Khao Yai National Forest

Khao Yai National Forest is just a few hours outside of Bangkok and more than worth the drive.  Mostly you’ll see many more Thais than foreigners in the forest, and during our time there we say very few visitors period.  You’ll start to climb in elevation as you near the entrance to the forest and the surrounding scenery is remarkable! 

At the park's entrance there is an information center where you can check the fire danger level, water tables, weather, and ask any questions you may have.  There are also plenty of brochures available for free.  The entrance fee is 40 baht for Thais and foreign locals, and 400 baht for tourists.  I’m very specific about the way I worded the last sentence because the signs at the park are not.  If you have a work permit stamp in your passport, a retirement visa, a marriage visa, or even a local drivers license, all you need to do is show it at the collection point and you’ll only be charged 40 baht.  This holds true throughout Thailand at the many national parks and attractions I’ve visited.

At the park's entrance there is an information center where you can check the fire danger level, water tables, weather, and ask any questions you may have.  There are also plenty of brochures available for free.  The entrance fee is 40 baht for Thais and foreign locals, and 400 baht for tourists.  I’m very specific about the way I worded the last sentence because the signs at the park are not.  If you have a work permit stamp in your passport, a retirement visa, a marriage visa, or even a local drivers license, all you need to do is show it at the collection point and you’ll only be charged 40 baht.  This holds true throughout Thailand at the many national parks and attractions I’ve visited.

 

Just a few kilometers inside the forest you’ll see monkeys by the side of the road and cars stopped with the occupants feeding the monkeys and taking their pictures.  Two weeks ago I ran a “Portrait Head Shots” learning section in this column and this is where I captured those images.  The smaller monkeys are very friendly and will hop up on your car to see inside.

Just a few kilometers inside the forest you’ll see monkeys by the side of the road and cars stopped with the occupants feeding the monkeys and taking their pictures.  Two weeks ago I ran a “Portrait Head Shots” learning section in this column and this is where I captured those images.  The smaller monkeys are very friendly and will hop up on your car to see inside.

 

I think they’re looking for food.  Once they determine you have food they’ll be very polite and sit on your side view mirrors and gently reach in as you hand them the food.

I think they’re looking for food.  Once they determine you have food they’ll be very polite and sit on your side view mirrors and gently reach in as you hand them the food.

 

There are many waterfalls not far off the road.  In some cases you’ll need to cross a swinging cable bridge over water.

There are many waterfalls not far off the road.  In some cases you’ll need to cross a swinging cable bridge over water.

 

The pathways to the waterfalls are sometimes paved, but many are in a state of disrepair

The pathways to the waterfalls are sometimes paved, but many are in a state of disrepair.

 

In areas where the pathways have been washed out you’ll usually find some sort of improvisation available to keep you on track.

In areas where the pathways have been washed out you’ll usually find some sort of improvisation available to keep you on track.

 

Further into the forest you’ll find large species of primates.  These are actually quite large and powerful animals, but they seem very peaceful and non-aggressive.  Still, primates can be set off by many things we can’t predict or understand so exercise caution.

Further into the forest you’ll find large species of primates.  These are actually quite large and powerful animals, but they seem very peaceful and non-aggressive.  Still, primates can be set off by many things we can’t predict or understand so exercise caution.

 

These guys would stay within range of my 70-200/2.8 IS lens, and if you moved slowly and approached them with respect you’d often get close enough for some detailed images.

These guys would stay within range of my 70-200/2.8 IS lens, and if you moved slowly and approached them with respect you’d often get close enough for some detailed images.

 

The females carry their newborns around clinging to their underside.  In this image you can see the newborn's face and eyes looking out from under the mothers chest.  The mothers will let you get quite close, probably hoping for food.  Mothers can be very protective and unpredictable.

The females carry their newborns around clinging to their underside.  In this image you can see the newborn's face and eyes looking out from under the mothers chest.  The mothers will let you get quite close, probably hoping for food.  Mothers can be very protective and unpredictable.

 

All through the forest you’ll see delicious flora and fauna and contrary to most locations where the best time to photograph is at sunrise or sunset, the best time to photograph a jungle or high canopy forest is during the midday when the sun is directly overhead.  It’s during this time that certain areas of the canopy will allow actual sunlight to filter through in a directional manner and produce some interesting images

All through the forest you’ll see delicious flora and fauna and contrary to most locations where the best time to photograph is at sunrise or sunset, the best time to photograph a jungle or high canopy forest is during the midday when the sun is directly overhead.  It’s during this time that certain areas of the canopy will allow actual sunlight to filter through in a directional manner and produce some interesting images.

 

There are many natural and man-made bodies of water.  Reservoirs are common in the forest and are strategically built and located so as to have water available to fight fires and supply the major waterholes for the abundant wildlife population which ranges from elephants to monkeys, and there’s even rumors of some tigers in the furthest reaches of the forest.

There are many natural and man-made bodies of water.  Reservoirs are common in the forest and are strategically built and located so as to have water available to fight fires and supply the major waterholes for the abundant wildlife population which ranges from elephants to monkeys, and there’s even rumors of some tigers in the furthest reaches of the forest.

 

You’ll find lots of landscape opportunities and you might be tempted to create a split-tone version like I did above.

You’ll find lots of landscape opportunities and you might be tempted to create a split-tone version like I did above.

It’s hard to believe that you can leave the pollution laden concrete jungle of Bangkok, and in just a few hours be walking down a path in a pristine national forest, but this is the reality which makes Khao Yai National Forest such a treasure.  I hope you find time to visit.