During the cool season in Thailand, from November to February, national parks in all regions of the country become popular destinations among both Thai and foreign tourists.
Generally, the cool season is considered the best time of the year to appreciate the beauty of national parks, which play an important role in promoting the country’s eco-tourism.
There are currently 110 national parks in Thailand, which meet the criteria of outstanding natural value and scenic attraction, without human habitations, and comprising an area not smaller than 10 square kilometers. They serve the protection of natural resources, especially forests and their associated flora and affiliated fauna, or wildlife. Access is granted for research and recreation, facilitated through the provision of a minimum of basic infrastructure.
Statistics compiled by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation show that Khao Yai is the most frequented national park in Thailand. Established in 1962, and rising 1,351 meters above sea level at its highest point, Khao Yai was the first natural site to be declared a national park in the country. It extends across four provinces, namely Nakhon Ratchasima, Saraburi, Nakhon Nayok, and Prachin Buri. The park has been declared an ASEAN Heritage Site owing to its variety of flora and fauna. Only about 205 kilometers from Bangkok, Khao Yai is rich in biodiversity, with an area of 2,168 square kilometers, which almost equals the European country of Luxembourg and is double the size of the whole of Hong Kong.
After Khao Yai, the second most popular national park is Doi Inthanon in the northern province of Chiang Mai. It is also the highest peak in Thailand and is recognized as a paradise for bird-watchers. Since Doi Inthanon is located 2,565 meters above sea level, it has cold weather and high humidity all year round. The third most popular national park is Huai Nam Dang, also in Chiang Mai. In the Northeast, Phu Kradung and Phu Rua in Loei province are the most popular national parks. As for marine national parks, Ko Chang in Trat province comes first. Other well-known national parks include Samet in Rayong and Kaeng Krachan in Phetchaburi.
Drinking and selling alcohol in national parks are forbidden. Violators will be subject to a jail term of up to one month or a fine of up to 1,000 baht, or both. The Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation in December 2010 imposed the ban on the bringing of alcoholic drinks into the parks to ensure safety for visitors and prevent loud noise made by partying drinkers from disturbing other park visitors and wildlife.
Visitors to various national parks in Thailand are interested in such activities as trekking, camping, rafting, diving, climbing, canoeing, biking, taking photographs, and bird watching. National parks serve as a center for nature study and offer a host of fascinating nature-based experiences.