Roughly translated as ‘The Mountain with Three Hundred Peaks’, in 1966, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park became Thailand’s first coastal national park. Situated just below Hua Hin, on the upper arch of the Gulf of Thailand, the park makes an excellent two or three-day excursion from Bangkok or a great stop-off point on your way further down south. While the area is not untouched, with an abundance of prawn farms and a healthy flow of day-trippers on tours from Hua Hin, it is still a place largely unaffected by mass-tourism and can make for a very peaceful and enchanting getaway.
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
As the name suggests, Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park is dominated by craggy, limestone mounts offering decent hiking opportunities. There are also a couple of pretty, barley inhabited beaches within the park’s bounds. On my trip to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, my friends and I camped on the shores of Laem Sala, which is only accessible by boat or a short but fairly steep hike round the headland. The beach itself is not as stunning as some you might find in Thailand but more than makes up for this with its isolated feel and the total absence of any real development. When I went, there was one restaurant, a few basic bungalows and some tents lining the edge of the beach, ready for hire.
The day we got down there, my friends and I went in the sea, laid on the sand, ate at the restaurant, cobbled together a camp fire, and sat around drinking Thai rum and playing charades – a million miles away from the full-moon parties of Ko Phangan. Alright, so camping in Thailand isn’t the most comfortable experience; in addition to the normal discomforts of camping, it can be very hot and the mosquitoes can be a real pain. It’s a good idea to come at least somewhat prepared with plenty of liquids, bug spray and so on. There was a small shop, by the restaurant, but it was pretty basic. In spite of this there really is nothing that compares to opening the doors of your tent to see mottled sunlight coming through the tree-tops onto a pine coated forest floor, stretching out to golden sand, turquoise sea and clear blue skies beyond. It was a wonderful experience and is an extremely pleasant contrast to the over-development on many Thai beaches.
Phraya Nakhon Cave
After this wonderful start to the day, we walked back into the forest and hiked up to Phraya Nakhon Cave. Actually two giant sinkholes, Phraya Nakhon cave’s claim to fame is that it’s been visited by a string of Thai royalty over the years since it was discovered by it’s namesake, the then king of Thailand, who found it after being forced ashore in a storm. In it sits a small royal pavilion, the sunlight shining through from above making the place seem almost heavenly. It really is an amazing sight and if you go during the week you might well have it all to yourself. It’s a steep climb up to the cave but there are great views out across the treetops and, if your lucky, you might see some wildlife.
Khao Daeng Peak
In addition to what I managed to pack into less than a couple of days in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, you might also want to check out the breathtaking views from the viewpoint a-top Khao Daeng peak, catch a boat to some of the outlying islands, or go bird watching, particularly popular at certain times of the year. The best way to get there is with your own hire vehicle. Otherwise, head to Pranburi and organise transport from there. It really is an unforgettable trip, offering something very different to many of the beaches in the Thailand.