I love going to Khao Yai. Generally, when people come to Thailand, they head straight to the beach. But as far as I’m concerned, Thailand’s jungle destinations are equally as epic.
Part of what I love about a good holiday in the forest is that there aren’t too many foreign tourists. For once, the resort breakfast room is actually full of Thai people on holiday; it’s an entirely different atmosphere. However, given that it’s mostly domestic tourism taking place, the majority of resorts are catered towards local interests. This can make it difficult to find accommodation that’s appealing to us as foreign tourists.
When I say “local interests” I am referring to hotels that appear entirely un-local. Given that Khao Yai National Park is at a higher elevation than the majority of the country, it is home to a cooler than normal climate. Along with these cooler temperatures comes a series of “theme” resorts that include: European castles, American ranches, British countryside homes, Greek temples and even some Native American style teepee camping. Basically, Khao Yai is this confusing region of Thailand where you can visit all sorts of other countries but you only have to drive a few hours from Bangkok. It’s extremely entertaining…if you’re not from the part of the world they’re trying to copy.
What I’m trying to say is that Khao Yai is great, but it can be hard to find accommodation that fulfills the Thai jungle escape you’re imagining. So you don’t want to go camping in a teepee while on holiday in Asia? I completely understand.
With that being said, I would like to introduce to you the Muthi Maya Forest Pool Villa Resort. Aside from the name being a mouthful, it is everything your jungle getaway needs. With a contemporary take on traditional Thai architecture, the Muthi Maya actually belongs in this part of the world.
To begin, the restaurant and hotel lobby are housed in an open walled Thai Sala, roofed with wooden shingles and replete with tique furniture. The gardens aren’t filled with imported species of flowers. Instead, all buildings are surrounded by local jungle greenery. Each villa is its own separate structure, laid out with a private pool and complete with a minimalist take on Thai decor. To top it all off, the resort is located at the barrier between the privately owned land and the National Park itself. For a price, you can request the “forest view” in which you are literally sitting next some of Thailand’s densest jungle. Trust me, there is nothing more magical than wildlife watching from your own private pool villa. Personally, I think of it as tiger watching, but they staff very seriously assured me that there will be no tigers in sight. Or elephants. Whatever.
All in all, this resort is literally a dream come true if you want to experience Thailand, the local architecture, the jungle itself and a National Park all alongside a luxury pool villa. I repeat, dreamy.
Muthi Maya review complete, I want to tell you a little story I learned while in Khao Yai. It’s about elephants.
Another magical aspect of Khao Yai is that it’s home to hundreds of wild elephants. Driving through the National Park, you will see endless pieces of elephant poop and if you’re lucky, some wild elephants. The chances of seeing elephants on the road are actually quite high. After all, walking through dense jungle when you’re that size can be quite tiring. It just so turns out that they appreciate the paved roads too. Yes, you got it, an elephant highway.
While in Khao Yai I was told two stories that totally changed my outlook of elephants. Although I always thought of them as a truly wondrous animal, I hadn’t before realized the extent in which they were special.
The first story I was told takes place at a local waterfall. At this site in the National Park, there is a man made barrier that blocks elephants from having access to the waterfall. Although this may seem wrong, it is there for a reason. Not so long ago, there was a baby elephant crossing the river who got washed into the waterfall by a series of rapids. With the baby elephant in danger, an adult member of the heard entered the rapids to save it. When the adult elephant also ended up in trouble, another one followed. In the end, 6 elephants from the heard perished trying to save the one baby elephant. All the while, several people who were present at the time tried to stop more elephants form entering and sacrificing themselves. However, when you’re the size of an elephant, there’s only so much a human can do. As the story goes, the sounds of sadness that are produced by an elephant whose loved ones are dying is one of the most haunting you can hear. In the case of this specific disaster, it was the loss of 6 different elephants the herd was mourning that day. It is the death of these 6 elephants that gave the falls it’s name “Namtok Hew Narok” which basically means “drop off of hell”.
The next story I want to tell you happened a little more recently and in different part of the country. This story begins with a car hitting an elephant who was crossing the road late at night. Given the grey coloring of elephants, it is hard to spot them in the dark. This accident resulted in a 3 car pile up that killed 6 people. In this horrible disaster, the elephant was not killed instantly, but was very badly injured. Upon injury, the other members of the elephants herd surrounded the elephants for several days. They refused to leave the injured animal’s side and remained where they were until it eventually passed away. For elephants, the notion of leaving behind a suffering loved one is impossible. As Thai people say, they share love for one another to the point where they even return to visit the graves sights of those who have passed.
It is due to this love and compassion that Thailand holds elephants at a higher place in their hearts than I had ever initially imagined. Although we all know them as a symbol of Thai heritage and pride, the connection and respect the people have for them goes beyond that of most animals. This respect is translated through a special word that is used to define the death of an elephant. This word is used only for elephants and literally translates to “an elephant has fallen”. This word, ล้ม, is used to describe the haunting feeling that is evoked by the death of such a magical creature.
Although these stories are both tragic and sad, they played a significant role in forever changing the way I will look at elephants. I hope you experience something similar.
Jacket: Zara – Glasses: Ray-Bans – Watch: TW Steel – Top: H&M
Trousers: MARC by Marc Jacobs – Sandals: Zara – Bracelets: Zara