In the cooler and drier months, it is highly enjoyable to spend some time getting to know Thailand’s great outdoors through camping – its jungle environments are thrilling and fascinating places for nature lovers. Of course, camping is also possible during the wet season, which peaks in September and October, but it is not recommended for families as it involves a host of logistical and safety challenges.
Thailand has many beautiful opportunities for camping in many of its national parks. There are over 120 national parks where camping is available. Most have large campgrounds with well-maintained facilities such as restrooms and running water access. Park rangers are always helpful if you encounter any problems. Equipment itself can be hired from camp headquarters, so you don’t even have to worry about the hassle of travelling with camping and outdoors gear.
One popular camping spot includes Khao Yai National Park, Thailand’s oldest and third largest park. Situated mainly in Nakhon Ratchasima province, Khao Yai is a 2.5 to 3 hour drive from Bangkok. Staying within the park boundaries on dedicated campsites offers a great and inexpensive way to experience the jungle. In addition to trekking amid rich natural surroundings, you’ll likely spot dozens of deer and macaques, witness the whooping of gibbons, and maybe hear an elephant crushing through the undergrowth.
Where to Camp?
There are two main camping grounds in the national park: Pha Kluay Mai and Lam Takhong. Lam Takhong is more open while Pha Kluay Mai is surrounded by the jungle. Pha Kluay Mai is also located at the start of a 3 kilometre one-way trail along a river, ending at Heaw Suwat waterfall. Both offer toilet facilities, cold water showers, canteens, and equipment rentals such as tents in various sizes and sleeping bags and pillows. Once you have arrived, visit the park headquarters to pick up a map and get more information on each site and the various trails. Pay the camping fee, which is 30 baht per person per night basis, at each individual campsite office.
Weekdays will be much less crowded and peaceful than the weekends. Also, Khao Yai tends to get cold from evening until morning, especially in the winter months. Bring a warm clothing such as a hooded sweatshirt or sweater. Other useful items to bring include flashlights, extra blanket, hand sanitiser, insect repellent, baby wipes, small garbage bags, etc.
There are some dangers to getting so close to the natural world in a jungle environment – there are venomous snakes, toxic insects, leeches, and mosquitoes that can carry diseases, among other hazards. However, be a smart traveller and you won’t have to worry too much about these threats. Always watch where you step or place your hand as you hike the trails, and you won’t step or touch anything potentially dangerous. Wear bug spray to repel mosquitoes, and consider spraying clothing with permethrin, a strong bug repellent that does not wash out. Zip up your tents at night, and sleep with a mosquito net over your head or entire sleeping bag.
Also, watch out for the deer and monkeys at both campsites — do not feed them as this will encourage groups of them to approach you. Never leave food in or around your tent when you’re not around, even for a short time; monkeys have been known to rip through tents to get to any food. Also, at Pha Kluay Mai, you’ll want to keep a distance from crocodiles that lounge by the river.
If you are keen for an adventure, and love the outdoors and all that it has to offer – look into camping in Khao Yai. You may just be surprised; there is no reason not to get out there and do something off the beaten path!
Editor’s note: This article is by Jenny Holt, Freelance Writer