Khao No-Khao Kaeo

Nakhon Sawan, which means Heavenly City, is nearly 240 km due north from Bangkok. It is the capital of Nakhon Sawan Province. The provincial seal shows Wiman, a mythological castle located in heaven. Driving north from Bangkok, when you reach Nakhon Sawan you have just left Central Thailand and have entered Northern Thailand. This is an important demarcation line for me, as I prefer Northern Thailand. One obvious change you are likely to notice is the traffic begins to gets lighter as you continue north.

The entire drive from Bangkok, the terrain has been level, mostly covered with rice fields, often amazingly bright green rice fields. Suddenly about 45 km north of the city, you come upon an impressive sight to the east of Highway 1. A limestone mountain range, 282 meters high, rises above the plains, called Khao No-Khao Kaeo. It actually looks like two distinct mountains bursting up from the plains. Paula told me one is called Khao No and the other Khao Kaeo, and a local resident has now informed me that Khao No is on the left and Khao Kaeo is on the right, as you face them from the highway. 

After you pass it, the terrain becomes flat again for another 200 km or more, until after passing Tak and then you begin to climb into the impressive mountain range south of Lampang. So Khao No-Khao Kaeo is a very distinctive change in the terrain for quite a long drive. You won't get an unobstructed view, and you'll want one, because tall trees, especially teak, line both sides of the highway.

As we drove towards Bangkok one time, with the mountains to our left, Paula found a crossing road that turned left toward the mountains. I walked up that road a bit to get the unobstructed photographs above. For some reason the mountain looks farther away and not as high in the pictures as it seems in person.

I also took a video, which shows how they appear to be two distinct mountains. I have found no explanation of the geology of this unusual formation.  

There is more to this mountain than just looking cool. One can climb a stairway from the foot of the mountain to the peak, where there is a big cave that houses a large image of Buddha. The cave also has a large population of bats which can be seen flying out in a thick, long black line at dusk. We've never gone by at that time, so we haven't seen the bats. The mountain also has monkeys, which you will run into, if you climb the staircase. 

King Rama V spent a night on Khao Kaeo, so there's a memorial that commemorates that at the top. This video may be showing that memorial and it also has some views of the flat plains below.  

If you want to explore Thailand with some hiking, this mountain would be a good one to explore. This album shows some pictures of what you might see along the way. 

4 responses
I wonder if they're really limestone. The cave is consistent with limestone, but they sure look like volcanic pipes. They're obviously harder than the surrounding countryside, which eroded away while they didn't. I'm thinking basalt or granite. Maybe you can check it out the next time you drive by!
Your theory sounds good to me, especially the part about erosion. As any good journalist would do, I just copied what others had written about its composition, ha ha. And what is the recommended procedure for sorting out limestone vs. granite as you drive by a mountain range?
Great page Ron! My wife and I live just in front of Khao Kaeo on a few acres of farm land and we certainly agree with you that it is a very special natural feature in a otherwise uniform flat flood plain. Just to clarify, Khao No is on the left and Khao Kaeo is on the right as looking at it from the highway. The locals all refer to the area as Khao No and is well know for the millions of small Vesper bats that stream out of the cave in Khao Kaeo each evening at sunset. I believe the reason that Khao No is the name that the area goes by, even though the bats are actually coming out of Khao Kaeo, is that there is a well know Wat behind Khao No that owns most of the land around BOTH of the mountains. The Mountain ridge is definitely limestone; as is the bedrock just a few meters below the top soil around the base of the mountain. My theory is that it is an ancient barrier reef that has eroded slower than the slightly softer also limestone around it. The ridge is actually longer than just the two mountains; to the south of Khao Kaeo and on the north bound side of the highway there are two smaller outcroppings of rock each with there own associated Wat at the base and to the North of Khao No, there is remnants of additional mountains that were stripped down and used for aggregate in cement and for road making. I would love to see a picture of the Northen part that was mined but so far have only heard accounts from the older generation that lives in the area. If you take the dirt ring road that goes around Khao No you can drive right into the abandoned open pit mine that it just north of the mountain. In addition to the bats; which are insect eating and very small (about the size of a human thumb), there is also a large population of Macaque monkeys that live on the mountains. Some of them have become tame from being feed by humans but there are also wild packs that do not venture down to the main tourist area in the middle of the two mountains. You can see them darting into the trees if you drive around the dirt ring roads around both of the mountains which vary rarely see any traffic at all. I am not sure why the area is not more commercialized given the natural beauty of the place and close proximity to the main highway but I kind of like it being a local secret.
Fantastic Terry! Thanks for all your additional information. It's exciting to have a local resident fill us in with more details about this amazing place. I had nooooo idea the bats are so small, the size of a human thumb! Oh my. If you can see them streaming out of the cave at that size, there must be a HUGE population of them flying overhead. There is obviously much more there to explore that we never had time for. Like you, I'm kinda glad it has not been heavily commercialized. When we have more time, I'd like to explore that dirt ring road. Does it require a four wheel drive vehicle, or would Paula's regular Isuzu pickup truck be up to the task? Okay I've gotta ask. Living in the area, I suppose you've seen the bats at dusk many times. So tell me, do they ever swoop down low to check out the people below? And get into your hair??!! Ewwwww, nightmare. Ha ha Okay, I know that they don't really get into your hair. But with all those bats in your area, do you have far fewer mosquitos than in many parts of Thailand? To me that would be a huge advantage of living near them. We will definitely have to come sometime at sundown. I'd love to see the bats. Does this video show the Vesper bats that stream out of the cave in Khao Kaeo? Well it's not my video, but the description suggests it may be of your local bats. And they're bats, folks, NOT bumble bees! Thanks for stopping by, Terry. It is MUCH appreciated! Cheers, Ron