Camping in Thailand: Kaeng Krachan
Kaeng Krachan is around 150 kms from Bangkok, and must be one of the most special natural places in Thailand. I almost don’t want to write about it, because I fear that every additional visitor is a burden on this wonderful national park. It stands out in my mind because it is, along with the Serengeti, the only place where I have seen a leopard in the wild, although you may not be so lucky!
Camping at Kaeng Krachan carries the usual provisos about camping in Thailand. Avoid weekends, high days and holidays: what could be an idylic trip to a natural wonderland could easily turn into a nightmare if you choose the wrong day. This is to my mind one of the most important bits of advice when planning a trip for camping in Thailand.
I am not sure if I am the only antisocial camper, but for me there is nothing worse than turning up to a campsite and having to book your piece of real estate, as if on a Barcelona beach. If you go camping at Kaeng Krachan during the week, you may well be the only tent there, along with a couple of nature friendly birdwatchers! Well worth telling your boss or customers that you have a headache!
There are two main campsites inside the park at Kaeng Krachan, but there are others overlooking the Kaeng Krachan lake about 3 kms on the right after you crest the dam. I have never stayed at those, but they look quite serviceable. The entrance to the park is about 30 kms after that. It is quite poorly marked and requires a right and then a left turn somewhere. More details, PLEASE POST!
The park entrance stands out for being one of the few places to demand that foreigners pay 10 times the Thai price, which is a complete disgrace. Most national parks in Thailand overlook this rule if you have a thai driving licence, work-permit, speak thai, etc. I actually offered to cut my kids in half so that she would only charge the severed thai half the thai price, but she didn’t find it amusing.
Baan Krang campsite is around 15 kms after the park entrance, and has very nice camping areas under big trees. This is before you get to the steep bits on the way to Panoen Tung. I would recommend staying at Ban Krang for a night before continuing to Panoen Tung. It is a very nice campsite near a stream, with some pleasant nature rambles near by. It is also quite big place so with luck you might find your own, secluded piece of real estate even on a weekend. I am now a bit superstitious of the big Ton Yang trees here, which shed their (big) branches in the dry season, and nearly cut a christmas camp very short, so maybe a look up is in order.
The other thing to note is that if you want to go to Panoen Thung campsite, you have to enter the park before 3pm. Alternatively, you can camp at Baan Krang, which is nice, under big trees. Personally, I prefer to spend a night at Baan Krang, then head on to Panoen Thung the next day or two.
The next day, you could continue on to Panoen Thung campsite which is located on a flat plateau at the top of a hill about 30-40 kms from Baan Krang. It is a bit steep in places, and a 2 wheel drive may have problems if it is wet, but probably not. We saw our leopard in the middle of the road about 10 kms from baan krang, but of course none of us thought to get a photo in the excitement. But I bear witness that they still exist at time of writing. Outstanding views from Panoen Thung, and as I write this I am almost drooling with love for this place! Sorry.
There are some great walks from Panoen Thung, down to a waterfall, which is a 4 hour walk there and back. Take swimmers, and head for the level 5 falls. You will hear gibbons and maybe see them as well as hornbills and who knows what. You can get a good packed lunch of your own preference for fried rice from the cantine near the campsite. It is a haven for birdwatchers, and you might catch a glimpse of a hornbill if you are lucky, or maybe a lesser spotted green tit if not quite so lucky.