Khao Yai National Park and the surrounding district, two hour’s drive northeast of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport is a destination that the Thai appear to want to keep all to themselves. Thailand’s beachside and island resorts are well known along with the cultural capital of Chiang Mai, but Khao Yai rarely makes the tourism headlines outside the country.
Khao Yai’s most appealing quality is the cooler climate as the valley is located at an altitude of 350m but the mountains extend to a height of 1,000m. With average temperatures of 23 C the mild climate ensures that outdoor activities are more pleasant than on the Thai central plains (Khao Yai’s coolest months are November to February).
Khao Yai (or big mountain) is best known for Khao Yai National Park recognised since 2005 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Covering 2,168 km2, the park supports a diversity of flora and fauna and it is possible to see a variety of wildlife during the day and on ranger-led night safaris in specialised safari trucks. Opportunities to see the animals have been enhanced through the establishment of salt licks which encourage animals to congregate around waterholes. Visitors need to be patient but it’s possible to see monkeys, deer, civets, squirrels and an aviary of birds including hornbills. While rarely seen, booming gibbons can usually be heard in the distance with their distinctive call echoing through the forests. The park’s trails are well-signposted and there is an informative visitors’ centre with a helpful selection of trail notes for those who want to go on a self-guided walk. Waterfalls are plentiful and popular especially for photography with one of the most accessible being Haew Suwat Falls, used in the filming of the Hollywood movie, The Beach.
Golf is another reason why many people travel here with some half a dozen courses from which to choose from. Kirimaya Golf Resort and Spa (kirimaya.com) is in superb condition and the owners hope will become one of Thailand’s top five courses (Jack Nicklaus was once quoted as saying it was in the top three in Asia). Some observers consider it to be Thailand’s bestdesigned course.
The recently opened dusitD2 Khao Yai resort of 83 rooms offers a chic take on a modern-rustic theme. All rooms include a balcony with deluxe rooms being 36m2 and guests can enjoy the finest facilities including complimentary wi-fi and dining outlets such as Musi Grill (all-day dining) and Cocoon Tree-pod private dining.
Dusitd2 is located just minutes from nearby attractions including vineyards, golf courses, an adventure park and the national park.
There is also a developing new latitude wine industry with GranMonte and PB Valley Khao Yai being two of Thailand’s finest wineries. While Khao Yai isn’t yet on the world’s wine map, the wines produced in both wineries are very drinkable considering the tropical location in which the grapes are grown. Grape varieties that do best here are Chenin Blanc, Tempranillo and Shiraz. Khao Yai has always been popular with local tourists who enjoy the cool mountain air, nature, golf and a few new latitude wineries.
Getting There Almost all major airlines fly daily to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport and transfers in limousines or comfortable vans are best arranged by dusitD2 Khao Yai.
Where to Stay Taking its cues from the surrounding natural landscape, visitors can experience nature the D2 way at the dusitD2 Khao Yai (dusit.com), just a twohour drive from Bangkok. Luxury options in Khao Yai include the boutique allvilla Sala Khao Yai Resort (salaresorts. com) and the English-styled countryside hotel of Thames Valley Khao Yai (thamesvalleykhaoyai.com).
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