If you are like me and love nature and trekking/hiking through the jungle to find some amazing waterfalls and caves, then I have some great adventure spots to share.
I fell in love with Thailand 12 years ago. When I visited Thailand the first time, I stayed for only 1 month. The second holiday I managed to stay 2 months (my boss in Holland wasn’t so happy) and the third time I called my boss and told him that I wasn’t coming back for work and I promptly made Thailand my second home. 🙂
I worked in the big city, Bangkok, due to my personal training business. But I always looked forward to when I could escape the pollution and traffic of Bangkok and visit the natural parks and country side. Marie and I have been fairly lucky in that we have managed to take a trip out almost every month since we married 5 years ago.
I think we’ve crisscrossed almost the whole of Thailand during our stay here, and most of it was done on my BMW GS1200 motorbike.
Because I’ve been to probably more places in Thailand than the average foreigner or even Thais…
I believe sharing with you my top 6 Thai National Parks, makes sense. Most of the ones I’m going to list are not frequented by foreigners. So if you’re “white,” like me, you might be the only farang (white person) there.
Note: This list reflects my personal opinion and is not listed in any specific order of preference.
So here we go:
1.Khao Sok Natural Park http://www.khaosok.com/
This amazing place makes you feel like you are in the Avatar movie set. Some of the landscape really looks different and until you’ve visited you won’t know what I mean. The park can be explored by elephant-back safari, hiking trail, and raft, canoe or kayak via the Sok river.
Khao Sok National Park is a nature reserve in southern Thailand containing dense virgin jungle, tower like limestone quartz formations and the man-made Cheow Lan Lake. It’s home to rare species such as the giant parasitic Rafflesia flower, hornbill birds, gibbons and tigers.
We traveled there on our motorbike and stayed in a cute floating bungalow called: Khao Sok Smiley Lake House http://khaosok-smiley.com/
It’s absolutely worth your money, you’ll pay around 5000THB per night during low season (probably more during high season) and compared to other guest houses in town this might seem a bit expensive, but this was for 2 people, 2 days and 1 night, and everything was included, food, board, and 1 day trip. Food was simple, they gave us a basic Thai breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The day trip included in our package was a trip to this amazing waterfall that ended up in a cave. We went with a group of about 20 folks but some were a bit scared to swim in the cave. We were provided with little head lights but the dark cave and the deep water with a fairly strong current frightened quite a few folks so the group split up and only a few of us continued till the water got too high and the end opening was too small to continue through.
Apparently, during high season the water isn’t quite so deep and you can swim directly through cave and come up on the other side. But we went during rainy season, so we weren’t able to get through due to our guides deciding the water was too high and rough to complete the trip. Despite not being able to go completely through we had a grand time, and upon returning, we tried to convince the other group that stayed back to give it a shot but by then our guides said it was too late and that the water was only going to get higher and stronger.
When we weren’t on a guided tour, we could dive into the clear cool lake directly from the door of our floating bungalow. They also provided us with free of charge kayaks and we got to explore the lake on our own.
We felt that we weren’t in Thailand during our stay in Khao Sok lake and we hope that we get to see it again before we leave Thailand.
See a short video of our adventure here:
The next on my list is Pai. Located in the north of Thailand around 146km north-west from Changmai, is a sleepy, super chill town in the middle of the mountains.
Some people compare this town with Bangkok’s Khao San road as there’s a lot of backpackers and an active night life, but believe me its nothing like that.
Marie, myself and Marie’s cool parents (Paul & Sunny) drove to Pai on motorbikes all the way from Bangkok. Our favorite guest house was along the Pai river, called Pai Country Hut http://www.paicountryhut.com/ it was an adorable bamboo hut that cost only 500thb/night
Check out the video below:
The best time to go to Pai is around December when the weather is nice and cool, actually it was a bit cold esp when riding on a motorbike.
Highlights in Pai:
The Pai Canyon (Pha Chau)
Yup, it is a small canyon and it looks similar to the Grand Canyon except you are in the mountains of Thailand. The reddish cliffs and sandstone hills are breath-taking and perfect for hiking and taking beautiful pictures. Again, I felt like I had climbed into a worm-hole and ended up outside of Thailand.
Seriously, I lived in Thailand for 11 years before I heard anything about Pai, or the Pai canyon. I’m still curious why it isn’t as well know as it deserves to be, but I guess I’m happy that I discovered it now, before the tourist hordes take it over.
Pai Hot springs.
Now there 2 different hot springs in Pai. One is called Sai Ngam hot spring and the other Tha Pai Hot spring.
The Sai Ngam is by far my favorite as this will cost you only 20 baht per person for entry, plus 20 baht for your scooter and is way more natural and more beautiful with less tourists than the Tha Pai Hot spring where you pay 300thb entry and have to share the water with a lot more people and screaming kids.
Also it’s a great road to drive on your motorbike. It’s 11km from Pai, going through the mountains, towards Mae Hong Son.
Tham Lod Cave
I’ve seen my fair share of caves in Thailand, but this one took me by surprise by it’s sheer size and complexity. In my opinion it is Thailand’s most amazing cave.
The Tham Lod Cave system is around 1,666 meters long and it features some of the most amazing stalactites and stalagmites that I have ever seen.
This cave was apparently occupied in the pre-historic era from 9000BC to 5500BC by the Hoabinhian hunting tribe. A community of hunters who made axes and hammers out of stone and bones. You can still see some proof of their existence in this cave.
What makes this place so special is you’ll have to enter this cave with a bamboo raft and a guide holding an old fashioned kerosene lantern to light up the place, there’s a lot of fresh water going through the cave with some huge black fish swimming underneath the raft.
The guide with the lantern will then stop at several places in the cave were you have to climb up and hike to different chambers and view amazing sights of lime stone and grand columns of stalagmites. Some are over 20 meters high!
Entrance fee & opening hours: Guides with lanterns only 150 Bath per group (always handy to bring your own flash lights too) Bamboo raft inside the cave (recommended) 400 THB. Opening hours: 9:00am till 6:00pm.
43km from Pai, take the 1095 road direction Mae Hong Son.
3. Chaloem Rattanakosin National Park
We visited this park just a couple of weeks ago and what I like about this park is there aren’t very many tourists. It’s a small place and beautiful place (it’s only 59 km² and is the smallest park in Kanchanaburi Province) but what makes it special is that it is so close to Bangkok you can drive there and back on the same day and still get to enjoy the nature. Its main features are fertile forests, steep limestone mountains, waterfalls and mysterious caves.
Checking out the featured spots is also relaxing due to the park’s small size. You only have to walk 500m before you enter the first cave. After trekking to the other side of the cave, you get to trek through 1.5km of light jungle to reach a small but refreshing waterfall. If you go another 1.5km further there’s an even bigger cave and waterfall.
Check out some of the massive trees we saw…
…and how I almost broke my back trying to climb like Tarzan…
4. Erawan National Park
Not far from this park is the more popular Erawan waterfall. https://www.thainationalparks.com/erawan-national-park I would recommend that you visit this park as early as you can in the morning to avoid the busloads of tourists. There’s lots of “spa” fish in the waterfall so if you stand still they will start nibbling all the dead skin from off your body. If you are ticklish it’ll be a bit uncomfortable, but you can also just sit on the side and let the “spa” fish give you a natural pedicure 😉
Within the same natural park, around 80km away there’s the Hin Dat Hot Spring. This hot spring was accidentally found by Japanese soldiers during the Death Railway construction, in 1943, World War II period. This natural hot springs flows hot throughout the entire year.
What I like about this hot spring is that there are 3 different pools with 3 distinct temperatures: 1. Warm 2. Very hot 3. Very cold. So you can jump in the hot bath first and then cool down in the cold waterfall right next to the hot spring. Another amazing option you have at this hot spring is that they offer rejuvenating Thai massage for very reasonable prices. I’d go back there just for the massages.
5. Emerald Cave (Morakot Cave)
To enter this secret white sand beach you’ll have to swim about 70m through an underwater cave. It’s only accessible at low tide as the cave will be underwater most of the time…. It’s a real beautiful place and it is quite exciting swimming in the underwater cave, but unfortunately when we went there we weren’t able to enjoy the ambiance as there was a huge company bonding event being hosted on that “secret” beach. They were playing some weird relay games, blaring awful music and just ruining the place for the rest of us. I guess you can never be sure if there will be a respectful group there, but if you go as early in the morning as possible you might beat the large groups.
Location: Morakot Cave is located near Koh Mook island, Toward the northwest of Haad Chao Mai National Park, in Trang province.
Last but not least a “must visit” place nearby Bangkok is the…
6. Phraya Nakhon Cave in Khao Roy Yot National park, Hua Hin province.
This amazing cave has a beautiful small golden temple hidden inside the cave. It’s one of the most mystical places I’ve visit in Thailand. The sun comes through a hole in the mountain to shine directly on the small temple and makes it glow and sparkle.
Only the reasonably fit can visit this temple as it’s a fairly hard trek to get there.
First step to reach the cave is to drive to the small village of Bang Pu located at the beach. From there you can decide to take the boat or hike 30-60min through the mountains to reach Leam Sala beach.
We’re fitness trainers so (of course) we went for the hike…but the boat ride only cost 150 baht so it’s a good option if you want to relax while enjoying the sights. Once you arrive at Leam Sala beach you will have to climb another 430 meters of uneven steep steps to enter the cave. Make sure you bring enough water as the mountain is very humid and you will sweat like crazy. But we thought the hike was absolutely worth it
So there you go, a few of my favorite caves and waterfalls in Thailand…There are many more but I must stop here or this post will be longer than it is and I think it is too long already 🙂
Thanks for reading…and of course please share away! 😀