I recently discovered Khao Yai early last year when my assistant Elsie told me “there are sunflower fields near Bangkok”. Naturally when you hear the words “sunflower fields” and “Bangkok” together, you have to whip out your phone and do some research ASAP. We then found out the sunflowers bloom only from November – January, so that meant months of waiting for the end of the year to arrive. As with the festive season, traveling during November and December can be a nightmare because of the influx of travelers, so we waited till the second week of January this year to embark on this sunflower field hunting adventure in Khao Yai.
Mid-Jan would probably be the last time you can catch the sunflowers in full bloom (when we arrived, some crops were already harvested, or worse, on the verge of death), so don’t push it any further by planning to go to Khao Yai during the end of January.
How to get to Khao Yai
Khao Yai is a 3-hour drive from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. You can either rent a car from the airport and do a self-drive, or hire a private driver to pick you up from Suvarnabhumi for approximately 3300 baht. You can take a bus from the city, but I would recommend these two options for convenience. Once you hit Khao Yai, there are no taxis available, hence a self-drive or a driver would be best. I would normally have chosen the self-drive option, so I can stop anywhere and everywhere at my own time. (The attractions in Khao Yai are all easily located on Google Maps, so driving is pretty easy there too.) However, I don’t trust myself driving out of the Bangkok city traffic, I doubt I can do a good job manoeuvring past the scooters, bikes, and tuk tuks.
If you need a driver, contact Mr Chang at +66 868 764 899 via call/ Whatsapp. He’s a lovely guy that speaks and writes English well, and he can either help you with Airport Transfers, or be your personal driver within Khao Yai. He drives a 7-seater van, and will cost approximately 2400 (~SGD $100) baht for a one-day (8 hours) hire, a decent fee for up to 7 pax for an entire day!
Where to stay
We stayed 3 nights in Khao Yai – 2 at Thames Valley, and one night at Muthi Maya. There are plenty of accommodation options at booking.com which you can browse on your own! I think 3 nights is enough to visit the cafes, fields, and tourist attractions. However, if you want to explore Khao Yai National Park and do some hiking, maybe an additional half a day would be best. Thames Valley is already an attraction itself – the hotel is designed beautifully and I love the maze located at the entrance of the hotel (if you are not a guest there, you are still able to go ahead and take pictures at the maze)
What to do
We’ve already included the location details in the images, but I will detail them here for you below as well. You can find the locations on Google Maps, and what I find useful to do, is to “Save” or “Star” the locations on your Google Maps account, so you know what attractions are within close proximity of one another. Another tip I have is to look into Instagram’s Location Tags – the images tagged give a more accurate look into what the location looks like at this present time (i.e. If I want to go to Japan to see Cherry Blossoms, I try to look up the images tagged under Shinjuku Gyoen to see if there are people posting pictures of Cherry Blossoms already), and you can also to see if the place is worth-going photo wise for yourself!
- Rai Maneesorn Sunflower Field. Mu Si, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Thailand. Remember, the sunflowers only bloom from Nov – Mid-Jan! The field opens at the crack of dawn, I would suggest heading to the field from 7am – 8am, before it gets too hot/ sunny/ crowded. There’s a nominal entrance fee, and you can shop for sunflower-related goods and produce from the vendors located there.
- Birder’s Lodge Cafe. Tambon Mu Si, Amphoe Pak Chong, Chang Wat Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Thailand. The cafe is located about a 5-8 minute drive from Thames Valley. Initially, I had planned to stay at the Birder’s Lodge for a night (they have really nice tents/ floor-to-ceiling glass “huts” within the compound), but they were fully booked! Booking can only be done through their Facebook page, which can be a little bit annoying and slow. If you don’t plan on staying the night, visit their cafe and their farmer’s market (only open on weekends) to shop local produce from neighbouring farmers!
- Palio Khao Yai.
- Primo Piazza. Mu Si, Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima 30130, Thailand. Located right next to Birder’s Lodge, Primo Piazza is another Italian-inspired family-friendly attraction. It is much more well-maintained compared to Palio, and if you are traveling with children, there are Alpacas you can feed and pet! The gardens of Khao Yai are stunning, and if there’s any reason you should visit Palio and Primo Piazza, it is for the flowers and foliage.
- PB Valley Winery. I was tasked to go to PB Valley by Imran’s colleague, who told me the wines from PB Valley are “famous”. While I don’t really drink wine myself, I loved the landscape and scenery: the vineyard is set on the foreground of hills, and the weather was perfect for a walk around the compound. It definitely reminded me of the Australian vineyards, and for a moment, PB Valley had me dreaming about hosting my wedding here. I mean, wedding here on a Saturday and Bangkok-shopping on a Sunday? It’s the perfect plan!
Other places to go
I didn’t have time to check these places out, but if you do, head to Khao Yai National Park for a hike, or drive out to the Jim Thompson Farm to check out more flowers. Within the Birder’s Lodge/ Primo Piazza vicinity, there’s Yellow Submarine Coffee Tank cafe (note: they only open Fri – Sun) too.
I hope this guide has been useful for you guys! Check out my #dreainthailand hashtag for more Khao Yai pictures that I didn’t manage to upload here!