Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Thailand Winter Getaway Series 2017: Khao Yai 3D2N Itinerary for Families (with kids)

It's that time of the year again, when I build upon my Thailand Winter Getaway Series. I have a feeling you will like this one man, especially if you are planning a trip to Khao Yai for your family. What I am going to share is the exact itinerary of my recent trip which involved a 'small' group of 21, ages ranging from 0 to 84, so if we managed to do this, so can you.

This was taken on the 3rd day, everyone still beaming with delight.

Before you decide to embark on a trip to Khao Yai, there are a few things to take note:

  1. A car is a must. The area is huge and there is no public transport, whether you take van or drive yourself, you need to ensure you have your own form of transportation for the trip to work.
  2. Do some research. There are too many places to visit, have a rough idea of where you would like to visit to have a more efficient trip.
  3. To get the most out of the Khao Yai experience, try to go when it's cool, which means December-early January. Even then, the days might still be scorching hot while it gets really cool at night. I can't imagine enjoying Khao Yai properly during the rainy season (June to September).
DAY 1:

Tung Buachom Floating Market

I wanted to leave this out, because there's really nothing interesting. We left home before 9am and arrived slightly after 10am. You can consider this a toilet break, and for the kids to have fun feeding the ginormous catfish, who have obviously enjoyed too many feasts over the new year break.

Fish that are bigger than duck?

Rai Suwan Corn Farm

Absolutely nothing to see, or rather we didn't find out whether there was any farm tour available. This initially-underwhelming visit ended up giving us the best food we had throughout the entire trip, their boiled corn. Fresh, sweet and slightly salty, you will struggle to find more delicious corn anywhere else in Thailand. The corn milk is a must-try as well. It runs out really quickly so come early.

World-class boiled corn and corn milk.
Hands-down the best thing I ate during the entire trip. 


It's my 3rd time there and most things remain similar so I will direct you here and here to enjoy seeing me looking slightly more like a young man. That's not to say there are no changes at all. I was happy to see more English being incorporated into their tour, though 90% is still conducted in Thai (don't worry, it's pretty engaging even though you might not understand the commentary). The animal show has also been scaled down into a brief dog show and the animal feeding stations have been moved outside the farm (meaning you can feed animals without buying tickets to enter the farm).

Little E dressed for the occasion.

Spend 155baht on their burger, it will leave you more satisfied than the steak, which is a lot pricier and always a let-down.
Don't forget their ice-cream and milk, if they are not sold-out yet.
If you have kids in tow, I highly recommend the 2-hour tour, which you will do well to book in advance from their website. It's not the most exciting tour in the world, but it's likely to be your kids' (and yours too) first time in a real, proper cattle ranch, observing how cows are milked, bred, how milk is bottled and enjoy some antics from cowboys. There's also a pretty extensive dragonfruit plantation, if you haven't seen one before.


Before moving on to day 2, I would like to emphasize the importance of the choice of your accomodation. There are countless possibilities in Khao Yai, ranging from farmstays, resorts, hotels, European-style villages and lodging close to the National Park. We chose the glamping route, giving our children a comfortable yet semi-real experience of staying in a tent. However well-equipped it is, with just a piece of canvas as protection, we were still vulnerable to the unpredictable forces of nature.

Hanging bridge leading to the tents.
Picturesque surroundings.
Fully-furnished tent, complete with a bathroom.
What I woke up to every morning.
Noah enjoyed his surroundings so much he started doodling a tree.
The footpath, and many more. That's what the experience is all about.
The view from our tent at night.

DAY 2:


I have been to sunflower fields before, but this is easily the best of all. It's HUGE, and quite a sight. I would personally make a day trip just to see this.

Yeah, not kidding. It's unreal. Wah Lau Eh!
Unfortunately we only managed to take a family picture at a part of the field where most flowers were droopy.



Now that Ellie is more than ready, we had to bring her here, because it is where some of our fondest memories were made, when we only had Noah. Furthermore, it's only open for barely 2 months every year, so the window to visit isn't big at all.

One of my favourite pictures this entire trip.
Noah attempting to mill rice.

To update, everything has remained largely the same since my previous post. The farm tour is still split into 4 parts - pumpkin patch, Isaan village, life cycle of silkworms/silk manufacture and finally the huge merchandise area. If you are a fan of their products, this is a wonderful place to find a large variety and snag a bargain or two. Oh, and they have quite a beautiful patch of sunflowers too!



This is a magnificent building reminiscent of castles built during the medieval ages in Europe. We came here after dinner for some drinks. 

Ellie posing nicely in order to get some ice cream.
Beautiful, no?
Is this place just an enormous themed restaurant though? I struggle to figure out any other point of the building. Then again, it's worth a visit, as it has ample seating, live music, playground and a unique ambience that takes some beating, especially on a cool midwinter day.

DAY 3:

I will call this the day to "visit all the other places before shooting back to Bangkok".


This has to be the most satisfying new find in Khaoyai. It's not the most straightforward location, but please take the trouble to spend a casual morning here if you can spare the time. I wish I had the stomach to try their food to give you a more complete review, now I can only say that the drinks are decent.

Finally found it.

Please Don't Tell Khaoyai

Colourful drinks served on the longest coffeebar I have ever seen.


One of those places where I got highly-polarising reviews from friends. Again, we didn't dine here. The chocolate wafer lollies we bought for the kids were quite a delight though.

Christmas spirit still very much alive deep into the first week of January.
Right when the clock strikes 12 noon, millions of little bubbles are dispensed from a couple of bubble machines in the open area outside. It's a pleasant surprise for adults and children alike.



This is one of the interesting choices of accomodation in Khao Yai. But if you do not stay here, you must visit especially during the weekend. 

The Birder's Lodge Weekend Farmer's Market.
I will most definitely come by again, even if it's just for the weekend Farmer's Market. It's not a big place, but some of the produce I managed to get my hands on, I have never seen in Bangkok.

A surprisingly-good crowd at the market.
Just some of the produce that might only be found exclusively here.

I have been told the cafe is good, but it was simply too crowded that day for 21 of us, so we moved on. This will not be the last you see of me here.

Grand Finale: Dairy Home Farm Shop

Dairy Home is one of the most popular milk brands among expat mums in Bangkok, as they produce organic milk from grass-fed cows.

Sky turned gloomy when we got here.
Tree house that made the kids really really happy.
Unless you are buying milk in gallons, don't expect to get a bargain even though you have traveled the distance. 

Must-eat in Khao Yai!
Instead, don't leave without their excellent ice-cream, which was lauded as Haagen Daz-quality by one of my companions. 2 scoops plus any one of their cute cups will set you back only by 80THB. In terms of price vs quality, this could be the best ice cream deal in Thailand.

***********

Phew! This post is quite epic isn't it. For those who are still scratching their heads wondering why I didn't recommend any restaurants throughout the post, I have to tell you the truth. After a long thought process I decided to leave them out, as they were one disappointment after another. I can only assume they are still suffering from the new year hangover to make myself feel better.

All in all, I believe you can see for yourself that Khao Yai is more than worth a trip. Just manage your expectations, because while the hardware here might be world-class, the software, be it service standards, food quality etc., still has a long way to go before Khao Yai can become the ideal getaway location.

That said, no place is perfect. Let's embrace Khao Yai as it is. Hope you will find this year's winter getaway instalment useful for your future travels.

PS. I live in Thailand, thus I am lucky enough to have my own car to travel in Khao Yai. I am afraid I will not be able to help you with van/car rental contacts, should you need any. Apologies in advance and thanks for your kind understanding.

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