Thailand’s peak park season cut short as COVID closes key sites

At a time of year when people normally swarm mountains, forests and islands under ideal conditions, swelling COVID-19 infections have forced shut over a dozen national parks including several top attractions.

Just yesterday, a top hiking destination, Phu Kradueng National Park in Loei province, announced it would close until at least Jan. 18.  That, along with Khao Laem Ya and Mu Koh Chang, are among at least 16 national parks to close to different degrees this week after the emergence of thousands of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

Khao Laem Ya is home to Koh Samet, a popular weekend getaway for Bangkokians. It’s just off the coast from Rayong, where nearly 500 COVID-19 infections have been found in the past two weeks.  The island remains accessible, but park-operated accommodations and camping grounds are closed until at least Jan. 31. The same goes for Koh Chang, where swimming in the sea, lakes or waterfalls is now forbidden.

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Famous for its seven-tiered waterfall, the Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi remains open for visitors who want to see the falls from 8am until 4pm, yet swimming is forbidden. Overnight camping is also prohibited during the time being. (Travelers from Bangkok and other red-zone provinces beware: Kanchanaburi now requires two weeks of quarantine upon arrival.)

A list of all closed national parks is available online from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. More parks are expected to announce their closure later this week.

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