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Despite being very little known to foreigners, Kaeng Krachan National Park is the largest in Thailand (2915 km2). It is reputed to be a good place for bird photography enthusiasts, with over 420 species of birds and over 300 types of butterflies. Kaeng Krachan is only a 3-hour drive from Bangkok, and just over an hour from Hua Hin.
Taking advantage of the fact that last Friday was a public holiday, we took the car with two friends in Bangkok and went to visit Kaeng Krachan. We didn’t know much about it, other than there was a river and a lake. Once there, we were happy to learn that Kaeng Krachan is a really beautiful park, and now we can’t wait to go back!
Kaeng Krachan, an ideal destination from Bangkok
The Park is located southwest of Bangkok, on the border with Burma, and is an ideal destination for those who need to disconnect from the city for a weekend in a green and quiet environment. Supposedly, admission is THB 300 for adults and THB 200 for children… but they didn’t charge us! We think that possibly they only charge an entrance fee in high season (November-April), or maybe only if you want to climb Mount Phanoen Thung.
The main offices of Kaeng Krachan National Park are right where the lake begins. Next to the offices is a beautiful green camping area with incredible views of the massive dam. An idyllic place to pitch your tent and spend a couple of days in total relaxation. I already plan to get some camping gear and go back to Kaeng Krachan for a weekend camping.
There are also bungalows within the Park, but the most popular accommodation option in the area, apart from camping, are the resorts by the river, which have huge slides and zip lines to jump into the water. We stayed at one of these resorts and had a great time, playing in the river like children again.
What to see and do in Kaeng Krachan?
Floating down the river, a natural water park
Petchaburi River is one of the great attractions of Kaeng Krachan, and one of the main reasons it attracts local tourism. A small stretch of Petchaburi River, just past the dam, has been turned into a kind of mini water park, where Thais (there is little foreign tourism) have a great time jumping in the river with safesty vests, and letting themselves be carried away by the current for about 500 meters. Then they walk back up to jump again. We, of course, couldn’t resist joining in on the activity, and spent a couple of hours walking upstream and floating downstream.
Ropes are installed in the river so people can jump in the water or just hold onto them, and several riverside resort have slides that drop you straight into the water. Another of the highlights for many Thai tourists is to spend long hours eating and drinking at one of the many riverside restaurants.
The lake, a 45 km2 dam
Kaeng Krachan Lake is the other main highlight of the park. Thais tend to camp right out front and spend the weekend eating and sleeping, kin leaw kor non as they say, that unviersal appeal to just being lazy doing absolutely nothing.
From the lake you can take a boat ride (600 THB for one hour and 1200 THB for 2 hours) to sail around the lake, swim and/or visit an islet with a Buddhist monastery. Some small local lakeside businesses rent jet skis and offer fishing activities. And while visiting the lake, if you are lucky, you’ll see what Thais call ling uai naam… swimming monkeys!
Mount Phanoen Thung, where you can also camp
At 1207 meters high, this peak is the second highest in the Park, and one of the most popular for the beautiful views it offers. We could not go up as it is closed during the months of August, September and October. Soon I will return to the Park, and hopefully then I’ll have the chance to climb up there. There is a camping area near the starting point of the trail that leads up to the top of Phanoen Thung. This mountain is famous for being a good place to see the sea of clouds, which I already talked about in the article about Khao Kho National Park.
Accommodation: Bungalows, Resorts or Camping
As I said, it is a good idea to stay either at one of the resorts along the river or at the campsite at the entrance of the park, right in front of the lake. The campsite is easy to find as it is behind the main offices of Kaeng Krachan National Park. The resorts along the river are located next to the bridge that crosses Petchaburi River, before reaching the Park offices.
If you plan to go trekking then it is better to stay in the camping areas of either Ban Krang Camp or Mount Phanoen Thung. This last place is the best option in case you want to climb the mountain.
Bungalows in the park cost between 1800 THB and 3000 THB, depending on whether they have 4 or 6 beds. Camping costs between 100 THB and 240 THB depending on the area. There are 3 camping areas (Park, Mount Phanoen Thung and Pala-U Waterfall), which make this Park very appealing for those who like to sleep in a tent. Tents and camping gear can be rented in the park.
How to get to Kaeng Krachan National Park?
It is better to go in your own vehicle, since once there it will be very useful to move around the park. In this case, you just have to take highway 4 towards Phetchaburi, and turn unto highway 3499 until reaching the Park. From Bangkok, it takes between 2:30 and 3 hours to get there.
It is also possible to go by bus, although it will take much longer, at least half a day. From Bangkok, first you’ll have to go to Phetchaburi, where you’ll have to make a transfer. There are minibuses departing from Sai Tai Mai (Southern Terminal). Don’t get off at Phetchaburi’s main terminal, but at the stop in front of the Big C supermarket, off Phetkasem Road (Route 4), a few kms off the city centre (ask the driver if necessary). Departing from there, there are minibuses every hour that go to the Park Headquarters from 08:00 to 19:00 for 100 THB.