It was a road trip to celebrate Ace’s birthday – so thought we would share some of our October trip details. We hadn’t been anywhere since February, thanks to COVID, so it was a nice chance to see a different part of Thailand we hadn’t visited. So we chose Khao Yai area & the National Park as a good option for exploration and enjoyed a week get away.
It was a longish drive from Chiang Mai to Khao Yai (for me these days), so we decided to break up the journey and stay overnight on the way. The first day was a leisurely drive south from Chiang Mai to Nakon Sawon, a city of nearly 95,000. The name literally means “Heavenly City”. The city is the capital of the province (with the same name), is about 250 kilometers (160 mi) north of Bangkok and marks the point of confluence of two of Thailand’s major rivers, the Ping and the Nan. These converge in Nakhon Sawan to form the Chao Phraya which flows south to Bangkok and out into the Gulf of Thailand.
A simple room in a city hotel provided a good nights sleep. We explored around town and enjoyed finding a surprising food spot. Dinner was at Aprils Brasserie – a modern place, with an amazingly large food menu and a huge cake selection – very reasonable and delicious dinner; but with no cakes – unfortunately! They looked yummy.
The next day we didn’t head directly to Khao Yai but headed cross country to the city of Lopburi.
Lopburi – Known as “Lavo” during most of its history, Lopburi is one of the most important cities in the history of Thailand. The city apparently dates back into the prehistory period, since the Bronze Age, of more than 3,500 years ago.
Later, it was reportedly influenced by the art and culture of India in the 11th century when it entered the era called the Dvaravati Period. Since that time, Lavo had been ruled by the Khmer, coming under the influence of their art and culture, in the 15th century, a time commonly called the Lopburi Period in Thai art history.
Among Lopburi’s many attractions, one of the more unusual features of the city, is its large monkey population. The monkeys can be spotted throughout the city, but are most prevelant around the ancient Khmer shrine of Prang Sam Yod. The monkey population have grown on the handouts of visitors to the shrine.
Although generally something of a nuisance, the monkeys are such a tourist draw that local businessmen treat them to a full course Chinese dinner every year to thank them. The dinner is served in November at the Phra Prang Sam Yod shrine. A unique event for sure. We walked about to get a few pictures of these city invaders. We weren’t bothered and locals nearby indicated they were ok as long as you didn’t pay attention or tease them.
After a lunch at what seemed a busy local noodle shop we visited King Narai’s 17th century Palace officially named Phra Narai Ratchaniwet. The ruins of the palace, locally known as Wang Narai are located in the old center of Lopburi town. King Narai the Great, King of Ayutthaya during the second half of the 17th century made Lopburi the second capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. He ordered a new palace built near the Lopburi river where he stayed most of the year. The palace was designed by French architects in a mix of Thai and European architectural styles. Construction started in 1665 and was completed 12 years later in 1677.
After King Narai’s death in 1688 the palace was abandoned. Nearly two centuries later King Mongkut ordered restoration of the palace and the construction of several new buildings. Nowadays, the palace buildings are in use as exhibition halls for the Lopburi museum.
Later in the afternoon we finished the drive to arrive in Khao Yai – a favorite get away spot for people from Bangkok. Atta Resort was a nice resort for our 4 night stay – a one bedroom apartment and lovely views. The breakfast buffet was very extensive. It was challenging to be on a diet with the massive morning delights on offer. Coffee and eats by the lake and views to hills was great way to enjoy the start of the day, before getting out to explore
It was on a wet, misty day we explored some of Khao Yai National Park. It was a bit foggy at first but cleared up. It was established in 1962 as Thailand’s first national park, & it is the third largest national park in Thailand.
Stopped at some view points, visitor center & waterfalls. Not many visitors, so very quiet in the park. Saw some deer and monkeys – but no wild elephants. The park covers an area of 2,168 km², including rain/evergreen forests and grasslands & at 1,351 meters high Khao Rom is the highest mountain within the park.
Just poking about another day, we explored the Khai Yai Art Museum. It is a private museum of art collected by Mr. Pongchai Chindasuk, a business owner of the Jinda Suk Group. There are hundreds of paintings by international artists including many sculptures. The area consists of a well maintained gallery of over 1,700 square meters and has a sculpture garden. It is open to the public and free to check out.
Winery areas are also dotted around Khao Yai – GranMonte Estate is one winery uniquely located in the Asoke Valley, Khao Yai so we headed for lunch. This Thai Winery – GranMonte – is family owned and the daughter is the Aussie Alumni winemaker, with formal training in South Australia. They have a nice restaurant & apparently produce about 120,000 bottles a year from their 90 rai vineyard. A very large, filling lunch
Spent time driving about the area, checking out the sights and scenes. There were lots of food and coffee spots about the area that we sampled – all good. Here is a cute spot we stopped in for afternoon scones and coffee.
We took our time heading home, travelling again across country to avoid the bigger roads where possible and enjoying stops for coffee and snacks frequently. Slow travel is our speed these days. After 5 days away it was enjoyable to get home, collect the dogs from the kennel and return to our routine. It was a nice trip, making great memories and enjoyable getaway.