A trip to picturesque Ob Khan National Park will make it feel like you've left Chiang Mai hours behind you, but it's not far to reach at all, and offers great swimming, picnicking and hiking opportunities.
The park is fewer than 500 square kilometres it's not one of the province's larger parks, but it has some great scenery. Ob Khan is located in Hang Dong district to the south of the city, and is also conveniently close to Ban Tawai handicraft market. It's easy to make a day excursion out of visiting both.
Heading along the Canal Road from the junction with Suthep Road, it’s around 15 kilometres to a well signposted turn on the right, then another 15 kilometres through villages and farmland to the park entrance. Most of this, with the exception of the last couple of clicks, is a good, sealed road, so it makes for an excellent destination on a rental bike or car. The final section though, particular in rainy season, can get tricky, so go carefully.
Where the tarmac runs out, you’ll see a small checkpoint but all they’ll do is note your license plate down, and we’ve never seen an entrance fee being charged. The track runs along the scenic Khan River and opens out into a car park with visitor centre and a small cafe with a shady and grassy picnic area along the bank.
In dry season the waters are clear and shallow and it’s a very popular bathing spot for locals on a hot day. Waters turn a murky brown with sediment during the rainy season but it’s still generally okay for bathing unless currents are strong after a big storm. While it’s popular at weekends with picnicking Thai families, on weekdays the park can be very quiet. The cafe can provision weekenders, but during the week they had little on offer when we visited, so you should stock up in advance, perhaps at Hang Dong or Don Phayam markets.
The visitor centre is spectacularly lacking in English-language information though they did provide us with a faded pamphlet and were very friendly. If you’re feeling energetic staff will point you in the direction of a marked nature trail leading from behind the cafe and along cliffs overlooking the Khan to a narrow rocky gorge which gives the park its name. (Ob meaning gorge in north Thai.) Though there is some decent birdlife in the park, you’re unlikely to see any of the park’s smaller mammal species on such a well-worn path.
The scenery is very attractive though as the river cuts a deep channel between forested slopes and the trail performs a loop, bringing you back after 1.6 kilometres to the visitors centre. There are longer trails, but this short hike is the one most suited to a day trip.
There is no public transport to Ob Khan National Park so if you don’t have a motorbike or car then you’d be stuck with splashing out on a songthaew hire. Make this more affordable by finding a few fellow passengers. Price will vary according to time and how many stops as well as how busy the driver is, but count an average of 1,000 baht for a round trip plus waiting time, or 1,500 baht if you’re including Ban Tawai too.
From the Old City, head west from Suan Dok Gate on Suthep Road and make a left onto the Canal Road. Drive south as if you're heading to Hang Dong for about 12 kilometres, and look out for a sign on the right to Ob Khan National Park. From here it’s another 15 kilometres to the park entrance.
Address: Namphrae district, Hang Dong
T: (086) 181 1068;
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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