Khao Yai & Khorat Tour

beware of cobra crossing sign along a road
woman weaving a sitting mat

Duration
5 days

Start/Finish
Khon Kaen to Khon Kaen

Highlights
• Khmer temple ruins of Phimai
• Sai Ngam, Thailand’s largest banyan tree
• Encountering wild elephants in Khao Yai National Park
• A beautiful cave with a natural skylight
• Watching a million bats fly out of a cave
• Seeing handbags made from old wrappers
• Buddha making factories
• Dan Kwian pottery village
• Seeing pottery made using the ancient paddle and anvil method
• Seeing silk weaving

Description
Nakhon Ratchasima (aka Khorat) is one of Thailand’s most diverse and interesting provinces, and even though the Khao Yai area is Isan’s only busy tourist destination, we still visit many special places that few visitors ever see. We begin by exploring the impressive and beautifully restored late 10th century Khmer temple at Phimai. Phimai is also home to Sai Ngam, Thailand’s largest banyan tree. Later in the day there are some ancient cave paintings and a Khmer stone quarry. UNESCO World Heritage-listed Khao Yai National Park is one of Southeast Asia’s biggest and best natural preserves and encounters with elephants and primates are common. We will have both a normal daytime visit and a night safari looking for animals with spotlights. But even if there are no animal encounters, entering the jungle is a great experience. Outside the park we’ll visit several caves, markets, and handicraft villages, including Dan Kwian for pottery, and also one of Thailand’s leading wineries. On the final day we’ll stop at the old city gate and other interesting monuments in Nakhon Ratchasima city, see pottery made without a potter’s wheel, visit a silk weaving village, and see a historic Isan-style Buddhist temple.

Add-Ons
Make the most of your trip with our special add-on activities before, during, or after your tour.

Phimai Khmer ruin

Day 1 – Phimai & Si Khiu
Built beginning in the late 10th century AD, the impressive and beautifully restored Khmer temple at Phimai, which is centered on a 28-meter (62 feet) tall prang and features many excellent carvings, predates Angkor Wat; and may have even been its inspiration. We’ll also take a quick look at what’s left of the city gate and see Sai Ngam, Thailand’s largest banyan tree, covering an island just outside of town. After lunch we’ll see a waterwheel (still used by local farmers) made of bamboo and the incredible scrap metal sculpture at Robot World before stopping at a Khmer quarry where sandstone was cut to build many temples in Thailand. Finally we’ll see ancient cave paintings in a forest full of gorgeous rock formations before arriving at the hotel.

Overnight near Khao Yai National Park

Day 2 – Khao Yai National Park
Khao Yai National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the biggest and best national parks in Thailand. We start our tour (using a local guide who knows every corner and creature of the park) in the early morning to increase the chances of meeting wildlife. Khao Yai is home to around 200 elephants plus barking deer, bears, tigers, leopards, pythons, a bevy of primates, and the fascinating great hornbill. Trails through one of mainland Asia’s largest intact monsoon forests lead to waterfalls and scenic viewpoints and your guide will tailor the adventure level to your desire. Visits in the rainy season aren’t very popular, but this is the time the forest teems with orchids in bloom and the waterfalls are at their most beautiful. We’ll eat dinner in the park and then, shortly after sunset, take a night safari where there’s a good chance of encountering some of the park’s elephants, plus many other critters including civet, marten, porcupine, and slow loris.

Overnight near Khao Yai National Park

Day 3 – Khao Yai Region
We start the day at a small but beautiful cave with a natural skylight and climb up above it to see a giant boulder balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff. We’ll then explore a much larger cave that cuts right through the top of a mountain; stop to visit Gran Monte Winery, one of the leading purveyors of “new latitude” wines; and sample some exotic flavors in a giant fruit market. After lunch we’ll admire (and snap some awesome photos of) a giant white Buddha perched on a mountainside and then stroll through the fun and sometimes clever Secret Art Garden sculpture park. Finally, after visiting a stone carving workshop and seeing the incredible array of foods on sale at a local afternoon fresh market, we will go to watch a million or so wrinkle-lipped bats disgorge out of a mountain-top cave, though it’s not possible to see them in the hot season.

Overnight near Khao Yai National Park

Day 4 – Wang Nam Khiao & Dan Kwian
Today we head out to the vivid blue waters of a natural spring, where you can swim if you want, and then take a scenic rural drive following the edge of Khao Yai’s long mountain range. There are many small farms along this route so we can stop and sample local products (grapes, cashews, dragon fruits, flowers) as you like. Just before leaving the mountains behind, we’ll stop to see various foods collected in the forest (like mushrooms, bamboo, and insects) on sale in a jungle market. Then we’ll visit some families who make brooms from bamboo leaves and also handbags using old wrappers from coffee, laundry detergent, and other products – a brilliant exercise in recycling. After winding through a wide swath of rice paddies we’ll go to a workshop that forges brass Buddhas and a visit a family that has a noodle factory in their back yard. The day’s final stop is Dan Kwian village, which has been producing pottery for hundreds of years. Some original rough, rust colored products are still made, along with a great variety of vibrant modern designs. We’ll visit one of the seemingly timeless workshops with their giant wood-fired kilns and hit a few stores to see the finished products before arriving in Nakhon Ratchasima (aka Khorat).Though it’s a bustling modern city, the moat and city fortifications are reminders of its long history.

Overnight in Khorat city

Day 5 – Khorat & Ban Prasat
We begin the final day admiring Wat Pa-Yap, which has a shrine encrusted with stalactites, stalagmites, and other beautiful rocks rescued from a cave that was destroyed during the excavation of a quarry. We will then join the devotees at the very holy Thao Suranari Memorial, built in honor of a woman who, according to legend, devised and led a prisoner rebellion against the invading Lao army (One version says that the women seduced the soldiers and then the men launched a surprise attack.) in 1826, thus saving the city. Performers do a local folk dance throughout the day to thank “Grandma Mo” for wishes people think she has answered. Many of the lovely buildings at nearby Wat Salaloi, supposedly founded by Thao Suranari and her husband, are decorated with Dan Kwian ceramic tiles.

Outside the city we’ll stop to see pottery of a completely different kind from the day before. Women here hand make perfectly round clay cooking pots and water containers using the ancient paddle and anvil method rather than a potter’s wheel. In Ban Prasat, on the way back to Khon Kaen, we’ll see the remains of an ancient agrarian culture in three excavated burial sites displaying skeletons and pottery in situ. Then, we’ll visit two villages to see how reed sitting mats are made and see the entire silk weaving process: raising silkworms, spinning silk thread, and hand-weaving mut-mee fabric. If you want, you can sit at a loom and try it yourself. Then we’ll stop to admire a historic little temple building featuring original Isan-style murals, which are now very rare, before arriving back in Khon Kaen.

If our itinerary doesn’t fit your exact needs and desires, please let us know. With advance notice we can usually modify things.

These are pre-Covid19 prices. New prices will be set later this year.

        Hotel         Level Number of Persons
Price per person, two per room (baht)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9+
Budget 59,150 29,950 21,300 16,150 13,850 11,750 10,700 9,500 By Request
Deluxe 78,400 39,550 33,950 25,650 25,200 21,200 21,500 18,950
Homestay         We hope to add the homestay option in the future.

**For deluxe level, this is the weekday, non-holiday, high-season price. From April to October, the price drops 6000B per room. But, in both high and low season, add 1000B per room per night for weekends and holidays. New Year holiday prices will be much higher. The budget-level price is the same year-round.

Price Includes
All sightseeing and activities as specified in the itinerary with English-speaking local guides, entrance fees, transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle, hotel transfers, accommodation, breakfast at deluxe-level accommodation and village homestays, dinner at village homestays, snacks and cold water in the vehicle, accident insurance, taxes, and pre-departure travel consultation.

Price Does Not Include
Transportation to Khon Kaen, meals and drinks other than what is specified above, travel and medical insurance, personal expenses (such as laundry, souvenirs, snacks, etc.), tips/gratuities, visa fees (Thai visas are free or not required for most international visitors.), and any additional expenses incurred due to airline schedule changes, natural disasters, political actions, or other factors beyond our control.

Booking/Cancellation Policies
• For tours longer than one day, a non-refundable deposit of 30% is required as soon as possible after making your reservation.
• The full payment is due before the tour begins. This can be done after you arrive in Thailand, as long as you have access to sufficient funds before you depart on your tour.
• International payments are best done by bank transfer, and the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way is with TransferWise. Credit/debit cards can be used through TransferWise or other online wire transfer services. For people inside Thailand, we accept payment via cash (Thai baht, US dollars, British pounds, and euros), ATM transfer, and counter deposit to Siam Commercial Bank.
• If local taxes and/or fuel prices increase significantly, we reserve the right to add comparable surcharges.

Click here to read our full tour Terms & Conditions.

forested valley

This is the accommodation that we normally use for this tour. Of course, if any place is fully booked during your travel dates, we will have to substitute a similar property. If this happens, we will let you know right away.

Click here to see a general description of our accommodation levels.

Day 1 – Khao Yai National Park
Budget:
Sabaidee Khao Yai Guesthouse
Deluxe: Hotel des Artists

Day 2 – Khao Yai National Park
Budget: Sabaidee Khao Yai Guesthouse
Deluxe: Hotel des Artists

Day 3 – Khao Yai National Park
Budget: Sabaidee Khao Yai Guesthouse
Deluxe: Hotel des Artists

Day 4 – Khorat
Budget: Romyen Garden Place
Deluxe: Kantary Hotel