Having worked and lived in Bangkok for a short period of time from 2009-2010, I had the privilege of exploring some of the interesting sites around Bangkok such as Ampawa and Ayutthaya. Among them, Khao Yai left the deepest impression because of the 13 degreesC night (yup, you read it right – it does get so cool especially from Nov-Jan at night), which is very rare cool weather in this part of the world near the equator. I also recalled European looking architecture with vineyards so Khaoyai is a short getaway to feel far from our Asian roots. So when we had a chance 3 weeks ago to plan a short trip over the long weekend, I decided to re-visit Khaoyai and also introduce N to this beautiful province of Thailand.
Khaoyai is a beautiful mountaineous province, 2.5 hours drive from Bangkok, and is a popular short weekend getaway spot among Bangkok city folks to switch gears over a slow weekend. For me, I hardly repeat my eating and travel spots as I want to enjoy a variety of experience, but Khaoyai is a repeat for me because the below interesting elements:
- Firstly, Khaoyai houses a UNESCO World Heritage National Park which naturally (pun intended :P) means lots of animals and greenery. We spotted deer, elephants and lots of monkeys! It is a relatively short drive but the landscape dramatically differs from Bangkok.
- Secondly, Khaoyai’s climate and terrain is suited for growing grapes so the route is littered with vineyards, such as Gran Monte, Starry Hills. Khaoyai also has fields of sugarcane, yam and corn, so be a-maized!! 😛
- Thirdly, there are quite a lot of buildings that will make you feel immersed in Europe! I am guessing as the vineyard owners went overseas to learn more about wine-making, they brought some elements of the architecture look-and-feel back to Khaoyai. Two investors also developed Palio and Primo Posto, which are replicas of Italian towns.
- Fourthly, Khaoyai has the 7th best ozone quality in the world! Nothing like being close to nature and good air!
- Finally, it is a relatively short travel (2 hours flight, 2.5 hours drive) to reach a cooling place at higher altitude, making it convenient for a short getaway. It is still relatively unknown to foreign tourists; the resort we stayed in (Sala Khaoyai) is occupied by 95% Thais, and only 5% foreigners. Actually, I feel a little torn blogging about Khaoyai as I kind of want it to keep its quaint, uncrowded state. But I was told that the Thai government have disallowed new buildings to be constructed in Khaoyai starting Dec 2013, so I guess the scarcity of accommodation will limit the number of visitors at any point in time and keep the pristine beauty of this little piece of paradise on earth.
If you decide to explore Khaoyai, two driving tips:
- Take the Rangsit route which will take 2.5hours. Other routes that the GPS will suggest is at least 3 hours.
- Select a car suitable for mountain roads with a lottttt of potholes and altitude ascents and descents. We drove a Honda Civic which was comfortable, but a higher car with a stronger suspension would make the ride less bumpy (especially for car sick prone people like me).
So yes, highly recommended getaway for us in the region, if you are up to challenge of some flies, mosquitoes and mountain roads, but you will be richly rewarded with the experience, view and weather. I have organized my travelogue into below segments and I will slowly update the entries over the next couple of weeks:
Enjoy the read and feel free to leave comments if you have any questions!