Introducing Phu Chong Nayoi National Park
Sitting at the heart of the 'Emerald Triangle' is the little-known Phu Chong Nayoi National Park, one of Thailand's wildest corners and healthiest forests. Resident fauna includes elephants, tigers, Malayan sun bears, barking deer, gibbons, black hornbills and endangered white-winged ducks.
The park's primary attraction is Nam Tok Huay Luang, which plunges 40m over a cliff in two parallel streams. A short trail leads to the top and you can walk down 274 steps to the bottom where you can swim, though the water dries up around March. Rangers love taking visitors on short bamboo-raft trips (200B to 300B) above the falls, though water levels are too low from February to April and occasionally too high when it rains. At the far end of the 687-sq-km park, from atop Phu Hin Drang, there are superb views of the surrounding countryside, which looks much like the view from Pha Taem cliff but with jungle instead of the Mekong at the bottom of the valley. It's a 50km drive from the main park entrance and then a 5km hike or tractor ride.
Stargazing is superb here, so consider spending the night. There are three bungalows plus a campsite. Snacks and drinks are available daily and a couple of restaurants operate on weekends and holidays, but only during the day.
From Ubon catch one of the four morning buses to the town of Na Chaluai (70B, three hours) where túk-túk cost about 400B for the 20km journey to the park. You could also get off before Na Chaluai at Ban Gang Reuang, 5km from the park, and try to hitch, but traffic is light in this area.