There are many places in Thailand to see elephants, but only one place to see them in the wild. Welcome to Khao Yai!
See and Do
The main reason tourists come to Khao Yai National Park in NE Thailand is to spot wild Asian elephants roaming around the roads and hanging out at the salt licks. Several places in Pak Chong, the nearby town, organize daylong "jungle" tours for this exact purpose and because of the park's remote location and the skill it takes to actually spot wild elephants, we highly suggest signing up for a guide!
We stayed and "trekked" (this one really was a walk in the park, though the park was a bit jungly) with Bobby's Apartments and Jungle Tours. It was halfway between Pak Chong and the park, which meant less driving for the tour but also less to do at night. A 1.5 day itinerary cost 1500B, which seemed to be the norm across providers.
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, celebrated for its wilderness in both flora and fauna. Over the course of one day, we saw green vipers, hornbills, tons of macacaw monkeys and gibbons, strange insects, and, to top it off, one wild elephant!!
Spotted: Hoo You
- Distinguishing Feature: Ripped left ear
- Pet peeves: Cars
We also did a half day tour with Bobby's, the highlight of which was watching millions of bats leave a cave to find food. The tour was okay, but it seemed to drag on a bit. It's definitely not a must-do, unless you're a bat fan :o)
Overall, the guides at Bobby's Apartments and Jungle Tours seemed competent, though we were a bit dissapointed with our jungle trek guide, Bonsai. He started off great, going out of his way to spot animals and follow tips on where the elephants had been spotted. But halfway through the day, around the time he got high with other tour participants, he seemed to lose track of his goals. We never saw the promised viewpoint or swam in the waterfall and lunch wasn't as good (or filling) as promised. Though we did spot an elephant, instead of staying in the park until 7 and trying to spot more, we left around 6:30.
We stayed at Bobby's Apartments and Jungle Tours for 200B per night. The room was clean and the bathroom was pretty nice, except for a slightly malfuctioning shower that only wanted to spray water at the sink. (Other guests had showers that shot water in the correct direction.) There was no AC, but the moderate temperatures made that okay.
Eat and Drink
We ate mostly at Bobby's, which had good, though slightly overpriced food. Dinner entrees ran 80-110B. We also picked up food at the nearby Tesco and once, when desperate late at night, at McDonalds!
We took the train from Ayutthaya, which as you know was an experience. Our third class ticket with no seats cost 83B each and took about 3 hours. Bobby's picks you up at the station (train or bus), which makes it convenient and worth booking ahead.
We left by bus to Sukhothai, which was a connection no travelers make. Our first bus took us to Nakhon Sawan for 250B each. It was air conditioned, but crowded and late (about 6 hours). Our next bus cost 185B each and took about 3 hours. From there, we took a tuk tuk for a negotiated rate of 200B to the Old City.
More Khao Yai
Interested in seeing wild elephants without paying for a plane ticket? Check out our Khao Yai photo tour.
Share your tips for spotting wild elephants by leaving a comment!