Enchanting Khao Kho

Enchanting Khao Kho

This historic town in Phetchabun is known for year-round cool weather, stunning landscapes and historical sights

Enchanting Khao Kho
Khao Kho has long been a popular weekend getaway for its cool climate.

After a six-hour drive from Bangkok to the mountainous town of Khao Kho, I had a moment of peace on the new Skywalk Phu Lerd Khao Kho as the midday Sun brightened our moods while winds cooled us.

It may seem challenging to walk on a transparent bridge, but for those who can get over their apprehension, taking pictures against a backdrop of lush slopes, woodland, vegetable farms and endless rows of rotating crops of Phetchabun is a fulfilling experience.

The lush courtyard is decorated with an assortment of winter flowers and animal-like sculptures. At the edge of a hillock is a railway station, where visitors can board a mock train for a fun ride through Dan Khun Tan Tunnel, Thailand’s longest railway tunnel in Lampang, to Khon Kaen and finally to Khao Kho.

Grand Kokkod Khao Kho Resort overlooks a verdant valley.

On the brief journey, passengers can revisit childhood memories of a miniature park and travel back in time to the days when Khao Kho was known as a deadly red zone. It was once covered in palm trees and served as a communist stronghold between 1968 and 1982.

After that, when Khao Kho Royal Palace was built in 1984, the battleground was converted into lush plantations of strawberries, coffee trees, passion fruits and macadamia as economic crops. It’s currently home to Khao Kho National Park, Phu Thap Boek and Thung Salaeng Luang, making it a popular weekend getaway and educational centre for those wanting to indulge in the cool weather all year round and discover diverse ecological systems.

Located 22km from the skywalk, Phra Borommathat Chedi Kanchanaphisek is designed to resemble a holy sanctuary where local residents and tourists come to pray for good fortune, wealth and protection. Back in 1986, King Bhumibol originally gave Buddha’s relics to Wichamai Punyaram Monastery in an effort to uplift and motivate the populace of the area following the defeat of the Communist Party of Thailand.

Ban Lao Lue Lao Neng Community Forest Park.

In 1996, pilgrims contributed funds to construct this white pagoda to house these relics from Sri Lanka and commemorate His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 69th birthday. It boasts a mixture of Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin architectural designs that highlight Thailand’s rich cultural heritage.

After a long day of travel, it was time to unwind in a pool or sprawl out on a comfortable mattress. Merely 650m from the famed pagoda, my fellow travellers and I reached the Grand Kokkod Khao Kho Resort and were astounded by the amazing 180-degree sight of the evergreen valley.

Standing atop slopes, this resort launched its first phase in late 2020 to offer 20 deluxe rooms and suites in different types and sizes of 45m² and 90m². To provide even more luxurious holiday experiences, a collection of 11 private villas from 55m² to 232m² were added to the compound late last year.

Every corner is designed to resemble a vantage point. Throughout the day, guests can stretch out on a green lawn or in the magnificent open-air lobby, which are equipped with cosy couch beds and coffee tables, while a café offers a wide selection of coffee, teas and refreshing smoothies that can be paired with sweet pastries.

Wat Phra That Pha Son Kaew.

Four of the most popular Onsen Villas are reached by wandering through a vibrant terraced flower garden with a waterfall. Each is exquisitely fitted out with wood furniture and a jacuzzi on a private balcony to create an exotic atmosphere. From there, visitors may envision themselves bathing in a Japanese onsen while overlooking breathtaking views of the surrounding hills.

Perfect for a group of friends, we stayed two nights in a 232m² Two-Bedroom President Pool Villa, which is furnished in a sumptuous modern style. Glamorous but cosy, a large marble-like table counter is set up in the centre of the house, allowing visitors to cook for themselves at a fully equipped kitchen.

There’s a large smart TV and a mini bar offers a wide selection of complimentary beverages and snacks. However, our favourite spot was the private sundeck with a warm swimming pool that doubled as a great viewpoint to admire the sea of mist at dawn and twilight. During the day, guests can also have a BBQ party.

At night, the temperature dropped to 19C but we still enjoyed Thai BBQ and shabu shabu for dinner. With a wide selection of Thai and Western dishes, the resort uses ingredients from local farms to support the community.

The next morning, the bright blue sky made it a great day to continue our sightseeing tour to the 350 rai Windmill Field in the high plain.

It is surrounded by colourful winter gardens, strawberry fields and vegetable plantations, making it a popular weekend destination for sustainable tourism and to see the harmonious coexistence of the Hmong, Yao and Lisu ethnic groups.

Nature Green Orchid at Windmill Field Khao Kho.

Run by local communities, tourists can take a tram for a fun agricultural tour and explore the 46 rai Ban Lao Lue Lao Neng Community Forest Park. In 2018, villagers turned parts of the woodland into an attraction in an effort to bring in more revenue for their hamlets, thanks to an increase in tourists between October and February.

“Rice, maize, cabbage and chilli are the main commercial crops that our villages have cultivated; the majority of these are delivered to the fresh markets in Lom Sak district. From November to February, they will be replaced with extensive plantations of Royal Project type 80 strawberries, which require a temperature range of 20-30C. The transformation of the community forest into a tourist destination will provide income for more than 30 households,” said Natthaphan Saengkhamkun, a member of the Ban Lao Lue-Lao Neng village.

This forest was initially established in 1985 to be used as a firebreak before some was converted into roads in 1999. Today, it is home to a botanical garden with a wide range of tropical and winter blossoms, including spider flowers, marigolds, cockscomb and Siam tulips. In addition, adventurers can also engage in challenging Formula Hmong cart racing, ATV biking and crossbow shooting.

The Molly View and Strawberry Farm.

Set against a backdrop of wind turbines, another great spot for tourists to snap pictures is the Molly View and Strawberry Farm, home to an expansive field filled with marguerite daisies, spider flowers, and violet and pink cutters. Further, visitors can choose to pick their own fresh strawberries to take home or to pitch a tent and spend the night gazing at the sea of sparkling stars over the highland.

Then we made our way over twisting dirt roads to the 10 rai Nature Green Orchid, which was recently relocated from Nakhon Pathom. Thanks to the cool climate, this farm specialises in breeding more than 10 varieties of orchids, including Oncidium and Dae Jang Geum. There are also Japanese marguerites, paper daisies, Kimju guava and strawberries on view.

In the afternoon, we left a flower field and headed to Wat Phra That Pha Son Kaew, which is spread across 91 rai on the summit of a hill. According to local folklore, people saw a crystal ball fly into the sky and then vanish into a cave atop this hill. This place has been revered since people thought they were Buddha’s relics.

In 2004, pilgrims donated funds to erect this monastery compound as a tribute to Lord Buddha and its exquisite designs showcase top-notch craftsmanship. To commemorate King Bhumibol’s 85th birthday, its seven-floor vihara was shaped to resemble a lotus and house an enormous collection of five Buddha sculptures in the Chiang Saen style, all carved out of white jade.

Skywalk Phu Lerd Khao Kho.

Si Thep Historical Park takes visitors back to the Dvaravati period.

The colourful mosaic path on the other side leads to Phra That Pha Son Kaew Chedi Sirirat Tham Naruemit, where Buddha’s relics are positioned to guard and provide peace to the neighbourhood. The gold pagoda is designed to resemble a seven-layered lotus, while the walls and pillars are adored with glistening multicoloured glass, gems and ceramicware.

On the last day, our journey would not have been complete without a visit to Si Thep Historical Park which was just added to the Unesco World Heritage List last year. Hidden in verdant surroundings, Khao Klang Nok is off-limits to tourists owing to a daily surge of up to 7,000 visitors.

While roaming around, you can pretend to be a time traveller and go back to the Dvaravati era, when this old town was a major hub for trade. It was formerly home to a large Dvaravati-style chedi, which symbolised Mount Meru.

After that, we boarded a tram to explore the inner town, home to Prang Song Phi Nong. It is believed to be a Khmer-style Hindu sanctuary and its smaller prasat showcases a carved stone lintel, depicting Uma Maheshvara (Shiva holding goddess Uma).

According to Hindu mythology, the ancient Prang Si Thep stands for heaven, and its sacred pond served as a site for religious rituals honouring Shiva, the creator deity. When Bayon architectural art made its way to Siam in the 12th century, the structure was repaired.

Just a short walk away, Khao Klang Nai was built from laterite to function as a Buddhist monastery. Its foundation features amazing stuccos of plump dwarfs with bulging eyes. This demonstrates how Southern Indian architecture influenced Southeast Asian architecture, since artisans were able to show their creativity by modelling animals such as singhas, elephants, buffalo and monkeys.

The opulent pool villas at Grand Kokkod Khao Kho Resort. (Photo © Grand KokKod Khao Kho Resort)


  • Skywalk Phu Lerd Khao Kho is on 12 Road, Khao Kho district, Phetchabun province. It’s open daily from 7am to 6pm.
  • Admission is 100 baht. Call 065-464-2898 or visit facebook.com/skywalkkhaokho 
  • Phra Borommathat Chedi Kanchanaphisek is on 2196 Road, Khao Kho district, Phetchabun province. It’s open daily from 8am to 6pm. 
  • The Windmill Field Khao Kho is located in the Phet Dam village, Khao Kho district, Phetchabun province. It’s open daily from 7am to 6pm. 
  • Wat Phra That Pha Son Kaew is at 95, 2196 Road, Khao Kho district, Phetchabun province. It’s open Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm and Saturday to Sunday from 6am to 6pm. Visit phasonkaew.com. Admission is free. 
  • Si Thep Historical Park is in Si Thep district, Phetchabun province. It’s open daily from 8am to 4.30pm. Admission is 30 baht for Thais and 100 baht for foreigners. Call 056-921-354 or visit finearts.go.th.
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