It might be hard to imagine that humid, sweltering Thailand has a place it calls its Little Switzerland, but Khao Kho in the province of Phetchabun proves that there are more ways to cool off in a tropical Southeast Asian country than heading to the beaches. This mountainous region is a favorite local summer escape for its year-long temperate weather. The area is accessible via bus or plane, and tourists and backpackers have begun to discover the wealth of simple pleasures that can be found here. Keep reading for our top picks on where to go in this picturesque little district:
1. Phu Thap Boek
Ease of access to Phu Thap Boek is one of the main draws of staying in a Khao Kho accommodation. Depending on when you visit, you may find it overrun by tourists: it’s incredibly popular during the dry season when lowlanders make the drive up to escape from the heat. Nonetheless, it’s worth braving the crowds to see the highest peak in the province, with an elevation of 1,768 meters. During the rainy season, thick and heavy clouds gather around the mountain, giving it a calm—or eerie, depending on how much you enjoy dense cloud cover—atmosphere. If you visit in December or January, you may even catch cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Make sure you bring a jacket, as the temperature here can drop to as low as 12°C.
2. Wat Pha Sorn Kaew
Getting to this Buddhist monastery and temple can be difficult but well worth it. Its name means “temple on a glass cliff”, and it was built on a peak 830 meters above sea level that was chosen both for its natural beauty and the peacefulness of the area, which can inspire meditation. An ice-white statue of 5 seated Buddhas serves as the main temple’s roof, towering in stark contrast to the greenery of the surroundings. The architecture of the complex has been likened to the style of Antoni Gaudi, with the main pagoda and surrounding buildings decorated with colorful mosaics and shards of pottery and glass. Currently, the temple is only accessible via private tour or by driving directly over; we recommend renting a car or arranging for a day trip with your hotel.
3. Khao Kho National Park
This national park is one of the best places to experience the full magnitude of what the mountains of Khao Kho have to offer—a well-known camping site where you can sleep under the stars and wake up to foggy mornings. Adventure awaits the bold: rappel up the Wang Tum waterfall to get your blood running, then go rock sliding over at the base of Than Thip waterfall. Afterward, cool off with a dip in one of the many ponds and pools inside the park and marvel at the clarity of the water. Keep in mind that commercialism has yet to reach the park, so if you do go camping, you’ll have to make do with basic amenities.
4. Pino Latte
This café is one of the best viewpoints in Khao Kho, at 920 meters above sea level. Pino Latte serves both Thai and western food, as well as a great selection of cakes, pastries and other desserts to go with their excellent coffee and tea. Enjoy a panoramic view of the east, north, and south of the mountains along with your cup of joe, and then take a relaxing stroll of the café’s surrounding gardens. If you visit at just the right time, you’ll be treated to the sight of colorful flowers in full bloom, but it’s also a delightful place for a breather all year round.
5. Lake Hill Khao Kho
Still want to sleep under the stars but can’t quite handle the idea of having to rough it? Glamping (a portmanteau of the words “glamorous” and “camping”) is the option for you, a style of camping that allows you to experience camping while still having access to better facilities and accommodations. The tents over at Lake Hill Khao Kho come comfortably fully-furnished, and there’s a shared bathroom facility equipped with gas heating. This resort campground is also connected to a themed café called The Pug Coffee, where you can easily pick up breakfast, beverages, and snacks. Keep an eye out for the furbabies it was named for—freely roaming the establishment is a French bulldog and a pug to cuddle and play with! The surrounding grounds take full advantage of the stellar view, and there are plenty of spots for taking pictures.
Most places in Khao Kho have a dedicated viewing deck on the premises to view the clouds from and enjoy the nice weather. Even during the dry season, the temperature stays cool, but the best time to visit is around the beginning or the end of the rainy season, between April or May and after October. Keep in mind that most places are not accessible via public transport, so we recommend that you rent a car for exploring. Wear comfortable clothing, keep warm, and have fun!
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