Hua Hin is a resort city about 200kms south of Bangkok, very famous as a weekend getaway for the locals at Bangkok. The town as such has really no tourist attractions apart from a few amusement type small parks and a long stretch of beach. The beach is about 6kms long, a beautiful stretch of white sand, dotted with coconut trees providing you shade to spread out your mats and relax. Many resorts line the beach so grabbing a drink or food is easy too. Strolled by the beach in the evening grabbing a much needed cup of cold coffee.
Our initial plan was to head to Pran Buri and from there to do the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. However the journey from Kho Chang via Bangkok was too long and we had been unable to get tickets for the early 6:30am minibus, only one minibus at this time and it was full by the time we checked for the tickets. From Bangkok there are buses starting from Suvarnabhumi airport to Hua Hin every 2hrs, or you can head to the southern bus terminal of Sai Tai Mai where the frequency of buses is more often. Minibuses from Kho Chang will either drop you off at the airport or at Victory Monument. If you take the airport bus then the last point is a little before the town and you can get the shuttle to your hotel paying an additional 100tbh.
Petchaburi : I decided to do half a day trip to Petchaburi instead of the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. Petchaburi is around 80kms from Hua Hin to the north, so also doable as a day trip from Bangkok. Things to do at Petchaburi,
1. Tham Khao Luang cave temple. There is no entrance fee to the cave, any transportation is allowed only till the base of the mountain and you either walk up or buy a two way 15tbh songthaew ticket to get to the cave. A few steep steps will lead you to this beautiful cave housing many Buddha statues. The beauty of the cave is in the light entering the cave through a hole in the roof. And this light falls on the reclining Buddha once in a day depending on the time of the year. The day I was here it was cloudy in the morning and the sun finally came out around 10am which was too late for the rays to fall on the reclining Buddha statue within the cave. Still once the rays did hit the cave it was spectacular.
On a side note restoration work was in progress and looked like all the statues were getting a new coat of the golden paint, so many scaffolds were up in the cave.
2. Phra Nakhon Kiri Historical Park meaning Holy City Hill and locally commonly known as Hill with Palace. This was built as summer palace around 1860. Can be seen as three peaks of the hill. The Western section has the palace now a museum along with the observatory and library. The Central peak has a huge chedi in the Thai adaptation of the Sri Lankan style. You can enter through the narrow passageway built into the chedi and climb up to the upper level. The eastern peak has the royal temple along with the Bellfry and the five tiered pagoda.
3. Wat Mahathat Worawihan, a revered temple by the locals right in the city center. Houses impressive 5 golden statues of Buddha and walls covered with old murals. At the back of the temple is the impressive Khmer styled Prang with 4 smaller prangs surrounding it.
If you have more time you can also visit the other wats in the town or walk around the streets of the town.
Khao Sok National Park : The park contains the rainforest considered to be older and diverse than the Amazon rainforest. The Cheow Lan Lake which was formed by the construction of the Ratchaprabha Dam lined by the surrounding limestone krast formations is a part of the park.
Getting here: Surat Thani is the closest big town to get here.Surat Thani does have an airport so you can fly in from Bangkok and then take the minivans from airport to the park. Phuket is another option. We did this park on our way from Ko Samui to Phuket, so had a ferry minibus combined ticket and got dropped off at the minibus stand at Khao Sok. Wikitravel does have detailed ways of getting here from various places.
The Cheow Lan Lake tour along with trek in the jungle is the most famous tour offered. Most guesthouses will be able to get you booking for the tours. The overnight stay at the lake in the rustic very basic crafthouses run by the locals is an interesting option to choose although the crafthouses donot give you views of the limestone krasts. Depending on the time of visit entry to the caves in the jungle varies.
We took the day tour of the lake with the trek into the jungle. With it being the monsoon season it was an experience walking through the slush, crossing so many small rivers and then entering into the cave which had almost chest level water. My first experience of venturing into a narrow cave with water in it, totally enjoyed it. The view of the limestone krasts as you take the boat ride through the lake is breathtaking.
During the summer season, night safaris are offered. Full day treks is another way of enjoying this park. With one day getting totally drenched in rain and slush we opted to go on a canoe ride in the Sok river the next day. You can also go tubbing here and enjoy the river.
As I have been travelling through Thailand every place my thought has been I will come back again and spend more time here. These places were no diffrent. Khao Sam Rot is in my bucket list, and Khao Sok again when it’s not raining.