Phraya Nakhon Cave
Phraya Nakhon Cave is an excellent day out with a rewarding but slightly challenging hike, beautiful sea views and a stunning temple blended into an awesome cavern. A cavern is what you call a cave with an opening at the top. these are usually formed by sink holes. Phraya Nakhon Cave is a truly great example of this with a lush green centre where sunlight and rain is able to fall. This cave has some great history behind it with both king Rama 5 and king Rama 9 having visited and inscribed their names into the cave walls. The centre piece is of course the beautiful shrine within the cave.
Phraya Nakhon cave is in Khao Sam Roi Yot national park. It is in the province of Prachuap Khiri khan which is about 300km south of Bangkok. The closest major town is Hua Hin to the north. A great area to explore with beautiful beaches and national parks; you can also travel inland for a more mountainous and jungle terrain.
The trail starts in a small market at bang pu beach. You can either hike around the cliff edge or take a boat to laem Sala beach for about 100-200baht depending on your negotiating skills. If you can I would advice hiking the trail around the cliff, you get beautiful views of the bay and its fun! please be aware that the hike from laem Sala beach to the cave itself is also quite a challenge and in mid day heat it can be quite exhausting for children or the elderly. Bang pu beach has toilets/ showers, at a small charge, restaurants and small gift shops.
The entry fee for Thai's is 40baht adult and 20baht child. For foreigners it is 200baht adult and 100baht child. This ticket will give you access to all attractions within khao sam roi yot national park. For me, this is a really fair price for all that is on offer in this national park. You can buy the tickets at any of the attractions, so you do not have to head to the park office, just go straight to the attraction you want to go to most.
I always take the trail around the cliffs, it is narrow and rocky but the elevation and length is not too difficult. As I suggest in all my guides, if you are hiking anything in Thailand, try and wake up early to avoid the mid day sun. The trail offers some sublime views over the bay and over laem Sala beach; so if you are fit and able, please give it a shot, you can always get a boat back on your return.
After the trail around the cliffs you will descend onto Laem Sala beach. A really beautiful beach with gorgeous sand, I have seen people camp out here along the beach, what a gorgeous morning that must be! There are free toilet facilities, a restaurant and plenty of shade. The trail to the cave starts just behind the toilets, make sure you stock up on plenty of water and maybe a sugary snack or drink as well. You can dehydrate very very quickly in Thailand and I find a sugary or salty snack and some water will really give you a boost.
The entrance to the trail is beautifully lined with tall fern like trees, a really good picture can be taken just at the start of the trail facing towards the beach through the trees. The trail starts off with some stairs fashioned out of the rock, it is quite steep but eventually leads to a fairly flat trail. The trail then deepens into the cliff and you arrive at the cave. You will then descent a meandering path into the cave through a small opening and then under the rocks to the main cave area.
As you enter the cave you will be truly awestruck at the beautiful centered greenery below the skylight of the cave with the shrine to your right. There are ever changing sand dunes to the edges which are great to climb and give you a great view over the entire complex. Please look for the dog I named Samsung, don't ask, he likes to climb the sand dunes and then just sit and chill with you, too cute. The light in the cave at mid-day can be stunning; although, as stated before, this is the hottest time of the day. The sun is directly above the opening at mid-day. It lights up the greenery in the middle and casts some beautiful shadows. I like to climb to the top of a hill and just sit there and gaze over the cave.
A great experience and hike within a truly awesome national park. i would advice to go early and use a whole day in the park. there are other great attractions such as sam phraya beach, Sai cave and if you are up for it there is Khao Daeng view point. A fairly steep maybe 1km hike up a sharp rocky trail but with rewarding views over the bay and small costal hills. Again both of these attractions will be included in the ticket you bought. The national park head office is near to Khao Daeng viewpoint and there are some very mischievous monkeys in the area which you shouldn't feed as it just encourages them.