Natural beauty and affordability combine to make tent camping in Thailand a popular recreation with native schoolchildren, families, and international backpackers alike. With more than 70 national parks, the country is very accessible for those inclined to rough it REI style. The following four campgrounds are absolute gems.
1. Khao Yai National Park. Established in 1963, Khao Yai is the country’s first great national park, and its facilities have yet to be surpassed by competitors. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is located along the route from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) near the town of Pak Chong. Once inside the park (a trek that many enterprising backpackers make by hitchhiking), you’ll have access to a wide variety of tours, including jungle tours, bird watching tours, and nighttime jeep safaris.
2. Erawan National Park. An ideal destination for trekkers without personal transport, Erawan is just a short bus ride from Kanchanaburi, and features 200 square-miles of limestone hills, forests, streams, flora and fauna. The biggest draw in the park is the seven-tiered waterfall from which the park derives its name. Note: Erawan is very popular with locals and can be extremely overcrowded during holidays.
3. Bamboo Island. For travelers looking to stake their tents well off the beaten track, this idyllic spot just off the coast of Koh Phi Phi is a pretty good bet. The nearby areas are quite crowded (thanks to the fact that they served as a filming location for 2000’s The Beach, starring Leonardo Di Caprio), but an easily arranged boat trip across Maya Bay to this delightful island is like stepping (or rather, riding) into another world.
4. Doi Inthanon National Park. If you’re looking to beat the region’s notoriously sweltering heat, you could do worse than venturing out from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon National Park, where you can camp on the cool (do come prepared, as temperatures can plummet) slopes of Thailand’s highest mountain.