Parks see influx as winter kicks in
The number of tourists visiting national parks in upper Thailand is rising as temperatures drop during the transition from the rainy to the cold season.
Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai, for instance, recorded a total of 21,994 visitors over the recent long weekend, said Kritsayam Khongsatri, head of the national park.
That represents an average of well over 7,000 per day.
Most of the tourists are Thais who like camping out in cold weather, he said.
The average temperature at the summit of Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest peak, now ranges from 5 to 11 degrees Celsius, while the temperature at the bottom of the mountain ranges from 15C to 18C, he said.
Khao Yai National Park, which straddles Prachin Buri, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Ratchasima and Saraburi provinces, saw a big rise in the number of visitors on Thursday, officially the first day of the cold season.
As wild elephants often emerge from the jungle to warm themselves in the sunlight during the cold season, visitors are being warned against disturbing the wild creatures by honking car horns, turning on high beams or taking photos of them with the flash on.
The temperatures dropped as low as 19C at Khao Yai National Park on Thursday.
Meanwhile, as Thailand officially entered the cold season on Thursday, the southern part of the country was still being battered by storms.
A storm warning has been issued for all of the southern provinces, with torrential rain forecast to pound the region until Saturday.
The Meteorological Department issued a storm warning for all 14 southern provinces, as well as Prachuap Khiri Khan in the southern-central region.
Downpours could be followed by flash floods and runoff in some areas, it said.
Songkhla province was placed on alert for flooding in all districts after gusting winds toppled trees in Na Mom district and heavy rain left some areas in Hat Yai city under water.
Surat Thani governor Witchawut Jinto gave approval for maritime officials to order boats to remain in port for the safety of passengers if the seas are too rough.
All passengers on ferry services between the mainland and islands are required to wear life jackets.