Not quite a staycation

If you're seeking a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, privately-run campsites can be a terrific answer

published : 27 Aug 2020 at 04:00

newspaper section: Life

Dying to get back to nature but national parks are so far away? Longing for an outdoor experience but you don't think you have enough time?

How about privately-run campsites?

In recent years, they have popped up here and there, especially in provinces within a 150km radius of Bangkok, such as Saraburi, Nakhon Nayok, Ratchaburi, Kanchanaburi and Suphan Buri. They are located on sites with a natural environment, usually with a stream and some nice greenery. All you need to do is hit the road for two hours or less to get to one of those campsites where you can choose the spot you like best to pitch your tent. You can also park your car or motorcycle nearby.

Privately-run campsites are becoming increasingly popular among Thai holidaymakers.

In the evening, the owner of the place or his/her representatives will come to collect the minimal camping fee. At night, you can appreciate the soothing sounds of the stream and the beautiful cacophony of insects. Who knows, if the sky is clear and the Moon not too bright, you might also get to enjoy a sky full of stars.

Camping has become a passion for a growing number of people, which in turn fuels the rise of privately-run campsites that fills the need of nature lovers for whom national parks may not be the best choices.

Apart from their proximity to the capital, the new breed of camping area is often more cost-effective than state-run ones. Shorter travel means less cost on petrol. Also, the nightly camping fee ranging between 100-150 baht per head is not more expensive than spending a night in a national park where you are required to pay not only a camping fee but also entry fees for both people and vehicles. And with the pitch and the parking spaces so close together, it's easy for campers at privately-run sites to bring gear and whatever items they wish to use. There's no need to lug heavy loads over a long distance as in national parks where the campgrounds and the parking lot tend to be farther apart.

As a result, it's common to see couples, families or groups of friends doing real cooking and making decent meals while camping. Why not when you can bring the entire kitchen?

Like any tourist area, these campsites could be crowded during the weekend. Although most places enforce rules designed to make sure everybody behaves and allow fellow campers to enjoy the peacefulness they have come for (I was told there were cases in which people were kicked out for not obeying the noise ban after 10pm), it is best to visit these places on weekdays to avoid the crowds.

For this article, I visited a number of campsites in Saraburi and Nakhon Nayok. I wish more would be created in provinces even closer to Bangkok like Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Sakhon or even in certain parts of the capital itself like Thon Buri and Min Buri where a rural atmosphere still persists.

Like campsites in national parks, these privately-run places offer basic facilities such as electricity, common bathrooms and toilets and washbasins. Some also have camping gear, stoves, swim tubes and life vests and electric fans for rent, as well as free Wi-Fi, CCTV cameras and shops selling groceries, food and even freshly brewed coffee. Usually, the shops are open only at weekends.

On this southwestern side of the Khao Yai boundary, there are a few reservoirs that could serve as excellent camping areas. Unfortunately, unlike the one in Chet Khot-Pong Kon Sao Nature and Ecotourism Study Centre further north, which is run by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, at these man-made lakes such activity is not allowed. Visitors are welcome during the daytime, though. The reservoir in the picture is Huai Prue. As for the waterfall, it’s Namtok Kra-ang, which has a camping area as its immediate neighbour.

Kaeng Lan Rak
Location: http://maps.app.goo.gl/drU7UNAMejDkZpit7
– This huge campground covers different kinds of terrain, from the many well-groomed lawns to waterside areas and a hilltop. The last seems to be the most peaceful. The gate is open from 7am-10pm. The camping fees (electricity included) are 120 baht per night for adults and 60 baht for youngsters 130cm-150cm tall. Smaller children can stay free of charge. Visit http://shorturl.at/gpLMR or call 090-927-1168.

Suan Rim Nam Pa Taew
Location: http://maps.app.goo.gl/A5rDPoA3vbpuSEMM8
– This is a new campground. As its name suggests, this small place sits on the waterside and swimming is one of the activities campers can enjoy. The ground here is hard and not covered with grass so it's a good idea to bring a sleeping pad. The camping fee is 150 baht per person, inclusive of electricity. The gate is always open. Visit http://shorturl.at/bqTYZ or call 095-951-2463 and 089-615-2650.

Suan Khaiwa
Location: http://maps.app.goo.gl/11S9KLthSZGFMXjaA
– This campsite boasts a nice landscape with beautiful flowers and the Kra-ang Waterfall, which is literally a few steps away. During this rainy period of the year, the small waterfall is at its best. The stream is now filled with water and good for swimming. Camping fee is 100 baht per night per head. Children under 15 years old and seniors from 70 years old up can stay free of charge. The gate is open from 8am-7pm. Reservations are required. Visit http://shorturl.at/bpHQ3 or call 098-441-4662 and 087-780-8188.

Rai Phu Kam Yao
Location: http://maps.app.goo.gl/gowXbPLiCPe6sNR16
– Situated in an orchard with several kinds of fruit trees, this rustic campground is named after a district in Phayao province, the hometown of the owner. The place comprises two zones: one at the foot of the adjacent hill and the other next to a small stream. A hilltop lookout point is a short trek from the site. The camping fee, inclusive of electricity, Wi-Fi and a simple breakfast is 100 baht per head. The entrance is open around the clock. Visit http://Rai.Phukamyao page on Facebook or call 062-405-1107.

Phro Rak Camp
Location: http://maps.app.goo.gl/wfM1EuM81owSEcteA
– This camping ground is just a few months old. It sits by a stream of clear running water. There are no big trees so shade is scarce. However, when the sun is not too strong the place is pretty nice. The camping fee is 120 baht per night per head. If you need electricity, it will cost you 20 baht more per tent. Currently, only four toilets are available. Reservations are required. Visit http://shorturl.at/swxzS or call 089-456-7896.

Pomelo Fruit Farm
Location: http://maps.app.goo.gl/NXsVKSoqSh639JC2A
– Unlike the other campsites featured today, this place is located in another zone closer to Nakhon Nayokdowntown. To be more precise, it is 4km or so downstream from Khun Dan Dam. The place is an old orchard with a natural stream that is full of life. Even on the waterside, you can find many tiny crabs. So make sure you don't crush them under your feet when you go swimming. The camping fee is 100 baht per head per night. Children not taller than 120cm are not charged. Electricity, if you need it, is 50 baht extra. Visit https://www.facebook.com/PomeloCampground or call 081-430-0458.

Ban Suan Than Rim Phu
Location: http://maps.app.goo.gl/uvKgjs2xJFnA1t8v8
– Apart from a beautiful stream, this campground also has lots of shade trees so your tent is still livable even when the sun is strong. The camping fee is 130 baht per head, inclusive of electricity and Wi-Fi. Reservations aren't needed; walk-ins only. Visit https://www.facebook.com/trpresortandwoodlot or call 080-668-0723.

On the way from Ban Na town to the campsites of Kaeng Khoi, you will pass tambon Cha-om, which is one of the country's largest centres for transplanted trees. These trees were said to have been legally relocated from private lands. Many species are available in various sizes ready to be transported and replanted in the buyers' gardens. To buy a larger tree, which is usually a big investment, it is wise to choose one that comes with a warranty.

Nestled on the northern edge of Huai Prue Reservoir, 13km from downtown Nakhon Nayok, the Wildlife Quarantine Centre is neither a zoo nor a tourist attraction. However, the place, which houses rescued wild animals, is worth visiting. Nakhon Sawan, the tigress in the photo, was confiscated from a farm. The young Asiatic black bear was brought to the centre in the past dry season by a villager who found it alone after a forest fire. The cub has grown a lot over the past few months. Who knows, after a visit, you might come up with an idea on how you or your organisation can help support the centre's work.

TRAVEL INFO

  • As you can see in the accompanying map, the camping hot spots featured in this article — each is home to several privately-run sites — are located on the southwestern boundary of Khao Yai National Park. Most of the sites are in Kaeng Khoi District of Saraburi but they can be conveniently reached from Ban Na town in Nakhon Nayok, while one is closer to Nakhon Nayok's Muang district. Actually, in the latter area, there are also other campsites but they are well away from paved roads and my car didn't have enough ground clearance.
  • There is no public transportation to take you to these campsites. It is best to have a private vehicle.


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