The simple life
Campgrounds set in scenic spots and fan-cooled cabins and lodges in a wide range of sizes are available for those who want to spend multiple days inside Khao Yai National Park. Finding the right spot and making a reservation can be frustrating, so read on for the lowdown.
The largest and most popular campground is Lam Takong, located around three kilometres southeast of the visitor centre and accessed via a back road or along Thanarat and then the road to Haew Suwat Waterfall. Campers can set up tents anywhere on a wide sloping field with a few trees and the Lam Takong River bubbling through to the east. Docile deer often hang out here.
Two and a half kilometres east of the Lam Takong campground is the smaller Pha Kluai Mai campground, featuring shaded fields with soft Bermuda grass on either side of the road. It’s located at the trailhead for Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall and only a few kilometres west of Haew Suwat Waterfall, which can be reached by road or trail from here.
Both campgrounds are equipped with ample cold-water showers and bucket-flush toilets along with restaurants and convenience stores. Lam Takong also boasts a riverside coffee shop and bicycle rental. Other advantages of Lam Takong include slightly better facilities, more space and the riverside location, though on weekends it often fills up with Thai school kids on field trips. Pha Kluai Mai has a quieter vibe and better access to hiking trails.
Campers can set up their own tent for 30 baht per night. Otherwise you can rent a small two-person tent for 150 baht or pay 225 baht for a larger tent that sleeps three to four people. Sleeping bags, mats, pillows, blankets, tarps and even charcoal grills can be rented for 20 to 50 baht. Tents and camping equipment are arranged directly at the campgrounds rather than the visitor centre.
If you prefer a roof and hot-water shower, you’ll have to choose between several different sized cabins located at four accommodation zones. Staff at the visitor centre usually do a good job of answering questions in English.
We were told that 30 percent discounts are available from Mondays to Thursdays, when it’s usually okay to show up at the visitor centre and arrange a room on the spot. As of August 2016, the DNP has launched a new website with reservation options that appears to be just as frustrating as the old one. The only other way to book in advance is to ask a local tour company for help.
Built of a mix of wood, logs and concrete, all of the lodges and cabins are quite old and basic. They all come with screened windows, fans, hard beds, wet bathrooms, towels and perhaps a table or porch. Before booking, it’s important to know that zones 3 and 4 are situated several kilometres from the main road and visitor centre, and do not have on-site restaurants. Don’t stay at these zones without a vehicle.
Located a short walk east of the visitor centre and related food court and services, Zone 1 has six lodges, each with three to six bedrooms, that cost 2,400 to 9,000 baht and can accommodate eight to 28 people; it may be possible to rent a single bedroom for 800 baht if you inquire at the visitor centre. The cabins have several windows and large porches near the Lam Takong River.
Zone 2 is located at the far end of a side road, around three kilometres southeast of the visitor centre. Here you’ll find five of the park’s best-equipped cabins -- all with at least two bedrooms, TVs and large dining tables -- spread over a quiet hillside, in the 2,000 baht range.
Located along the way to Zone 2 and around two kilometres from the visitor centre, Zone 3 has 20 spartan double rooms for 800 baht set in a longhouse-style building with front porches. These appeared to be some of the oldest rooms in the park. Zone 3 also features a few massive concrete “youth hostels” that are typically reserved for school field trips and the like.
Zone 4 is located near where the road to Haew Suwat Waterfall meets Thanarat Road, around five kilometres south of the visitor centre and only two kilometres west of Lam Takong campground. It has a selection of “terrace houses” that sleep two to four and go for 800 to 1,200 baht. These were being worked on when we last passed through but they appeared to have large porches and we liked the central location. A shop is located across the road and we were told that a restaurant normally operates here.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 7th September, 2016.