It’s not often we find ourselves in Isaan, the northeast region of Thailand. Although it’s arguably the least explored area of the country, its quiet countryside has some incredible natural attractions. Take the sprawling, hot pink fields of Siam Tulips for example. This special flower known locally as the dok krachiao (ดอกกระเจียว) has become the spotlight of the annual Siam Tulip Festival.
Visiting this flower festival in Isaan was one of the highlight of our road trip to Chaiyaphum, a province just west of Khon Kaen. It just so happened that we were going on a trip with a Thai friend to see her family when the flowers were in peak bloom. Luckily for us, some of the most famous fields of these wild growing flowers can be found in two of Chaiyaphum’s national parks.
It took little convincing for us to go to the Siam Tulip Festival. When our friend showed us a picture (with one glance we were reminded of the Red Lotus Sea in Udon Thani), we were instantly hooked.
We arrived at the Pa Hin Ngam National Park no later than 7am and were met with fields and forest shrouded in heavy mist. After taking the park’s trolley up a steep incline to the Sut Phan Din Viewpoint (ผาสุดแผ่นดิน), we wandered around in the trees. It was a bit dreamlike, like something you’d see in a movie.
The dirt path eventually turned into the raised Dok Krachiao Nature Trail, an easy-to-walk pathway that snaked its way out of the forest and into the fields. The view opened up to a smattering of twisted, scraggly trees and grey boulders on the gradually downward sloping hills. By this time the fog had begun to lift and we could see further into the fields and the distinct pops of hot pink color.
The trail kept visitors on a specific path through the fields. Much to our relief, there were unpicked flowers along the trail’s edge that we could photograph up close.
These flowers are indigenous to Isaan and (surprisingly) aren’t tulips as the English name implies. Instead, they are close cousins to ginger and turmeric species.
We hopped on the circulating trolley and went to another viewing area. This sure beat walking for several kilometers up and down hills. The town’s students acted as tour guides on these trolleys and rattled off (in Thai, no less) facts about the flowers and park.
The Pa Hin Ngam National Park is also famous for its unusual rock formations. There was one particular area that had huge boulders with flowers scattered all around.
At least a hundred vendors set up shop near the Pa Hin Ngam Nationa Park’s entrance. Some sold snacks like savory grilled sticky rice and sweet strawberry filled waffles. Other vendors sold souvenirs sporting the dok krachiao labeling on t-shirts and plastic potted flowers. We bought a large bottle of local longan honey and a brick of nearly-black riceberry to take home with us.
Our Siam Tulip adventure continued to the Sai Thong National Park, home to four fields of the flowers in addition to several other attractions.
We arrived there in the afternoon with the sun blazing and a gorgeous robin egg blue sky and fluffy white clouds. In fact, all the colors noticeably popped once the sun was out, from the lush green grass to the varying shades of flamingo, carnation pink, bubblegum pink, and hot pink that bespeckled the hills.
One of the fascinating things about this park was the view of the valley peeking out from the flower fields and trees. This was the view from Field 1, which was our favorite.
When is the best time to visit the Siam Tulip Festival?
The Siam Tulip is in full bloom in June, July, and August. This is during the rainy season but don’t let the prospect of rain put a damper on a trip here. You can expect it to rain only about an hour or two a day, not the dreaded all-day thunderstorms. In fact, there was no rain either day we went. As an added bonus, the extra moisture creates that mystical fog that hangs in the forest and over the fields in the morning.
This natural attraction is a particularly popular place to go on the Buddhist holiday weekend in mid July. That’s when the two back-to-back holidays of Asahna Bucha Day (วันอาสาฬหบูชา) and Khao Phansa Day (วันเข้าพรรษา) are celebrated, the latter marking the beginning of a three-month ‘Buddhist lent’.
Where is the Siam Tulip Festival?
The Siam Tulip Festival is about 375 km northeast of Bangkok in the Chiayaphum province. It’s not so far away that it could be experienced during a weekend trip from Bangkok.
The massive flower fields can be found in both the Pa Hin Ngam National Park in Thep Sathit district and Sai Thong National Park in Nong Bua Ra Haew district. But it is the Pa Hin Ngam National Park that hosts the festival with the trolleys, vendors, and entertainment.
You may see signs (written in both Thai and English but undoubtedly accompanied by a large picture of the flower) along Route 2394 for Pa Hin Ngam National Park and on Route 225 for the Sai Thong National Park.
We visited the Siam Tulip Festival during a five-day trip to Chaiyaphum, which also included a visit to all four national parks within the province. We stayed with our Thai friend in her family’s home, but if we had made the trip on our own we would have spent a few nights at the Baan Tung Krajeaw Highland Resort. It’s just south of the Pa Hin Ngam National Park and rooms start at 28 USD per night.
If you’re planning to spend time in Chaiyaphum during the rainy season, be sure to visit the Siam Tulip Festival to brighten up your day. Honestly the pictures don’t do it justice. You’ll have to make a visit yourself!
Additional Park Information
Pa Hin Ngam National Park
Thai Price: 20 baht for adults, 10 baht for children
Foreigner Price: 200 baht for adults, 100 baht for children
Price for trolley: 30 baht for adults (Thai and foreigners), 20 baht for children
Park Hours: 6am to 6pm
Sai Thong National Park
Thai Price: 40 baht for adults, 20 baht for children
Foreigner Price: 200 baht for adults, 100 baht for children
|NOTE: Unfortunately neither park will honor the Thai price if a foreigner shows a Thai license. However, it may be worth showing the ‘pink permit ‘(eligible to obtain if you own a home in Thailand) to get the local price.|
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