A couple of hours from Thailand’s pulsating capital, Khao Yai, and its animal-packed national park, is quite literally a breath of fresh air.
Dominated by the monsoon forests of the Dong Phaya Yen mountains, this lush hilly landscape offers more than 2,000 square km of Unesco-protected jungle, waterfalls and wildlife – a diverse habitat that’s home to creatures great and small, from hornbills and hoopoes to lizards and leopards. Beyond the park gates, fertile farmland and fashionable weekend retreats lend the ‘Provence of Thailand’ an air of sophistication not found in other rural areas – complete with vineyard vistas and verdant fruit orchards. Leave Bangkok to spend a few days here and you’ll find a mix of tropical adventure and tranquillity that’s hard to find elsewhere.
The cool season (November–February) is the best time to visit, when the May–October rains have left the jungle lush and fresh and migrating birds fill the skies; expect warm sunny days and cool evenings. The mercury hits the mid-30s in March/April, but Khao Yai is still one of the coolest spots in Thailand. Midweek visits will be rewarded with solitude: weekends and public holidays see an influx of escapees from Bangkok.