Khao Yai - an idyllic town 3 hours from BKK
As a traveller, whenever I venture into lands anew, I prefer collecting moments, not things. But with unforgettable experiences often come hefty costs. If you’re a budget traveller like me, Khao Yai would be your next favourite destination. It's 3 hours from Bangkok, and ridicules the notion that Thailand's all about night markets, shopping and food. Instead, think flower gardens, hobbit homes and Italian-themed streets!
I picked up a wifi router from Changi Recommends before heading off, ensuring that there's always navigational help* at my fingertips. Rates start at $12/day, but keep a look out for occasional promotional rates. Here are 10 places I went to in Khao Yai, convincing people on my Instagram stories that I was in Europe and Australia. #sorrynotsorry
1. Add colours to your IG feed at Thailand's biggest flower garden
I’m definitely not the girliest girl around but when I arrived at The Bloom, I couldn’t help prancing and twirling around like a Disney princess. The Bloom is the largest flower garden in Thailand, and is filled with rows of flowers that’ll instantly brighten up your day. It's open all year, and flowers are seasonal - according to Tourism Thailand, it's host to more than 30 species of winter flowers.
No more flying to France or Korea to take a picture in lavender or sunflower fields because The Bloom can make an even lovelier backdrop, and at a much lower cost!
There's a cafe overlooking Bloom serving refreshing drinks, so you can take a break here when your feet get tired.
View from the cafe
Practise your poses because this place is too pretty to miss a snap!
Tip: Temperatures in Khao Yai are similar to that in Singapore, so visit in the evenings to avoid the heat.
Address: The Bloom, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
Opening Hours: Daily; 7am to 8pm
Total Damage: 100 Baht per pax
2. Live out your LOTR fantasies at Thailand's Shire
Lord Of The Rings fans listen up, your dream to stay in The Shire is one gigantic step closer. Instead of flying all the way to New Zealand’s Hobbit movie set to look at these adorable houses in a 3-hour tour for S$79, you can actually stay in one at Khao Yai for only S$60!
Stepping into my own hobbit house was a magical experience. The interior of our hobbit house was igloo-themed and super cute! Air-conditioned with fridge, heater and all the comfort you can get from a hotel, even Bilbo would want to come over.
All the hobbit houses have different interiors so make sure to check them out online before booking!
What’s more, you can dress up as your favourite characters for FREE - there’s a hut with a huge variety of costumes and props. Dress up with your squad and reenact your favourite parts of LOTR!
Tip: You can't locate Hobbit House in Google Maps in English so search using the address in Thai.
Address: 292 Moo 15 Tambon Lat Bua Sikhio Nakhon Ratchasima 30340
Address in Thai: บ้านสวนน้อยHobbit ตำบล ลาดบัวขาว นครราชสีมา ประเทศไทย
Contact: +66 81 291 5160
Total Damage: 1500 Baht per night (2 pax)
3. Live in a caravan for a perfect glamping experience
Staying at Casa De Montana was the highlight of our trip. Upon arrival, we saw caravans lined up before us just like a movie set. For $130 a night, you get amenities like aircon, TV, fridge, heater and even an oven within the cosy caravan. Even if you aren’t adventurous, this glamping experience will make you feel like you are.
Waking up to a scenic view of lush greenery, I dreaded the moment we had to leave. With all the comfort from a hotel tucked into a caravan, this makes a great spot to stay for those who want a quick getaway from the city.
Address: Casa de montana, Mu Si, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
Total Damage: 3300 Baht per night (2 pax)
4. Be teleported to mini Italy at Palio Village
Situated in Palio Village, Palio Inn is an Italian-themed hotel we absolutely adore. Being woken up by Italian songs and the view of sunlit streets in this colourful old town is something I won't soon forget.
If you thought Thailand was all about night markets and overly-crowded streets, Palio Village will prove you wrong. With an eclectic mix of shops such as cafes, souvenir shops, bakeries and fashion boutiques, you’ll fall in love with this quaint neighborhood.
With angel statues, a clock tower and stone bridges, you'll love its traditional Italian architecture - every spot here is Insta-worthy! We even witnessed a couple taking their wedding shots. If you’re planning to tie the knot soon, consider getting your shots taken here instead of flying all the way to Europe!
Address: 146/1 Moo.4, Thanarath Road (km.17), Moo-si, Sub-District, Pakchong District, Nakornratchasima 30130
Address in Thai: 146/1 ม.4 Palio Khaoyai, ถ.ธนะรัชต์ กม.17, Tambon Mu Si, Amphoe Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Thailand
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10am to 9pm
Total Damage: $175.75 per night (2 pax)
5. Take a selfie with ALPACAS at Primo Piazza
I’ve always wanted to meet an alpaca, especially seeing countless photos of them on Facebook and 9Gag. We headed over to Primo Piazza, a small Italian-themed farm that houses sheep, donkeys and alpacas. For 100 Baht, you’ll get to meet and take photos with an alpaca!
Besides adorable animals, the old-fashioned cottages in this garden were spectacular on their own. Immerse in the laid-back ambience of Primo Piazza and get your tai-tai mode on at their cafes!
Address: Primo Piazza Mu Si Nakhon Ratchasima Thailand
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 9am to 10pm
Total Damage: 100 Baht per pax
6. Visit Thailand's quietest and most underrated theme park
Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Magic Kingdom are among the most famous theme parks in the world, but it's barely possible to complete all the rides in any of them because #queues. But Scenical World is still a hidden gem so there were no queues at all and we could try all the rides in record time. Hurray!
Besides theme park essentials, Life Park at Scenical World has something similar to Clarke Quay’s G-max, but you can ride as many times as you want without having to pay extra! This is definitely not for the faint-hearted but…#YOLO.
As if that’s not enough, there’s a high elements obstacle course too! Complete all the stages and reward yourself by zip-lining down to the end of the course.
Address: Scenical World, Mu Si, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10am to 6pm
Admission: 1250 Baht per pax
7. Ride an ATV and live the #FarmLife at a cow farm
At Farm Chokchai you'll get your own ATV to ride, like a real farmer! Farm Chokchai is a cow farm that supplies locals with completely homegrown milk and ice cream. Coming to a farm felt like a school excursion, but 1000x better - we can rent ATVs for 220 baht each!
This is the only time you can ride without a license so go wild! Ride offroad and even into tall grass for a legit taste of the wilderness, and if you get into trouble, the guides are on hand to help.
We even learned to milk a cow!
There are farmers here who will explain the life cycle from calf to cow if you're interested, and don’t worry about the language barrier - they're fluent in both English and Thai.
Address: Farm Chokchai Pak Chong Nakhon Ratchasima Thailand
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10am to 2pm, Sat-Sun 10am to 2:40pm
Total Damage: 300 Baht per pax
8. Experience Halloween all year round at The Witches Brew Restaurant
Opened by John, an avid fan of witches, Witches Brew Restaurant provides your dose of Halloween Horror Nights all year round. Take a tour of the 2-level restaurant while waiting for food to be served, and explore the John's personal collection of witch memorabilia displayed all over the restaurant.
I was spooked by the end of the tour, but thankfully, they serve good comfort food. Their pasta, lasagne, and pizza are highly recommended. Otherwise, order Deep Fried Pork Knuckle (650 baht), pair it with an ice cold beer and share spooky stories to make up the fear factor.
Address: The Witches Brew Restaurant Khao Yai, 379/10 Veneto Piazza Thanarad Road, Moosi, Pak Chong
Opening Hours: Wed-Mon 11am to 9pm
Total Damage: Deep fried Pork Knuckle (650 Baht), Bacon Wrapped Cheese (200 Baht), Thai Green Curry Chicken (180 Baht)
9. Grab Khao Yai's best local fare at Lan Lee Lar Restaurant
Underneath the facade of a mini Europe, Thai food is still a staple at most restaurants here. Give in to your Thai food cravings at the retro eatery Lan Lee Lar by tucking into Fried Garlic Sea Bass and Thai Basil Pork Rice. Lan Lee Lar is popular among the Thais, as a quick perusal of their page on Tripadvisor shows - all the reviews are in Thai!
Grab a cup of Thai milk tea and sit in the middle of a pond beside the restaurant. We ordered 3 mains and 2 drinks, with our bill came up to 960 baht (~S$38). It's not the most budget eatery, but it's certainly one worth visiting.
Address: ลาน+ลี+ลาร์ 119/19 หมู่6 กม.9 ถนนธนะรัชต์ บ้านโป่งกระสัง ปากช่อง Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Thailand
Opening hours: Wed-Mon 9am to 10pm
Total Damage: Fried Garlic Sea Bass, Tom Yum Seafood Soup, Thai Pork Basil Rice, Thai Milk Tea and Thai Milk Green Tea (960 Baht)
10. Top it all off with a meal at the gorgeous Midwinter Green
Your trip to Khao Yai won't be complete without a stop at the atas Midwinter Green. This place is A+ and absolutely #GOALS for fine-dining restaurants looking to perfect their setting. You can dine outside with a gorgeous view, or choose the aircon life and sit indoors.
If the posh interior is too much, dine at the al fresco area for a more laidback atmosphere. Be sure to order Midwinter’s Pizza - crispy cheese mascarpone, rocket, tomato, parma ham and truffle oil sandwiched in pizza crust.
Al fresco dining area
Address: Midwinter Green Nong Nam Daeng Nakhon Ratchasima Thailand
Opening Hours: Mon-Tues 10am to 11pm
Total Damage: Midwinter’s Pizza (590 Baht), BBQ Pork Ribs (490 Baht), Chocolate Lava Cake (245 Baht)
Getting to Khao Yai
Khao Yai is located 3 to 4 hours by car from Bangkok, and you can get there via bus or car.
This will be a very tedious ride, which involves travelling along 2 train lines, and either a bus or taxi ride to the bus terminal itself.
From Suvarnabhumi Airport, take the SRT-PTH train line to Phaya Thai Station. Change to the BTS line towards Mo Chit, and alight at Mo Chit Station. From there, grab a cab for a 5 to 10 min ride in or take bus no. 136 or 145 to Mo Chit North Bus Terminal.
At Mo Chit, there are handful of bus companies, so find one that’ll bring you to Pak Chong, the town nearest to Khao Yai. Buses depart every half an hour and it costs about 180 baht per person. The journey takes about 3 to 4 hours so be careful not to sleep all the way or you might end up at Nakhon Ratchasima instead!
Taking a bus will take you to Khao Yai, but you’ll have a hard time getting around the place itself - I didn’t see a single public bus during my time there! So to make the most out of your trip, I strongly advise renting a car from the airport.
We rented a car online from ThaiRentACar (it is reliable) a few days before departure and picked up our car at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Be sure to bring a credit card along, as you’ll have to make a deposit of 10,000 Baht on the spot, despite having already made payment online. Once you’ve got your car, key in your first destination in your GPS or Google Maps and you’ll get there in about 3 to 4 hours.
For those who aren’t confident of driving in Thailand, fret not, as Khao Yai’s traffic situation is much smoother than Bangkok's. For most parts, our journey was made up of straight lanes, uncongested roads and useful signboards.
To navigate your way through Khao Yai, Wi-Fi is definitely a must. Even though, we opted for in-built GPS in our car but it wasn’t as useful as Google Maps as it did not recognise some addresses in english. I was so glad to pick up a portable Wi-Fi router from Changi Recommends because it proved to be a lifesaver. With Wi-Fi on the go, we didn’t need to spend ages planning our route the night before.
Gone are the days camping at hotel lobbies for Wi-Fi. This palm-sized Wi-Fi router gives you a strong network and you can connect up to 8 devices simultaneously. Needless to say, I was Snapchatting all day in Khao Yai, sharing the most epic moments with everyone!
If you’re travelling in the next few months, you’ll be happy to know there’s a promotion for these Wi-Fi routers. Travel by 31 Mar 2017 and you can get prices as low as $5 per day! In addition to that, Changi Recommends waives charges off the 1st day of collection. Time to say bye to your worries of getting stuck without Internet in a foreign land and prepare to embark on your dream trip!
This post was brought to you by Changi Recommends.