Part 1 – A Road Trip in Northeast Thailand: Elephants, Khao Yai and Budget Luxury
Road Trip Essentials for Thailand
It doesn’t really matter the country but a road trip even when there is traffic or delays is always a good time. Especially, when you are not the driver! Recently, I just had an incredible 4-day journey to parts of Thailand that not many tourists venture out to. I’m here to show and explain that the next time you come to Thailand make sure to add Northeast to your list! More specifically to add Buri Ram and Khao Yai. Not only will your money go a lot further down this way but, you will have an incredible time.
How Did We End Up Doing a Road Trip
Once a week I will search Skyscanner for cheap flights. I looked at flights within Thailand cause we just paid for a 30-day extension and was not about to lose on that investment. As much as I love beaches, just wasn’t feeling one. Then I saw the name, Buri Ram. I had never heard of it. Upon a quick google search, I found myself looking at the most incredible temples. I quickly looked at prices of hotels to see if we could afford it. Yes, yes we could. So last step, I messaged my stepmom to see if she had been. Or at the very least heard of this place. She quickly responded that she had when she was younger and loved it. In the next hour, we made plans to all go together, Dad would drive.
Flights are inexpensive and if you are short on time then I would consider just flying there but we decided to combine two areas in one trip which is why we decided to do a road trip. Which is how I found myself two weeks later, the playlist at the ready leaving Bangkok for Khao Yai National Park. Not the original destination but what a detour!
Elephants, Waterfalls, and Luxury of Khao Yai
Full disclosure before I write anything else. My dad and Pinny hosted us during these four days so as such Sean and I LIVED IT UP. We paid for a few things but both wanted us to save our money for when we travel on our own. As such, we stayed in a hotel that we normally wouldn’t have and had some great meals out at places we would have walked on by cause it wouldn’t have been in our budget. I want to stress though, you can totally do what we did on a small budget. If you are willing to spend a bit more you can end up staying in some really luxe places. Think 3-4 star hotels at 2-star prices.#YESSSS
Khao Yai National Park
Is about a 2 and half hour drive outside of Bangkok. You can easily do a day trip there but I would recommend at least one night. I can’t speak for buses but I saw a few buses that stopped there but to do the park at your own pace, I’d look into renting a car. You gotta have an IDL though just fair warning. If not, I am also sure you can hire a driver for the day but not sure.
Khao Yai National park is massive, stretching across 4 provinces and covers more than 2,000 square kilometers of forest and grassland. Best part, it is protected. There are lots of trails of varying degrees of difficulty and many viewpoints.
Waterfalls are aplenty and you might even recognize one of them from the film ‘The Beach’ The best part though is the park’s wildlife. You will see monkeys all over the place and when we were there, there were lots of babies. It is illegal to feed them. You will get yelled at so don’t do it. This was the first time I have been in a place where monkeys aren’t in control. You could totally tell they were used to humans but weren’t trying to steal food or aggressive. A first for me.
When I first started researching Khao Yai Park, my eyes zeroed in on Elephants. THERE WERE WILD ELEPHANTS in the park. I instantly knew I had to go. Seeing Elephants in the wild was in my top 5 of a Bucket List. I kept my hopes high but expectations low. I already shared the following on my Instagram but it perfectly captures what happened that day so…
So when I started researching Khao Yai National Park and saw that there were wild elephants there I knew I had to go. My stepmom warned me though that it would probably be rare to see one especially in the hot afternoon. I kept my expectations of seeing one low but I kid you not, just before turning around the bend I jokingly said out loud “Come on #Elephants” and BAM THERE WAS A FREAKING ELEPHANT! We were stunned and after a moment of enjoying what was in front of me, I quickly jumped out of the car and it was incredible. I am so very happy that I got to see an elephant in the wild and it is a moment I will not forget. Also thank you universe!!! . . . . #girlsthatwander #globelletravels #peoplescreative #sheexplores #sheisnotlost #simplyadventure #travelblogger #doyoutravel #globetrotting #gltlove #gobewild #digitalbomadwomen #plussizeblogger #elephants #bucketlist #nationalpark #khaoyainationalpark #friyay #fatgirlstraveling #digitalnomadgirls #allaboutadventures #neverstoptravelling #bloggerslife #welivetoexplore
Still a week later I am disbelief that I’d be so happy about mainly seeing an Elephants butt. It was a really special moment for me.
What To Do In Khao Yai National Park
I saw a few tourists with guides and if you are short on time, it might be worth it. For us, we did our own thing at a pace that worked for us. The cost of the park is expensive comparatively as a foreigner. Entry is 400 baht per person and cars cost 50 baht. If you are Thai it is very affordable at 40 baht. I’m not about to write a “Must do in Khao Yai National Park” post because there is SO much to see and do. I don’t want to say do this instead of that cause I just don’t have the knowledge on it and I ain’t about to put myself out on the line like that.
Instead, I’m just gonna write what we did which was perfect for us. Remember it is HOT so bring water, snacks and please wear a hat. It makes a world of a difference. I would not have survived without mine. Sean won’t admit it but he struggled with just his sunglasses and a boatload of sunscreen.
Expect a 10-20 minute walk on a relatively flat ground to the Watchtower. The tower overlooks a watering hole where I suppose if at the right time you could see the Animals but at 11:30 AM don’t expect nada. We carried on the trial (which is not clear path) to walk to the man-made salt lick. The Rangers do this to help the wildlife survive.
This is a little more difficult but again, not OMG I am gonna die. It is pretty and worth it to get up and close to the water. Plus it was cool to see elephant footprints and all the poop. At this point, I still had low expectations of seeing a real-life elephant so had resided that fresh poop was all I was gonna get.
There are two main waterfalls. We didn’t do the further away one and not just because it was supposed to be a harder trek. Mainly because it would have meant an additional 2 hour round trip of driving for my dad. I’m not cruel. I’m not gonna make my dad drive me an hour after trekking all day to then hike a waterfall and then drive me back while I get to sleep and munch on fresh watermelon. Also, the water was only at 50% meaning it might not be that great to see.
Have you ever spent all day hiking to a waterfall to get there and then be like “that’s it?” that happened to me in Morocco. I almost died of exhaustion for nothing. I honestly thought the big waterfall was just a mini one so when we started our walk back I was like “Wait, that was it”I had no idea. It was worth it but looking back… I am like, a 1-hour hike for that. LOL. To see that image click here.
We did end up going to Haew Suwat waterfall which was enough for me. There are stairs and they are steep. Manageable and have done worse but worth it. It is well shaded so that works in your favor. Before going, just go on YouTube to watch the clip from the movie.
There are multiple viewpoints so stop when you want but my favorite was this one. I felt so Instagramy with these following pictures. But also, the view was breathtaking.
When we went, there was a big group of birdwatchers. Bird Watching seems to be massively popular here. Like serious birdwatchers. You could sorta tell they were annoyed at our presence but hey, we climbed the same platform down. We deserve to be there enjoying the view with minimal talking as desired. Shoutout though to the one guy who took a pretty great family photo of us!
It was great and a perfect way to end our time at the park. It was a bit hazy but even still the view was A++. I can imagine on a clear day it would be even more stunning.
Luxury Hotels At Every Budget
Is there anything better than an infinity pool? . . . . . , . . #girlsthatwander #globelletravels #peoplescreative #sheexplores #sheisnotlost #simplyadventure #darlingescapes #doyoutravel #globetrotting #gltlove #gobewild #adventureoften #plussizeblogger #globelletravels #longtermtravel #digitalnomad #digitalnomadgirls #allaboutadventures #neverstoptravelling #passionpassport #wearetravelgirls #welivetoexplore #pool #jungle #plussize #holiday #dametraveler
We stayed at the Botanica Hotel which was nice. Like really nice but also super weird. It was almost as if someone with a lot of money had a lot of ideas and everyone was sorta scared to be like “uh… Not sure that is a good idea”. Case in point, the pools are beautiful. There are two but they are hard to get to. The easiest one is a bit out of the way and there is no natural way to go there easily from the main part of the hotel. The other one which has the infinity view of the park is even harder to get too. To get to the lounges on the other side you literally have to walk through the pool. It is shallow but just doesn’t make much sense.
There are also stairs in the middle of this pathway that lead to the bathrooms which we used as a shortcut back to our room. Cool but MAKES NO SENSE?! A favorite game of mine was to watch people try to get to the top pool (as the stairs are sorta hidden from the other pool). The layout of the hotel just didn’t make much sense but its design was one that I liked. I mean COME ON. Greenery against all those greys had me taking notes for future settling down Amanda.
The best part of this hotel was not the large size rooms but the outdoor pool. We were in a corner room and as such had more privacy than I think a lot of people would have. For extra protection and modesty sake, Sean put a towel over the balcony. It was massive. I have never in my life been in a bath as big of this. Especially after a hot day in the Park, sliding on into this cool bath with aromatic bubbles was heaven. Just made sure you clean the pool first because it is outdoors and I was not about to have to share that moment with a bug or two.
Overall, I would stay there again but would I go out of my way? Maybe, just for that bathtub and distance to the park.
Khao Yai Hotels
There are so many hotels in the area ranging in price. Be aware of the more Timeshare-esque places. In Thailand, it is super popular to have hotels and shopping areas based off of European cities. So if you ever wanted to stay in a Castle or Chateue you are in luck! There are hostels and before booking on a website, message the hotel directly to see if you can get the same rate or better. Most times you will be able to and you will get a better room when you book directly with them.
What About Work Missy?
I luckily was able to not have to do any major work during our time there. Hello hella, long workdays that previous Monday-Wednesday. As such, the only work that I did have to do was done in a super stereotypical way. In a lush bathrobe on a bed after just finishing a quick dip in the pool. The Internet is NOT the best in Khao Yai but the basics work. Just no massive Wetransfer downloads or uploads okay!
Driving In Thailand
Is not too bad. The highways are pretty decent and drivers aren’t gonna run you off. To drive through, you need an International Drivers Licence. Now, most scooter places won’t check if you have one but if a policeman stops you, you’ll get fined. Last time Sean and I were here we rented scooters without issue. This time around, we have seen so many tourists pulled over on scooters from the police. So be aware.
They drive on the opposite side of the US but honestly, once you are out of Bangkok the driving is pretty decent. Plus the road stops are INCREDIBLE. Make sure to stop at a Cafe Amazon for a Fresh Latte and don’t be scared to get a treat or two.
Would I Sell My Soul For A Massive Bathtub and Other Conclusions
The answer is still out on if I would sell my soul but it does make me pause. I loved my time in Khao Yai and look forward to returning as there is a lot of other things to do. For the shoppers, you will have a grand ole time but they also have special farms and more in the area which we didn’t get to this time around.
Stay tuned for Part 2 Where I I’ll Talk about Vineyards and Steak just outside Khao Yai! If you fancy reading another post why not this one?