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Khao Yai Tour

A day tour of UNESCO World Heritage Khao Yai National Park

Some photos and a brief description of a day tour to Thailand’s World Heritage Khao Yai National Park. (Or, Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, to give it the full UNESCO title.)

Covering over 2000 square kilometres of grassland and tropical forest Khao Yai was established back in 1962, subsequently receiving UNESCO World Heritage status in 2005. The terrain consists of relatively low, undulating hills, rising to some 1350 metres while a convenient location, a mere 120 or so kilometres from downtown Bangkok, makes the well-preserved jungle landscape easily accessible to visitors.

Khao Yai National Park
The landscape is mainly forest-clad hills

Not surprisingly then the park is popular so, our first priority is an expert, local guide to lead us down the lesser-known jungle trails and show us the best wildlife spotting locations. Our very knowledgeable and helpful guide Pong provided all that and more – including helping us to get some great photos – and it was great to be led around by a specialist whose enthusiasm levels were clearly equal to those of our group members.

Khao Yai
The forest edge is a good potential area for elephant sightings

He took us down barely visible jungle trails to find a family of gibbons and managed to locate no less than three species of hornbills while talking us through the jungle flora and fauna with a clear and proficient level of English.

Khao Yai gibbon
Very noisy and inquisitive white-handed gibbon
Green-tailed broadbill, Khao Yai National Park
Green-tailed broadbill, Khao Yai National Park

The Park is huge so the second essential is a decent 4WD vehicle and our day tour was split between jungle hiking and a safari tour from the comfort of the back of an open truck. This enabled us to cover more ground, avoid the more popular spots and access some of the more off-the-beaten-track areas. (We saw visitors, who’d turned up by public bus, actually trying to hitch around the park whereas a minimum outlay affords a professional guide and transport. If you’re only going to visit Khao Yai once in your life, you may as well do it properly!

Trekking group
Some of our group insisted on modelling the dubious elephant pants and leech socks combination despite only seeing two of the little darlings all day.

We arrived in the afternoon from nearby Ayutthaya ancient city – so it was actually two Thai UNESCO sites in two days – and stayed overnight at a well-located, low-key, albeit comfortable resort situated in the closeest village to the main Park entrance.

The following day it was off east to Buriram Province and visits to the spectacular Angkor-period temples of Prasat Phanom Rung and Prasat Muang Tham.

Orange-breasted trogon
Orange-breasted trogon.

The Khao Yai day tour forms part of our 1-week Thailand World Heritage Tour while a 2-week version – The Emerald Triangle – extends the tour into southern Laos and the 4,000 islands plus World Heritage Wat Phu and follows the Mekong River to finish in the Cambodian capital Phon Penh.