Discover The National Parks Across Thailand: Guide To An Adventure Trip
Thailand is a popular destination for travellers all around the world, famous for its lip-smacking eats, beautiful beaches and temples. However, the Land of Smiles is actually an amazing playground for those who want to rough it out in the wild too. In fact, there are about 130 national parks in Thailand, covering a total land area of almost 1.5 times the size of Singapore!
Camping in the kingdom is an indelible way to experience her spectacular landscapes. Read this guide for everything you need to know about navigating and camping in national parks across Thailand.
Preparing for a visit and camping trip
Where to camp:
Given that many of the national parks sprawl across extensive areas, you should camp at national park headquarters campgrounds. Why? Because national park rangers are on duty 24 hours daily at the park headquarters, so you can easily get help when necessary. They can also be hired as guides if you wish to trek out in the wild.
Another advantage of camping at the headquarters is you will be able to hire camping equipment for a minimal cost. For instance, a two-man tent can be hired for 150 THB per night (6.55 SGD), and accessories such as sleeping bags at 10 to 30 THB (0.45 to 1.30 SGD) per item. That means you free yourself from the hassle of packing and lugging the bulky equipment all the way from Singapore!
Most national parks around the world charge an entrance fee on a daily basis. However, you only need to pay once for entering Thailand’s national parks. It does not matter how long you stay in the park, as long as you keep the ticket. Depending on the park, the fee ranges from 200 to 500 THB (8.75 to 21.85 SGD). Definitely an affordable wilderness experience to embark on!
Best time to go:
Located 15 degrees above the Equator, Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons – cool, hot and rainy. Although camping can be done any time of the year, the best time for camping in the kingdom is from November to March, as this is the driest and coolest period of the year. Avoid camping during the monsoon season from July to October, particularly in southern Thailand.
What to bring:
Since camping equipment can be hired at most national parks at an affordable rate, save yourself the trouble of packing them into your luggage. It is safe to say that you will be able to hire good quality equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, gas stoves and kerosene lamps at all major Thai national parks. If you still prefer to buy them, get them at a much lower cost in Tesco or Big C superstores when you reach Thailand instead of buying in Singapore. Tents can be bought for as cheap as 100 THB (4.35 SGD), certainly well worth the trip if you camp for two nights or more!
Best camping sites in Thailand
a. Kaeng Krachan National Park, Petchaburi
Kaeng Krachan National Park is a must-visit for bird watchers in Thailand. More than 500 species of birds have been spotted in this largest national park of Thailand. The park sprawls across Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces, sharing the kingdom’s western border with Myanmar. Keep a lookout for rarer species such as the white-fronted scops owl and giant pitta when hiking the trails.
- Tent rental: 225 THB (9.85 SGD) per night
- Park entry fee: 300 THB (13.10 SGD) for foreigners, 100 THB (4.35 SGD) for Thais
- How to get there: Rent a car, pay for a guide or hire a local driver from headquarters outside the park (standard 1200 THB / 12.40 SGD to Ban Krang Campsite)
b. Khao Yai National Park, Nakon Ratchasima
Step into Thailand’s first national park established in 1962 with a 2-hour drive (200 kilometres) from Bangkok. Despite its proximity to the capital city, Khao Yai National Park is worlds apart from the congested city. The pristine nature preserve is a famous UNESCO World Heritage site where diverse wildlife can be easily spotted. Whether it is a wild elephant, black bear or pig-tailed macaque, you are almost guaranteed to spot them everywhere you go!
Camp in the main Lam Ta Khong campsite located in the centre of the park near the visitor centre. Enjoy a unique experience of waking up to the sounds of gibbons and trickling waters right next to your tent early in the morning!
- Tent rental: from 250 THB (10.90 SGD) for 2 people
- Park entry fee: 400 THB (17.45 SGD)
- How to get there: A single private car trip from any hotel or airport in Bangkok to the north of Khao Yai costs from 2300 THB (100.45 SGD).
c. Khao Sok National Park, Surat Thaini
If you are planning to camp in the south, Khao Sok National Park is probably your best bet. Located in Surat Thani, Khao Sok is one of the most popular and beautiful camping sites in Thailand. The wild mountainous jungle offers something for everyone, as long as you love nature. Thank your lucky stars if you get to see the rare bloom of the world’s biggest Rafflesia flower here. Or you can also get on a traditional Thai longtail boat along the picturesque Cheow Lan Lake blessed with hundreds of towering limestone cliff islands. At night, trek through the dark jungle to spot a myriad of nocturnal wildlife like tarantula and civet cat.
- Tent rental: from 250 THB (10.90 SGD) for 2 people or 300 THB (13.10 SGD) for 4 people
- Park entry fee: 300 THB (13.10 SGD) for foreigners and 40 THB (1.75 SGD) for Thais
- How to get there: Air-con public bus from Surat Thani runs hourly from 7 am, passing the Surat Thani Train Station (at Phun Phin) 15 min later. Tickets (120 THB / 5.25 SGD) available at the Surat Thani Bus Station located at Talat Mai 31 or at a stall on the train station’s bus stop. The travel time is about 2 hours.
d. Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai
Nicknamed “the roof of Thailand”, Doi Inthanon National Park is the country’s highest mountain at an elevation of 2,565 metres. Because of its altitude, the weather is cool in the park throughout the year. During the cool season, there will be constant fog coverage almost all day with the awesome frost flower phenomenon in the early morning. You must partake in one of the many nature trails where lots of beautiful flowers and spectacular waterfalls can be spotted along the way. If there is only time for 1 trail, make sure you check out the Kew Mae Pan nature trail, located just below the summit of Doi Inthanon.
There are a few campsites in the park, with the official campground at the base of the summit road. Or you may also camp in two private campsites with unforgettable sights. Sureya campsite overlooks the flower farms in the valley below, while Ban Mae Klang Luang is a small campsite by the river near scenic step paddy fields.
- Tent rental: from 250 THB (10.90 SGD) for 2 people
- Park entry fee: 300 THB (13.10 SGD) for foreigners and 50 THB (2.20 SGD) for Thais
- How to get there: From 3,000 THB (131 SGD) for full day taxi service from Chiang Mai
e. Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai
If roughing it out isn’t your style, try glamping instead. Seek respite in nature from the stressful city, without forgoing luxuries in life. Fully immerse yourself in the lush jungle while relishing the leather and wood finishes in your glamp tent at Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. The luxury tented camp overlooks the Mekong River, bordering Laos and Myanmar in the Golden Triangle.
Forget about scruffy-looking public bathrooms in campsites when you are glamping in a 5-star hotel brand like Four Seasons. Instead, let your hair down and unwind in a beautiful wooden bathtub on your outdoor patio.
- Address: 499 MOO1 T. Vieng, Chiang Rai, Amphoe Chiang Saen, Chang Wat Chiang Rai 57150, Thailand
- Price: from 4,862 SGD per night for a superior tent with twin beds
f. 9 Hornbills Tented Camp, Ko Yao
Private pool and garden, gorgeous bathtub, butler on call, mesmerizing ocean views right from your lavish tent. If that sounds like a fantastic holiday for you, you gotta check out 9 Hornbills Tented Camp in Ko Yao. Set atop a hill with panoramic views of Phang Nga Bay, there are seven safari-style tents in 9 Hornbills with everything you could wish for in a posh retreat.
Enjoy a “floating breakfast” in your private pool. Or indulge in private dining with butler service as you soak in incredible views of the emerald-green waters by the bay.
- Address: 54/9, Moo 5, Ko Yao Noi, Ko Yao District, Phang-nga 82160, Thailand
- Price: from 592 SGD per night for a twin-sharing villa with private pool
Been to Thailand too many times and getting bored with doing the same old stuff every trip? We hope this article will shed some (new) ideas on how to enjoy the Land of Smiles the nature-al way!
*Featured Images credit: Booking.com and Unplash.com