A Weekend Spent Camping in Khao Yai National Park

I awoke early Saturday morning with overwhelming anticipation about my day in Khao Yai National Park. The thought of escaping to the mountains to hike, and camp was exactly what I needed.First thing in the morning I started making peanut butter and jelly’s for Sidney and me. I knew we would need food, since we were going to be camping, and this seemed like the simplest thing to take along. Little did I know, we would not be the one’s eating those sandwiches… more about that later!

Our sandwiches were packed, and we were going to stop at Big C (grocery type store) to pick up some more snacks on the way to the bus station. With my backpack on my shoulders, tennis shoes, and sunscreen on, Sidney and I set out to catch a motorbike taxi to the bus station. As we began to walk one of my students parents, and their youngest son, Copter, pulled up beside us. They asked where we were heading and told us to get in. They were going to give us a ride. Thankful for the shortened walk in the heat and not having to pay for a taxi, we climbed inside the car. We were greeted with such kindness, and both the man and the woman spoke English. I was excited to be able to develop a relationship with one of my students parents. They even asked me to tutor, Boeing, their son. I gladly accepted the request.Sidney and I climbed out of the car and walked towards Big C. We bought some snacks, chips, apples, oranges, and some granola bars to also take a long. We put them in our backpacks and caught a van to Pakchong where we would be transferring to another mode of transportation to get to Khao Yai.

We arrived in Pakchong about an hour after we left Saraburi, so it was now about 11. We figured since we were going to spend an entire day hiking we better grab some lunch, because we didn’t have enough food to last 3 meals. After aimlessly wandering around Pakchong for about 30 minutes, we stumbled upon a little restaurant off the main road. There was a picture of a chef standing in front of a cruise ship, with a sign that read “Steak House.” The sign made the place seem somewhat promising, so we wandered in. Walking in to the restaurant we were the only customers, and were greeted by a very friendly, Thai man (who spoke English). He showed us the menu, and we were surprised by how diverse it was. I chose baked cheese pasta and bread, with pretty low expectations. Sidney got mashed potatoes and chicken. While we were waitng for our food, we got a little bit of background on Chef Sompong, the owner of the restaurant. He had worked on a cruise ship as a chef for multiple years, trained chefs in Japan, opened a restaurant in Bangkok… needless to say he was very experienced, and the food was definitely a testimony to that. After we finished eating, Chef Sompong gave us his business card. I would go back in heart beat and recommend it to anyone ever in Pakchong.

Leaving the restaurant we now needed to find out how we were going to get to our final destination. We asked around to people on the street. By asked I mean did the motions for driving and said Khao Yai, trying to portray to people what we meant. We were directed to cross the street and go to where the 711 was. Sidney and I dodged 4 lanes of traffic and see a Song Tao (a truck with benches in the back that people sit on) it was in route and we had about 30 seconds to jump on. We took the Song Tao for about 20 minutes, and saw a sign that said Khao Yai National Park, so we knew this was where we need to get off. We paid the Song Tao driver, and looked around to figure out where to go next. We walked to the entrance and paid our fee. We were told by the park ranger at the entrance that in order to get up to our campground, the only mode of transportation is to hitch hike, because it is about 15 miles deep into the park. Sidney and I wearily look at each other and begin to walk. I waved and flagged down the first car I saw heading into the park. A car full of 3 non-English speaking people graciously welcomed us for a ride. I can’t say that I would EVER EVER do this is America, but it’s part of the Thai culture… so Sidney and I accepted it and were only greeted with kindness.

This car full of people drove us about half way to where we were going, and dropped us off at the parks visitor center. Here we got a map, and oriented ourselves with where we were going to stay. It was still about 10 miles away, so we flagged down another car. This time it was a family on a weekend get-away from Bangkok. They were super friendly, and spoke English (always a plus!.) The mom gave Sidney and me some yogurt, and asked us all kinds of questions about where we came from, just trying to make conversation.

We arrived at our campsite where we rented a tent, a blanket, a pillow and a sleeping mat, for the equivalent of 5$. The women working at the front, in broken English, warned us of the wildlife, but she really emphasized the monkey’s. She told us, “no food out, because the monkey’s eat it.”

It was now around 1:00pm, and we just wanted to get some hiking in, so we decided to set up camp after we hiked. We set off on a trail that was going to take us to Haew Suwat waterfall. It was absolutely gorgeous. I associated the climate with feeling like the rain forest exhibits at the zoo! After an hour and a half hike, we arrived very hot and ready to swim. Sadly there was multiple signs that said, “no swimming.” So, we settled for just dipping in our feet, which was enough to cool us down.

Sidney and I were both drained after the hike, so we decided to get a ride back down to our campsite. Upon arriving there we had to set up our tent. We both looked at each other and said, “have you ever done this before?” To which both of our response, “no.” This didn’t deter us from trying to figure it out though! While doing so we realized one of the poles was broken, and a kind man camping next to us, and the park ranger got us a new pole and set up the rest of the tent for us.

It was now around, 5:00pm and neither of us were hungry yet, and we didn’t have much else to do so we went on another walk down the trail. We left our backpacks in the tent because after wearing them all day our shoulders needed a break. Our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were in Sidney’s bag, so she took them out and stashed them in the corner so they wouldn’t get more squished. We left for our walk, and decided to sit and enjoy a nice little spot on the river, only for about 30 minutes.

When we go back to camp, we were both starving and ready to eat. We went to retrieve our dinner, but to our surprise… the bag of peanut butter and jelly’s was gone! We searched our tiny tent high and low, our backpacks, they were no where. We thought maybe someone had stolen them, or was playing a trick on us, but then I spotted the bag about 10 feet away from our tent. I wandered over to it, and noticed it had been ripped open. A woman standing near by said, “the monkey came and got it!” The monkey had unzipped our tent, went inside got our sandwiches, zipped the tent back up, and enjoyed our 4 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I guess that’s what the woman meant when she said, “the monkey’s will take your food!” Apparently, this is something that happens often. Instead of peanut butter and jelly’s, we enjoyed our snacks for dinner.

After “dinner” we started talking with a couple who both had very good English (again always a plus!), due to it being a necessity for their careers. They gave us candles, offered for us to sit with them (since we didn’t have lights, chairs, anything), and spent the rest of the evening telling us stories and chatting with us about life in Thailand. One thing the man said really stuck with me, he said, “money isn’t important. The quality of your life is important.” It was such a refreshing point of view to hear, and it left me in an uplifted mood.

After a restless night of sleep, we packed up our tent and started making our way back to Pakchong to catch our bus back to Saraburi. We stopped off at a viewpoint tower, where we took a couple pictures, and enjoyed some more beautiful scenery.

2 hours later we were back in Saraburi. And to think this all happened in the matter of one day, what an adventure!

Kayla Westhuis is currently participating in the CE Teach in Thailand program.

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  1. nEill grant says

    Hey there, I am also teaching in Thailand (in Rayong) and now think I will make a trip up there to camp! Thanks for the post 🙂

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