Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park: Phraya Nakhon Cave and the Freshwater Marsh

This past weekend I traveled south, to the small town of Ban Phu Noi, in the province of Prachuap Khiri Khan, near the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Parkgg

Why Visit?

Personally, I needed a serious escape from Bangkok. I had been staying in the city the past month, trying to save money for upcoming holidays, but enough was enough! I needed to detach from everything, and rough it for a few days. 😉

I chose not to do any type of organized tour, and instead, planned a DIY mini-venture for me, myself, and I. 😀

How to Get There

Getting to this small beach town was no easy feat. :/

I first took a minibus from Bangkok to the town of Pranburi.

In Asia, they really know how to pack ’em in a van.IMG_8738Patrick Swayze may have said, “Nobody puts baby in a corner.”BabyWell, somebody does…and they make her hold the bags too. 😦
IMG_8739Anyway, the rules on the bus are pretty straightforward.

No livestock, machine guns, sexy time, pets or liquor. 😛IMG_8589After four joyous hours, we arrived in Pranburi, where I attempted to flag a motorbike driver to give me a ride to Ban Phu Noi. I chose an old man driver, thinking he’d be more responsible. Wrong!

I held on for dear life, as we hauled ass on the speedway. As if getting there faster meant a bigger tip. News flash! If I die, nobody gets any money. Gah!

Anyway, we arrived at my accommodation, which was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. SDFSF

Accommodation

I found a place on Airbnb. It was a bike shop that had converted their back room into a dormitory, offering visitors both bicycle tours of the national park and cheap beds, at only $11/night. IMG_8593The place was surrounded by nothing but cows, fields, and the open road. IMG_8595I quickly realized that the only way to get around this area was by motorbike.

I walked down by the beach and found a massage parlor renting out bikes.

I bartered with the woman and got the bike for $13, for 3 days. She and her son even helped me fill up the tank. 🙂XDFSDFFrom that point on, I hit the open road! 😀

IMG_20160206_184315Honestly, there is nothing more liberating than cruising the back roads for hours at end, surrounded by endless rice paddies and karst mountain peaks. Just gorgeous! 😀DSC_0206Now, hightailing it on a motorbike actually means a maximum 35 miles per hour, so in reality, it was a fairly laid back ride. 😉

I made sure to take the scenic route whenever possible. 😛IMG_8603Sweet tree house along the route. 🙂IMG_8731There were not many drivers on the road, but I still had to be cautious of other hazards. 😛IMG_8704Since I was close to the national park, I even saw a monkey crossing sign. IMG_8714This area is known to inhabit three particular species of monkey, including the Dusky Langur.

Courtesy of Google ImagesduskylangurI also took pit stops, like to rest at the beautiful Phu Noi BeachIMG_8601When I started to get hungry, I stopped for a quick local bite, a tasty shrimp hot pot with cabbage and rice noodles. Yum! 😀18197091_rCXKKLMBCx2V4U2ewpZi1agKg9XRYNH8K-_7eBBS_i0After a while, when I was starting to run low on fuel, this cute old woman sold me gasoline from a reused soda bottle.

Just like any sweet old grandma, she even sent me leftovers in baggie to take along. ❤SDFSCSFWEOf course, the whole time, I remembered to wear a helmet. 😀20160206_145528In fact, since crashes here are so common, health insurance only covers 50% of medical expenses that occur on a motorbike.  :/

Better to be safe, than sorry!

Anyway, let’s move on to the attractions! 😀

What to See

Phraya Nakhon Cave

First, up was the stunning limestone cavern of Phraya NakhonIMG_8632Now, getting there was quite a huff as well.

The journey began from the sleepy fishing village of Ban Bang PuIMG_8653From there, I hiked uphill to the entrance of Laem Sala BeachIMG_8616From the start, confusing signs left me feeling wary of these trails.

Has the rock already collapsed, or do they mean, beware of falling rocks? 😕IMG_8617Of course, proper footwear is required for this kind of trek. IMG_8618Also, do as I say, and not as I do. 😛

*climbing the ladder in flip flop sandals*IMG_8619Luckily, the initial reward was breathtaking views of the Gulf of Thailand. DSC_0191IMG_8614From there, I walked across Laem Sala Beach, to the entrance of the cave.

Beach tents were scattered among the palm trees. IMG_865020160206_162356IMG_8649At that point, things got a little rough. I had to climb uphill for what seemed like ages. IMG_8622Luckily, there was an old woman in front of me who gave me the strength to keep pushing on. If she could do it, so could I! 😀
20160206_161518Finally, I reached the opening to the cave, with a breathtaking view of this 125-year-old Thai pavilion. IMG_8626Evidence that I made it, face beat red from the hike! 😛IMG_8645At the top of the cave is a large gaping hole, allowing for sunlight to filter in, and beautiful beams to illuminate the golden pavilion, and create an ethereal glow. IMG_8640It was said that a previous ruler, Phraya  Nakhon, discovered the cave over 200 years ago, when seeking refuge from a harsh storm. Since that time, many Thai kings, including the present ruler, have visited the sight, and when King Rama V came, this striking pavilion was erected in his honor. 😀

Khuha Kharuehat PavilionDSC_0192After taking in the sights, I mentally prepared to leave the way I came.

Great! Looking forward to it.
IMG_8637Fortunately, I made it back to Ban Bang Po just as the sun began to set. IMG_8652The colors in the sky were glowing as I rode back along the open road. 😀IMG_8659

Khao Daeng Viewpoint

Another main attraction is the lookout point over the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. IMG_20160207_132947To start, I rode my motorbike near the village of Ban Khao Daeng. From there, I began yet another uphill journey toward the mountain’s peak. IMG_8696The viewpoint is on that ledge of rock, to the right side of the mountain. IMG_8662This journey was far more arduous than my previous trek to Phraya Nakhon Cave. IMG_8665Luckily, I wore proper shoes, and had rocks to grab on for support. IMG_8667IMG_8668Oh wait! Just kidding! The rock support quickly turned into cactus, as I carefully tiptoed across this deadly path thinking, “Am I back in Mexico?” IMG_8670Luckily the cactus was short lived, and at some point, the park even attempted to help hikers with a support rope. 🙂

Great!Just what I was hoping for! A partially frayed rope to give me false security as I crossed this jagged path. Hah! 😛IMG_8666No worries though! I took my sweet time and made it safely up the rock. I even stopped to check out the beautiful limestones creating this massive peak. 😀IMG_8672Made it to the top!
IMG_8677Khao Sam Roi Yot means, “the mountain with three hundred peaks,” and it’s easy to see why. It’s also the first established national park in Thailand.IMG_8691

Now, the weather in Ban Phu Noi has been incredibly windy, which has its pros and cons.

Yes, it’s great for windsurfers who want to catch some sick waves near Phu Noi Beach. DSC_0188High winds are not great; however, when you’re standing on the top of a mountain, trying not to be blown over, and haven’t quite mastered a flawless ‘windblown look‘ in your selfie.  Hopefully I get points for trying. 😛IMG_8694

Thung Sam Roi Yot Freshwater Marsh

Lastly, I headed to the west side of the national park, which is covered in gorgeous marshland. 20160207_164934Of course, this place is not well-advertised, but its seclusion made it even more special. 🙂

Follow the small sign for ‘Nature Study CenterIMG_8706Beautiful marshland stretched on for miles, as large cranes swooped down, and cattails swayed in the breeze. IMG_8712IMG_8708DSC_0203IMG_8713Finally, on Monday, my weekend ended, and I headed back to Bangkok.

I found a ride at a local cafe, where I stopped for a coffee near Phu Noi beach. The woman working there had a driver offering to take people back towards Bangkok. Perfect! 😀IMG_8735While I waited for the ride to show, I chatted with an old Englishman. He and his wife had just returned from Koh Chang, where they volunteered at a children’s school for Cambodian refugees.IMG_8737It was really a joy speaking with him, because I had been interested in doing some volunteer teaching after my contract, so it was nice to hear about different opportunities available. 🙂

Anyway, arriving back in Bangkok also meant the chance to celebrate Chinese New Year.

At school, they had a Chinese dance performance, and most of the children dressed up in beautiful Chinese garments.

Girls dancing during recess 😀
khkjnkThat night, I headed to Chinatown, to take part in the New Year’s festivities. 🙂
DSC_0211DSC_0217It left me feeling even more excited for my trip to China, in just two weeks!

Now, I’ll talk more about my China itinerary in the next post.

For now, Happy Chinese New Year and have a wonderful week!

Also, enjoy a gorgeous shot from my window, as I greeted another day in this fabulous city. Take care and until next time. 😀DSC_0183

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