Time: Half a day
Cost: 10 baht (plus songteaw cost if you don’t have a bike)
If you are looking for something really off the beaten track, then Ob Khan National Park is definitely for you. We discovered this little slice of jungle whilst working in our first job in Chiang Mai, as we used to take volunteer groups for an afternoon of relaxation.
Ob Khan National Park is complete with jungle walks, great wildlife (dependent on the time of year), and a river that you can float and swim in. It’s perfect, and is a literal breath of fresh air away from the pollution of the city.
Getting to Ob Khan National Park
We go by moped, which is totally doable, although (as with many of the activities featured on here) the drive is not for the faint hearted – there are a lot of dramatic ups and downs. If you do not have a moped, you can get a songteaw from Chiang Mai, but be warned: due to the nature of the roads up into the park, those who get car sick will not have a great time.
On arrival, you sign in with the registration of your vehicle. When we used to go in May, it was often busy with locals, and there were a few people selling snacks and ice cream. However, when we went in November, there were not – however we did go in the morning so perhaps they arrive later, but I do not know. Therefore, I would recommend that you take some snacks, take some beers, take whatever you want, however please note that they have a strict policy on littering, so obviously leave no trace and don’t be a dick.
What to Do When at Ob Khan National Park
Back in May, you used to be able to hire a tube, which is perfect for floating on the river, that moves at a nice slow pace. Don’t be put off by the colour, it’s only brown because of the silt that is stirred up in the faster-moving stretch further up in the park. A majority of people bathe in the water below the parking area. This is the best area, and you will often find locals cooling their beers amongst the rocks in the river. Once you’re in the water you will see a sign strung up slightly further up, where the river is bordered by rock faces. It warns of ‘quicksand’, which is a mildly terrifying thought. I don’t know if there is actual quicksand, or if it is a perfect example of mistranslation from Thai, but if you choose to move up the river, tread carefully! We did swim up there with a volunteer group in May, and it was totally fine – there are a few low rocks that you can jump in from.
Walking in Ob Khan National Park
If you are interested in going for a little walk, particularly if you are a photographer, follow the path to the left of the information centre. This will take you up along the river’s edge, and eventually will give you the option of continuing straight, or taking a rather precarious staircase up into the forest, where you can turn right and return to the parking. In May and June, the insect wildlife was fantastic here. There were plenty of dragonflies, butterflies, cicadas, incredible caterpillars, and so on, all of which provided plenty of opportunities for photography. However, when we returned at the end of November, the wildlife was lacking.
All in all, I would recommend Ob Khan National Park as an afternoon venture. If you go between May and October, be prepared for it to rain in the afternoon! Also, if you visit at other times of the year, please let me know in the comments on how it was, how many people were there, and so on. Enjoy!