I was lucky enough to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Khao Yai yesterday. This national park was formed by the Thai government in 1962. In 2005 it became a UNESCO site.
Phaphon, our tour guide from Jungle Planet, greeted us at our hotel with a broad and glowing smile and a big English “Hello”. My husband briefed him of our intention to hike to the waterfall (the one in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach“) from the visitors center. The wonderful Phaphon had a very nice chuckle as he informed my husband that we probably wouldn’t want to hike the 20 miles up the mountain with no trails. So we quickly agreed that was not a good plan and followed the lead of Phaphon.
We didn’t know to ask for a truck where we could sit in the back, but luckily our hotel did. This allowed us great opportunities to take photos, search for animals and enjoy the cool morning breeze.
The first stop was at the overlook into the valley where we had just come from. (The day was hazy so I apologize for the picture.) It was immediately obvious how much pride the Thai citizens take in this special place. As we continued to climb the mountain, searching for one of the 400 elephants in the park, Phaphon stopped the truck and told us quietly that gibbons were just down the road. We walked quietly while Phaphon whispered that a gibbon is a mix between a chimpanzee, an ape and a gorilla. They mate for life, and never leave the trees, even birthing babies in the trees. As we approached the area the gibbons were spotted I couldn’t believe how lucky we were. There was a beautiful golden colored gibbon just hanging out in this perfect ray of sunshine. We watched it and a brown gibbon swing from tree to tree, eat and play around. It was as if they were putting on a show just for us.
We headed back through the park to the visitors center for a cup of coffee and a quick potty break, and a nice little warning sign about the dangers of playing with animals. We also spotted a gorgeous common kingfisher (photographed by my hubby).
Our next stop was at the Haew Suwat waterfall. It is dry season here now so there wasn’t a lot of water but it was still beautiful, peaceful, and serene. The cool breeze coming off of the waterfall felt amazing as the day had started to heat up.
Our ride back was filled with searching for elephants, spotting a few majestic deer and watching a great hornbill male feed his wife who was in a hole in a tree waiting to give birth. He was majestic, and fast!
If you have the pleasure of visiting Thailand I would definitely take the time to visit Khao Yai (about 3 hours northeast of Bangkok by car, which I booked through the parks website). We loved our hotel Kiramaya Golf Resort & Spa and would recommend it not only for its location but for the incredibly gorgeous and peaceful surroundings.