Chaiyaphum's national parks turn pink and white as the wild Dok Krachiao bursts into bloom
THE RAINY season in Thailand is in full swing and the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum has once again laid out its welcome mat of picturesque pink Siam tulips that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Part of the Phang Hoei mountain range, the province’s Sai Thong National Park is a popular destination among trekkers in July and August with stunning waterfalls and majestic views from the vantage points joining the colourful carpet of flowers known in Thai as dok krachiao.
Sai Thong National Park offers a trek along a fourkilometre trail to admire four Siam tulip fields that are only on view in July and August.
The land now occupied by Sai Thong was managed under a forest concession to produce inferior wood and rubber wood from 1979 to 1989 but was designated a national park in 1992, occupying almost 200,000 rai of dry dipterocarp forest filled with local plants and wild animals. The park opened to the public in 1994 and brought with it a nature trail to the fields of pink Siam tulips that popped up in the heart of the dry forest during the rainy season.
“Today we offer a four-kilometre round-trip trail to four Siam tulip meadows. Unlike in other places where they start blooming in June, our Siam tulips burst into flower in early July. Our trail is ideal for trekkers and those who love photography because our flowers are large and the colours are vivid. We are currently looking into the possibilities of opening trails into the stone field and cycad forest in the future,” says Vorapol Deeprasai, head of Sai Thong National Park.
“We focus on safety and want visitors be impressed. We actively encourage travellers to help conserve nature and not damage flowers or other plants.”
A four-wheel pickup is on hand to bring travellers up the mountain and the organised tour has us trekking for two-and-a-half hours to explore the world of Siam tulips carpeting more than 1,000 rai of grassland.
Just a short walk from the meeting point, Pha Ham Hod offers a magnificent panorama of green spread over Phraya Lae and Wichianburi sub-districts. Up here though, at an altitude of 867 metres, it’s foggy and visitors are queuing to sit on the edge of the cliff and pretend that they’re riding on a fluffy cloud.
Our trek takes us to an existing cycad forest from where we can clearly see white Siam tulips dotting a pasture surrounded by bamboo grass, ferns and Indian head ginger. Nearby is a field covered with the flowers, this time a vivid pink, and the silence is shattered by non-stop shutter clicks as everyone works to take as many photos as they can.
“Siam tulips grow well in a dry dipterocarp forest and pasturelands, where they can take in moisture from fog. Our park is home to more than 30 species of Siam tulips of different colours. Right now, we are showcasing just four species because the flowers need a lot of time to grow to maturity,” says a forestry technical officer, who stands by to educate visitors.
“A white Siam tulip has a shorter stalk than its pink cousin and comes into bloom for just two months. This area is a cycad forest and produces edible fruits that look like jelly. Local folks like to boil them with syrup.”
The following day we join another trek in Pa Hin Ngam National Park, which was added to the national park list in 2007 and covers more than 60,000 rai at the boundary of the Dong Phaya Yen Mountains and the Khorat Plateau.
Here too, visitors are spoiled with a spectacular view of pink Siam tulips and the strange stone formations that gave the park its name.
The park has three zones: the 846-metre-high Sud Phan Din viewpoint overlooking the Sonthi River valley, the Sap Langka Wildlife Sanctuary and a massive Siam tulip meadow that appears to be dancing in the mist. Visitors can walk along the long wooden bridge and enjoy taking some selfies against a sea of pink.
Pa Hin Ngam National Park is famous for its scenic pink Siam tulip meadow and unusual sandstone formations at Larn Hin Ngam.
Lan Hin Ngam is a natural art gallery showcasing sandstone formations created by the erosion of the soil and rocks which, with a little imagination, resemble the Fifa World Cup trophy, radar, hens and other creatures.
Our visit also takes us to Phu Laen Kha National Park, home to Mor Hin Khao, a jungle of white sandstone formations in weird shapes and the Pha Hua Nak cliff, which offers a stunning view of the sunset.
Part of Phu Laen Kha mountain range, Tat Ton National Park is home to its namesake Tat Ton waterfall. It’s a popular picnic spot for local families providing a beautiful view of the water that cascades down wide rock plateaux in the rainy season.
Phu Laen Kha National Park’s Mor Hin Phao is also packed with weird sandstone formations while its Pha Hua Nak viewpoint is the place to admire the sunset.
Our trip to Chaiyaphum ends with a visit to Wat Sila Art where we pay respect to the sacred carved stone Buddha statues. We also enjoy a meal at Don La Nam restaurant, which is famous for its delectable fish dishes. Here we receive a warm welcome from its owner Daranee Pattirupanon, who takes time out to show us how to prepare Chaiyaphum’s favourite pickled fish dish Maam Kee Pla.