I got back to Bangkok just before the Labour Day long weekend. Bf and I took advantage of it, and went for a hiking trip from Bangkok. With only 3 more weeks to go before our Mount Kinabalu climb, Phraya Nakhon Cave at Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park was the perfect choice, for a much needed pre-training.
Whereabout and how far?
Khao Sam Roi Yot is in the central provinces of Thailand, located in coast of Prachuap Khiri Khan province. It is the lesser-known cousin (among tourists) of Hua Hin, which is also located in the same province.
Distance-wise, it is 200+km from where we live, heading towards the south of Bangkok. Long weekend means heavy traffic. Traffic was insane, and road construction at some stretch of the road made it worse. An usual 4 hours drive, took us 6 hours! So, Day 1 was spent mostly on the road.
Khao Sam Roi Yot means “mountain with 300 peaks”. Phraya Nakhon Cave is one of the main attractions, with its iconic royal pavilion .. so much so, that it becomes the symbol of Prachuap Khiri Khan province.
The cave itself was named after Phraya Nakhon, a former provincial ruler who discovered the cave more than 200 years ago after being forced ashore by a violent storm. The royal pavilion inside the cave, is the key highlight. The pavilion was built for the visit of King Rama V in 1890.
Subsequently, King Rama VII visited the cave in 1926. Both King Rama V and VII left behind their signatures on the walls. King Bhumipol (King Rama IX), the present King of Thailand has also visited Phraya Nakhon twice.
First thing first, securing last minute accommodation. As expected, many accommodations were full. I am usually of little help when it comes to local travel planning (due to lack of information in English), but bf gave me some pointers.
And voila… I managed to find 2 accommodations: Stella Resort (4.8km, 6 mins drive to Phraya Nakhon Cave) and Cottage Chic on Agoda. Bf chose Stella Resort.
Oh my, it was a good last minute find. The friendly Swiss owner has few dogs; if you are a dog lover, you will like this place.
We booked the last room at Stella Resort, a standard air conditioning room (THB 1200+) at the main building, including breakfast. Breakfast is served from 8am-10am, which we didn’t get to try. We decided to give it a miss, for our early hike up to Phraya Nakhon cave. Their breakfast was mentioned positively in Agoda reviews, so we’ll take a rain check. The room itself was comfortable. I am increasingly sensitive to bedbug .. I wasn’t sure if there’s any bed bug .. perhaps not, but I think it’s not clean, clean. Bf didn’t face any problem and slept like a log.
Bottled waters were not provided in the room, but we refilled our water bottle from a water dispenser at the main building.
I peeked into the ‘bungalow-style’ rooms – it comes with a front porch, and also bigger room.
This place is named a resort, so does it qualifies as a resort? Sort-of, in a small scale … the place is ‘spread out’ and it does has many activities and amenities available: pool table, dart board, swimming pool …
They even provide massage service, transportation, and local tours.
On the way to Sam Roi Yot, bf asked me to search for restaurants for dinner. Ain’t much help, as good local joints’ info are more often than not, in Thai language. Anything in English, are more touristy and pricey restaurants. That’s also why I make the efforts to blog 🙂
Bf later found Yodsod ยกซด restaurant, a highly recommended restaurant. It was aweeeeeesome wheeeee. Their business hour is from 10am-6pm, but will keep the restaurant open when they are customers. For us, they closed around 7pm. Staff are super friendly and helpful.
As bf is not a huge fan of shells, I had most of the shell-seafood dishes all by myself. Wheeee …… Half kilo of steamed flower crabs (175 baht)? Not a problem, I finished everything!
We also ordered their oyster salad (100 baht). Interesting-local way of eating oyster, which comes with a local dipping sauce. The oyster’s taste is almost camouflaged by the salad.
I also tried this vege – stir-fried saltmarsh with oyster sauce (60 baht), which I really like.
As for bf, steamed fish is all his.
On Day 2, we headed out to the cave around 7am. A short drive to Bang Pu, to find that the entrance is still ‘closed’.. more on this shortly.
Entryance entrance fee is for Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, no separate fee for Phraya Nakon Cave. 40 baht for Thai, and 200 baht for foreigners … work permit or not, foreigner is foreigner, so can’t wiggle out of it. I despise paying foreigner price, and always look for ways to escape the dual pricing. Starting early was a lucky co-incident.
We arrived before the ticketing booth opens, and was approached by a drink seller. She told us that the ticketing booth opens around 8am-8.30am (a bit late, no?). She told us that it is ok to start our hike first, and pay on our return leg. Hey, in fact, we could easily not pay at all, with this loophole. No one checks for tickets at all!
But naaa, honest-bf paid after we completed our hike … He said to me in Thai, “Go and get some drinks, I’ll pay for the tickets.” I just nodded my head, and walked away. 555 .. Yeah, 40 baht entrance fee for me too!
What to wear and bring
It’s a HIKE, geddit? You need appropriate cloths for hiking! Slippers and sandals lah, and some women were even in dress, and mini skirt! So, no surprise that many were seen struggling along the way. Steepy and rocky terrain requires sensible footwear, people!
This pre-training session is also for us to ‘try out’ our gears – both clothing and hiking gears. That’s why he even hiked with his trekking pole and camera gear. Trekking pole is not necessary for this trail, because it’s too short a trail.
Water, water, and water … lots of it. Some also advised wearing mosquito repellent, though I didn’t get any mosquito bites.
The hike itself
From a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (difficult), I rate it a 2. I am not super fit, but I like outdoor .. and this is sort of like a pre-training to Mount Kinabalu climb. If it’s a 5, I might as well don’t bother with Mount Kinabalu.
There are 2 legs to it:
Leg 1: Bang Pu Village -> Laem Sala beach (530 meters or so, 25 minutes)
Leg 2: Laem Sala beach-> Phraya Nakhon cave (430 meters, 40 minutes)
First leg starts at Bang Pu Village, where the ticketing booth is.
There is option of renting a boat for the first leg. We were quoted 200 baht one-way on our return leg, which we didn’t negotiate further since we intended to walk. If you are not super fit, do consider renting one.
First leg: 530 meters stretch, and took us 25 minutes (1-way), with a photo break in between
Reality sets in the moment we started our hike … this is what’s going to hit us when we scale Mount Kinabalu. I was really, really glad that we have this little rehearsal before the real thing.
We met 2 new friends at Bang Pu Village, and our hiking buddies kept us company during the first leg.
Half way into our hike, we reached a lookout point. This is one of the few lookout / view points along the way. Bf snapped some photos here.
After the up, comes the down. The guy in front of bf is a park ranger, who is on his way to work.
View point #2: beautiful view of Laem Sala beach, means almost reaching the end of leg 1.
At the end of leg 1, there is a signage in local language, which says that “still strong and healthy”, to denote the successful completion of the hike. Mandatory photo for (local) hikers, so I followed suit.
We then walked along Laem Sala beach, for another 5 minutes, towards Phra Nakhon cave’s entrance. Along the way, we saw Dusky Langurs or also known as Spectacled Monkey. Beautiful nature; not a boring hike at all.
At Laem Sala beach, there are bungalows for rent, toilet and restaurant. Grab water, etc, whatever you need for the hike up the cave. We stopped at the restaurant after completing Leg 2 .. affordable price as the restaurant is managed by the National Park, so no inflated price.
Second leg: 430 meters, took us 40 minutes(1-way)
Just before we start, bf went to pay respects to god altars .. and I did the same.
Off we go, to a 430 meters hike. Comparing to Mount Kinabalu, I thought that 430 meters is easy peasy … It’s true to a certain extent, but it was difficult to some hikers we met along the way. You need to return to this point by 5pm.
This is what greeted us at the beginning of the trail. That’s why wearing the right footwear is so important.
There was a viewing point along the way, before we reached this signpost.
And then more walking … and we reached our destination. It was peaceful, as we started early. It also allows bf time to take photos, sans the crowd.
That wrapped up over 2 days 1 night trip to Phraya Nakhon cave, a hiking trip highly recommended for outdoor buffs.