Khao Yai's New Attractions
With new attractions like hot air balloon adventures, flower parks and art museum, there’s never been a better time to visit the Big Mountain
Situated just a two-hour drive from Bangkok, Khao Yai (big mountain) and its national park, has long been a popular weekend destination for Bangkokians thanks to its fresh air and natural beauty, but this February sees a distinctly artistic and romantic leaning to things to see and do in the region.
HOT AIR ROMANCE
High-end retreat Kirimaya Resort and Spa (1/3 Moo 6 Thanarat Rd., Moo Si, Pakchong 02-257-0455-7, 044-426-000, www.kirimaya.com) are offering a unique perspective on the area through the Kirimaya Ballooning Adventure. The daily flights, which last around 45 minutes and run until the end of February, provide picturesque views of Khao Yai’s mountainous terrain dotted with chateaus and wineries—made all the more stunning at sunrise. Once you land back on solid ground, you will be pampered with a Champagne breakfast and receive a certificate recording your flight from the pilot. Prices start at B15,500 for the flight and breakfast or opt for one of their packages which includes one-night accommodation at Kirimaya or Muthi Maya Forest Resort, starting at B26,500. Get more info at http://bit.ly/WW9d7Y
SEA OF FLOWERS
If you want something a little less daredevil, then you can pay a visit to the large greenhouses at Dasada (179 M.12 T.Nurnhom, A.Meung, Prachinburi, 090-198-7583, www.dasada-happiness.com). This floral park situated on the Prachin Buri side of Khao Yai is home to millions of flowers. The Gallery, a large greenhouse on-site, is currently showcasing the “Floral Coral” exhibition. The display uses a host of different flowers to create underwater scenes featuring everything from colorful jelly fish to a giant whale. Afterwards, retreat to La Lalla Café where you can sip a cup of coffee while enjoying live jazz every weekend in a delightful garden setting. There’s also a bird and deer garden for animal lovers, as well as a resort and restaurant. Entry is B200.
Another garden worth visiting in the area is The Bloom (357 Phayayen, Pakchong, 044-756-336, open daily 9am-6pm, www.thebloom.co.th), a 100-rai plot of land that a TV mogul has turned into the biggest floral garden in the country. Inside are various themed gardens such as Victoria Park, with its giant steel arbor, the landmark Starry Fountain, as well as a slightly clichéd sheep farm. Do note, on our last visit in January, parts of the garden were still under construction and were some way off completion. Entry on weekdays B100, weekends B200.
Khao Yai Art Museum (Ban Tha Chang Soi 6, Moo 16, Mu Si, Pak Chong, 044-756-060-66, www.khaoyaiartmuseum.com) is hidden away on a small hill before you reach the national park. The 1,700-sq-meter space features art pieces from the private collection of Pongchai Chindasook, a leading Thai businessman. The gallery is packed with contemporary paintings by leading Thai artists while the outdoors incorporates a sculpture garden. The grounds also contain six modern residences, called the Art Space, which are priced at B30,000 a night but sleep up to 8-10 guests. There is also an Art Shop and the Anya Restaurant which is open Friday to Sunday. The art museum opens Mon-Thu 10am-6pm and Fri-Sun 9am-8pm.
Finally, truly lose yourself in the surroundings with a trip to Pete Maze (Yothathikarn Rd. [on way to Bonanza Khaoyai], 080-168-9601, open Sat and Sun and public holidays 9am-6pm). It may have opened last year, but it’s only now that the trees that make up the thick walls of the maze are tall enough to make the zig-zagging labyrinth a true challenge. Get there early or late in the afternoon to avoid the hot sun. Entry B150.
Had enough of Khao Yai’s many steakhouses and craving something with a bit more bite? Pen Laos (7/1 Moo 10 Pansuek Anukul-Kudkla Rd., 083-461-3666) is your answer. Originally started as just a small shack, this wildly popular Isaan joint has had to expand to meet the needs of the crowds who flock there. Their famous fare includes somtam Lao (B35), pad mee korat (local styled fried noodle, B50) and grilled chicken (B100/200).
KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK
Of course, the biggest attraction in the area is the actual National Park. The second largest in Thailand, it covers an area of over 2,000 sq km and ranges from forest-clad hills to open grasslands. Offering spectacular hilltop views, and a number of dramatic waterfalls, it remains one of the best places to spot wild Asian elephants as well as gibbons, black bears and over 320 species of birds. The park is well served by paved roads and bicycles can be hired from the Visitor Center, which also has maps of the easier hiking trails. If you want to get more off the beaten track, the park does get very busy with local tourists at weekends then you can usually organise guides from the many hotels and guesthouses outside the park gates. There is the option to stay inside the park at night, either through a number of campsites (tents can be rented) or the national park lodges and cabins, though you’ll need to make reservations through the national park website (www.dnp.go.th) before you go. Entry is B400 for adults and B200 for children, B50 for Thais.
HOW TO GET THERE
Head north on Phahonyothin Rd. and turn right onto Mitraphap Rd. at Saraburi. You can get to Khao Yai through the smaller yet closer Pansuek-Kudkla Rd. next to Dairy Home Restaurant, and the main Thanarat Rd. You really need a car to get around so try Sixt (www.sixt.co.th) or Thai Rent a Car (www.thairentacar.com).
Palio Inn (044-365-905, 044-297-731, firstname.lastname@example.org) features 12 compact guestrooms decked out in an Italian countryside theme and is located right in the middle of the bustling Palio shopping center. From B2,500.
Hotel des Arts (044-297-444/742-3, 084-358-7755, email@example.com). Neither modern contemporary nor Tuscan, Hotel des Artists is set in a white colonial style mansion with rooms filled with equally classic wood furniture and romantic paintings. Additional villas are under construction and will be completed early next year. From B3,200/room, B5,500/villa.
Kirimaya and Muthi Maya (044-426-000, www.kirimaya.com). These two sister retreats are an ideal getaway even if you don’t fancy the balloon ride. Choose between the glamorous tents at Kirimaya or spacious pool villas at Muthi Maya—both located amid scenic valleys. Hot deals from B4,503.
|Address:||Khao Yai's New Attractions, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand|
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