Through the World Natural Heritage Site Khao Yai – Thap Lan – Pangsida – Ta Phraya – Dong Yai

| March 14, 2016

In July 2005. the 9th General Assembly of the United Nations Educational. Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO. in Durban. South Africa. inscribed Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex as a World Natural Heritage Site. The complex covers over 1,549,945.2 acres in Khao Yai National Park, Thap Lan National Park, Pangsida National Park, Ta Phraya National Park and Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary. comprising watershed areas rich in biodiversity, with more than 2.500 plants and over 800 animal species discovered. including up to 112 mammals such as elephant, tiger, gaur, clouded leopard, leopard cat, and pileated gibbon. The forest area was formerly known as Dong Phayafai – Forest of the Lord of Fire. invoking deep fear among travelers between the Northeast and the Central Region. as the jungle hosts deadly diseases and robbers. In the 60s more and more people followed the strategic Dhanarat Road to settle down in the area. clearing the land for cultivation. On 18 September 1962. under the pressure of conservationists led by Dr.Boonsong Lekhakul. the Government declared Khao Yai the first national park of Thailand. Forestlands in the neighborhood gradually came under protection. making up a forest complex as a remnant of the awesome Dong Phayafai and a classroom for the keen naturalist.
The tour route through the 5 forestlands starts in Nakhon Ratchasima, using Highway No.2 (Phahonyothin) to Pak Chong, turning into Khao Yai National Park along two-lane Highways 2090 and 3077, existing at Noen Hom Checkpoint of Prachinburi. Then turn left on Highway 33 passing Prachantakham District and take the left turn into Highway 304 towards Thap Lan National Park. Turning back on the same route and take the left turn along Highway 33 into Sa Kaeo Province, and turn left again along Highway 3426 towards Pangsida National Park 27 kilometers ahead, and over to Ta Phraya National Park along Highways 3485, 3393, 3486 and 348, 20 kilometers more. The last destination is Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Noen Daeng Sub-District, Buriram Province. From Dong Yai, travel north on Highway 224, passing Soeng Sang and Kharaburi Districts to Pak Thongchai District and the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, completing the tour of the world natural heritage site. 6 nights and 7 days should be spared for the trip, 2 overnight stays on Khao Yai, and one each in the remaining sites. To make the trip, 4-wheel drive vehicles of the good condition are required, as sideways into national parks are gravel or dirt roads. Also, get ready for steep and narrow mountain road up Khao Yai, although further stretches. are comparatively easy, particularly the road to Ta Phraya National Park which is asphalted throughout. Some provision should also be prepared for emergencies, even though food services are available in all national parks {with the exception of Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary-you have to cook your own food there).

From the Shrine to the Spirit of Khao Yai, about 100 meters from Pak Chong Checkpoint, the two-lane asphalt road gradually climbs for about 12 kilometers to the tourist information center and the Khao Yai National Park Office. There are 2 camping sites, Pha Kluai Mai, and Lam Takhong, with tents and bedding materials for rent, along with food shop, grocery store, toilet and bathroom made available to visitors who prefer to cook their simple food, camping style. Driving on Khao Yai, keep in mind that you are in the animal kingdom, where humans do not have the right of way. The park office has also put up steel plates warning visitors not to feed wild animals, especially pig-tailed macaques frequently found along the roads.
Activities include trekking, mountain biking, animal sighting, bird watching, butterfly viewing, nighttime animal sighting with torchlight, waterfalls visiting and touring by car. Those short on time can hire a bicycle at the camping ground and ride for about 1·2 kilometers to Nang Phakchi Animal Sighting Tower, with good chances to sight hornbills, and rare animals such as elephant, barking deer, sambar, and Asiatic wild dog coming to the salt lick. In the evening, you can join the shining tour to sight nocturnal animals such as barking deer, sambar, slow loris, civet, clouded leopard and porcupine. The park operates 2 sightings each evening, at 7.00 and 8.00 p.m.

There are several popular hiking trails on Khao Yai, such as Pha Kluai Mai camping ground-Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall- Haeo Suwat Waterfall, a distance of 3 kilometers, with plenty of birds and butterflies to be sighted, the nature study trail kilometer 33-the car park of Nong Phakchi, a distance of 3.5 kilometers, with numerous gibbons and wild birds to be seen, and the park office-Haec Prathun Waterfall-Haec Sai Waterfall- Haeo Suwat Waterfall, a distance of 8 kilometers, the area of eaglewood clumps. Not to be missed is the trekking to Haeo Narok Waterfall, with the torrent leaping down the cliff over a hundred meters in height. The two major lookouts are on Khao Khieo, namely Khao Dieo Dai Lookout, and Khao Khieo Lookout, in the area of the Royal Thai Air Force, accessible through difficult mountain road with sharp bends. It is also advisable to make a stop at the Khao Yai National Park Warden Unit 4, located at Ban Bu Chao Khun, Wang Mi Sub-District, Wang Nam Khieo District, about 80 kilometers from Khao Yai, where herds of gaur can be observed from a high tower, operated by a group of guar protection volunteers in cooperation with the park officials.
From Khao Yai National Park, use Highway 304 towards Thap Lan National Park, the site of the last remaining forest of Lan, Corypha Palm, a large palm tree believed to flourish only once in its lifetime, covered by light yellow flowers in large clusters from the top, numbering as much as a trillion each. The area around Thai Samakkhi Unit is where gaur, elephant, and banteng can be sighted daily Also, one can trek to the Thung Tu Rot Fai Train Compartment Field, requiring 3 days and 2 nights.

From Thap Lan, head for Pangsida National Park in Muang District. Sa Kaeo Province o n Highway 3462, about 27 kilometers from the town. The park is known as the Land of Butterflies of the Eastern Forest with over 320 butterfly species Pangsida Forest is also one of the most important bird-watching sites of the Eastern Region. Freshwater crocodiles have also been discovered in the marsh deep inside the forest. From Yai Mak Warden Unit, officials can bring visitors in search of the crocodiles along the waterway in rubber boats. The park has recently opened a nature study trail of 1,800 meters under the title The Spirit of Dong Phayayen, with 12 information stations along the trail.
Through Highways 3485, 3393, 3486 and 348, Ta Phraya National Park can be reached. The park is located about 20 kilometers from Ta Phraya District. It is rich in plant and animal lives. For example, at Klang Dong Unit, entered through a side road about 500 meters from the park office, 13 kilometers inside, is the habitat of gaurs and other animals such as clouded leopards. An Unseen Thailand site here is Lalu, or Thai Canyon, with oddly-shaped earthen pillars similar to Phae Muang Phi in Phrae, and Sao Din Na Noi in Nan. Accommodations and camping sites are available in the park. Food has to be prepared by campers themselves.
Concluding the trip at Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary in Non Din Daeng District, Buriram Province, drive past Ta Phraya National Park Office on Highway 348 by just 9 kilometers, with a sideway on the left as gravel road of 11 kilometers. As a wildlife sanctuary, no facilities are available for visitors. The place is rich in rare birds and mammals, as well as flora and butterflies.
From Dong Yai forest, follow Highway 224 to Pak Thongchai District, and return t o Nakhon Ratchasima, completing the tour of the World Natural Heritage Site.

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