I left Bangkok again at the beginning of August and took a train four hours south to the coastal city of Hua Hin. Hua Hin has a slightly undeserved reputation as a has-been seaside resort (some say it was Thailand’s first tourist beach spot), but I really liked it and I didn’t hit the beach once! The night market there is especially good, and there are plenty of bars and a decent nightlife scene.
I stayed at the south side of the city, in a gorgeous and charming boutique hotel called Baan Talay Dao Resort. Situated directly on the beach and equipped with a cool water swimming pool, the hotel was perfect for a lazy afternoon.
From here it was just a ten minute drive past small fishing area to Wat Khao Takiab, a hilltop temple that has been overrun by monkeys. Having been in Thailand for two months I still hadn’t seen any wildlife, so these temple monkeys gave me hours of excitement and photo opportunities! The temple itself wasn’t particularly special, compared to others I have visited, but the views from the top were magnificent and the food stalls surrounding it were good.
Without question the highlight of my stay in Hua Hin, and one reason alone to stay there, was a day trip to Sam Roi Yot National Park. About 60km away, the drive there is through pretty rural areas and takes approximately one and a half hours. Khao Sam Roi Yot means ‘the mountain with 300 peaks’ and it was the first established coastal national park in Thailand.
On arrival at the park entrance, located literally on the beach, I hired a private longtail boat to take me around the nearby islands and then through a small fishing village. The scenery around the mainland is made up of beautiful white, sandy beaches, forest and stunning limestone mountains. The ocean surrounding this is dotted with karst islands, and I’ve read that pods of dolphins are regularly seen (unfortunately I didn’t spot any on my visit). The fishing village was authentic, quaint and super colourful, and the locals sailing by on their boats waved as they passed my boat.
After an hour or two of exploring the waterways I was dropped just offshore of a gorgeous beach, Laem Sala, which was literally deserted. During my full day at Khao Sam Roi Yot I only saw a handful of Western tourists, and very few domestic ones too. I spent a while walking along the beach, before heading in land to enquire about visiting the most famous attraction in the park, Phra Nakhon Cave.
The cave is located a 430m climb up some rocky steps from the beach and consists of two chambers, both of which are open from the top allowing rays of light into the cave. Inside the main chamber is a pavilion, built for King Rama V, and when the sunlight catches this it gives it an amazing, mystical feel. I hired a guide to take me up to the cave, but this really wasn’t necessary. The cave is easy to find and the path leading up to it, whilst hard work to climb, is a direct route. My guide was a Burmese boy, perhaps around 8 years old, who didn’t speak any English, so as a guide he wasn’t particularly useful!
There are opportunities for longer trekking through the forested parts of the park, and there is accommodation (luxury hotels and gorgeous beach huts) around the beach area and just outside the park grounds. During peak travel months (November to May) a huge variety of migratory birdlife, and also wildlife including antelope, various species of langur, porcupine and deer can be seen within the National Park. Although I heard the occasional monkey call during my hike to and from the cave, I wasn’t lucky enough to see anything.