while it was still cool to get in one more hike and as much fresh air as possible. We did another easy hike, the nature trail around the visitor center. The path was paved and wound through the jungle. We were enjoying the hike until it got real for me… I smacked my head on a low hanging vine (that was solid) but at the same time I scared off the MASSIVE (or it seemed that way to me) monkey that was hanging out eating his lunch. I felt like I was in the latest Hunger Games movie with the crazy killer monkeys! So I was on my guard and super nervous the rest of the trek that was until the inevitable happened….
I had heard the best time to visit the park was during the rainy season to see the waterfalls in full force. The recommendations were right! The waterfalls are breathtaking! We had also been warned about the leeches and we saw the tourists with their leech bags over their pants and we just laughed to ourselves because we hadn’t seen any leeches during our hikes.
During our nature trail adventure on the paved path, where I thought I was nervous about a monkey attack something awful happened. Chris said to me hold still, which really is never good to hear when you are in nature, “I think there is a leaf on you.” I assured him I was fine, at this moment all I can think about is not finding another monkey but now that he has drawn attention to my ankles with a leaf I look down. I see a very small (I am taking tiny) thing on my sock. I bend down to see what it is and there are two. I then realize it’s burrowing through my sock into my skin! THE LEECHES EVERYONE WAS TALKING ABOUT! A lot of bad words came flying out of my mouth as I try to pull the blood suckers out of my flesh and thank the good Lord my son didn’t repeat any of them. Chris in his best soothing calming, talk you back from the ledge voice says “It’s ok. Don’t panic.” I yell “DON’T PANIC! YOU DON’T HAVE LEECHES ON YOU RIGHT NOW! SHUT YOUR FACE!” I pull them off and that was the end of my fun nature experience. I started running down the paved path and looking back at Chris and Killi. “Let’s move it boys! I want out of here now!” I yelled back to them. Luckily we were near the end of the trail, leeches had been removed and we drove through the rest of the park back to Bangkok.
I will never again giggle at the tourists in leech socks. Lesson learned.
We stayed in the Greenery Resort because I had heard from other parents it was a great family resort. I will say this about the Greenery: the rooms are average but the food was inedible. The food at both restaurant locations within the resort are so bad the last night we opted to simply eat peanuts on the balcony with some wine and beer. We could not imagine stomaching the awful food again. Luckily, Killi loved the pizza so he ate just fine during his trip.
The best part of this resort is the Aqua Park. We spent two afternoons playing for hours in the park going down the slides and playing with the water guns! This was the best part of our stay at The Greenery!
I had heard from several parents that the place to go is Chok Chai Farm. Here you can see farm animals and how milk is produced. We drove by Chok Chai Farms on our way to the winery (when we were going the wrong way) and it was packed with cars and visitors; we decided against going back. Instead, we visited the horse farm called Farm Mor Por. One of our contributors for BAMBI News had written an article about the horse farm and how it was a wonderful way for a family to spend the weekend so we stopped there for an afternoon instead. This was the first time my son had seen farm animals up close and ridden a horse, well it was a small pony but he is a small guy so I think it still counts.
I highly recommend an afternoon visit or you can stay the entire weekend at Farm Mor Por (you can make reservations by sending them an email). This is a working farm where your kids not only have the opportunity to ride the horses but they will learn how to take care of them by giving them a bath, feeding them or cleaning up their stalls. There are also baby pigs you can hold (Killi’s favorite part) or head over to the free range chicken coup to pick fresh eggs. We should have explained to our toddler first that the eggs are delicate and should not be thrown into the basket even if they are shaped (sort of) like a ball but that slipped our mind; again lesson learned.
Khao Yai was a great getaway to do once during our time in Bangkok!
Fresh air, beautiful scenery, animals, and fun! All toddler approved!