Camping in Thailand Khlong Wang Chao National Park
Khlong Wang Chao National Park is in Kamphaeng Phet Province and forms part of the Western Forest Complex, a boundary between the mountains to the West and the Myanmar border and the flat plains of the central region of Thailand. Originally a forest reserve, there were concerns surrounding forest encroachment and the area was designated as a National Park in 1990. Occupying 747 square kilometers of heavily forested and mountainous land the park is home to a number of animal species including wild boar, deer, and according to National Park Bureau Department of National Parks even wild tigers. Beware though, this same webpage also states that one area of the park is home to 'a frog, a frog, a frog, a Huai Frog, and a button on a rock'.
I arrived in mid-January after a six hour very scenic ride from Kanchanaburi and this was to be my first time camping in Thailand, I had bought my tent in the UK along with a self-inflating mattress and planned the camping trip for this time of year due to the cooler weather. I had still expected it to remain quite warm and for this reason I never bought a sleeping bag, I could always pick one up if needed. On arriving at the park I entered the main gate and paid my 200 Baht entrance fee which entitled me come and go as I pleased for up to five days. Entrance for my motorcycle was twenty Baht and each night I wished to stay for would incur a thirty Baht camping fee. I ended up staying for three nights so the total came to 310 Baht.
Also on the site there are various cabins and bungalows that cater for those who wish for a few more home comforts; and tents, sleeping bags, pillows etc, can all be rented on a daily basis. I never inquired about these but the tents, some of which are permanently pitched seemed to be of good quality. However, it made sense for me to have my own tent partly for the reason I explained in my earlier post and partly because I would also be camping in areas where rentals were sometimes unavailable. The cabins seemed to range in size and quality although I cannot confirm this.
Having left Kanchanaburi just after first light, I arrived at around 1 o'clock on a Friday afternoon and picked my spot on what was a well occupied but not overly busy patch of grass which had trees that gave some shade from the sun. The site was quite remote, well away from any public transport and with what seemed to be only one tarmac road in and out although this was of excellent quality. In the middle of the dry season there seemed to be little point in exploring the waterfalls the park is famous for, although the shallow river flowing through the middle of the campsite was a nice little feature and was well used for paddling. As Friday afternoon turned into Friday evening a steady stream of people arrived and the camp-spots on both sides of the river started to fill, as did the bungalows. I did not meet another foreigner on this or any other site that I stayed at, the Thais were very friendly though and seemed surprised to see a farrang semi-roughing it.
I started to explore during the first afternoon and rode deeper into the park, after around 16km I came to a point where it would have been reckless to continue, although if I had been in a 4WD I am guessing that I could possibly have driven up into the mountains before having to return the same way. I then found the visitor centre and cafe area which appeared to be the only place to buy food, I ate there twice during my stay and it was surprisingly cheap and good quality, although Thai food only. It was easy enough to ride out into the nearest town for supplies and food, but even then options were limited and almost all the Thais had brought their own food and soft drink's, drinking alcohol in Thailands National Parks is illegal as is smoking, partying, plastics, big bikes, the list is seemingly endless.
After dark there really wasn't much to do except use the last of my laptop power supply and listen to some loud music until the early hours of the morning, it was either that or go to sleep at about 8pm, I chose the second option but some of the neighbours were rowdy and kept me awake until around 8-30. Waking up on the first morning it became clear that the bathrooms were going to be one of the not so brilliant things about the campsites, they were clean enough, but basic, and the freezing cold water seemed to have come straight from the mountains. I would also be using hotels and guest houses during the trip so hot showers became one thing I really started to appreciate when they were available.
Mornings I tended to go for short rides outside of the park and then I would return with a few supplies and explore inside, usually by riding away from the campsite area and then exploring on foot. I felt a little nervous about leaving things inside my tent but figured that if I took it with me on the bike and then left the bike unattended it would be an easier target, so I started to leave quite valuable items in the tent. This became common practice throughout the rest of my trip and I never had a single issue. However, I think it would be a good idea to have lockers in the NP Rangers booths/buildings which you could rent and leave items safely under supervision.
Saturday saw the campsite get quite busy as more people turned up and very few if any seemed to leave, I would estimate around three hundred people were sleeping in the park on Saturday night, by 3-00pm on Sunday I may well have been the only camper left, as the park emptied so everyone could return to work on Monday morning. I left the following morning and rode on Mae Sot where I spent the next three nights in the Hop Inn Hotel. I needed to do this camp/hotel/camp/hotel combination so I could catch up with editing, post some videos, and recharge all the batteries, oh yes and have hot showers.
This was a good introduction to camping in Thailand although I was in a quite small National Park, which to be honest I wouldn't visit again after seeing other parks since then. The campsite itself was the most beautiful of any that I visited, but the surrounding countryside relied heavily on the rains to bring out its best features such as waterfalls and lush green trees. My next campsite after Mae Sot would be the one to confirm if I had made a good decision to give this a try.
Coming Soon, Mae Moei National Park.