- Khao Yai National Park
Only 150 km northeast of downtown Bangkok, this natural water park offers hikes to over 22 picturesque waterfalls as well as daily rafting trips down the Saiyai River at Kang Hin Perng. The high evergreen forests and uncommon grasslands also make this park ideal for wildlife watching on the ground or in one of two animal observation towers. Daring travelers have the option to spend the night in one of these towers, provided they bring plenty of bug repellant and courage.
- Chaloem Phrakiat Thai Prachan National Park
One of Thailand’s newest national parks, 160 km northeast of Bangkok, Chaloem Phrakiat Thai Prachan was once a site of conflict between the royal government and communist rebels but has since adopted a much cooler stance. Numerous reservoirs provide tranquil environments for relaxation and swimming, while the Pong Krathing Hotspring offers soothing mineral baths to tired and sore travelers. This park is still under development, so services are constantly improving.
- Khao Chamao-Khao Wong National Park
190 km southeast of Bangkok, this park is an ideal destination for the avid spelunker. Formed primarily out of limestone, the landscape hides over 80 explorable caves and at least two mountains: Khao Chamao and Khao Wong. The former takes its name from the carp that dwell in a pool beneath one of its waterfalls, whose flesh is believed to induce intoxication when eaten. Finally, a magic carp that’s useful!
- Mu Ko Samet National Park
Traveling 195 km southeast from Bangkok leads to Mu Ko Samet National Park, an archipelago in the Eastern Thai Gulf featured in the classic Thai epic, Phra Aphai Manee. True to its poetic reputation, Mu Ko Samet is home to beautifully carved bays, sparkling white beaches, and excellent reefs for snorkeling and SCUBA diving. Ships depart daily from the city of Ban Phe, and accommodations are available on the largest island, Samet.
- Thap Lan National Park
Thailand’s second largest national park, about 210 km northeast of Bangkok, Thap Lan is also one of the most endangered, due to illegal poaching and agriculture. Nonetheless, the considerate traveler still has a great variety of natural places to explore, such as Thailand’s largest fan palm forest, the summit of Makha Mountain, or the attractive boating and water sport area near the Lam Plai Mart Dam.
All of these parks but Chaloem Phrakiat Thai Prachan are reachable by bus and songtaew (benched truck) from Bangkok, which places the challenge of navigating Thai traffic in the hands of a more experienced driver. Additionally, all of these parks, except Chaloem Phrakiat Thai Prachan, offer camping, hostel, and bungalow accommodations, as well as food services.