This is something that I have never done before: camping on a beach. Yet, I managed to experience it in Thailand. The very spot I erected my tent was on a secluded beach at Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park (literally means Three Hundred Peaks Mountain), in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province. The national park is home of lime stones hills (some with sharps ridges), beaches, great caves, typical yellow tail monkeys, mangrove forests, shrimp farms, and fisherman villages. The park is best accessed from Hua Hin.
Wanted something different and unique, I called the Department of National Parks of Thailand and asked whether I could camp at Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park. The name of the national park was as long as the hills around the park, so I shortened it to be KSRY. They said I could camp there and they gave me locations where I could camp.
As expected, the camp sites were beaches. Out of two beaches people could camp, one was recommended: Laem Sala beach. The beach was where the infamous Phraya Nakon cave lies. No long decision, I prepared myself for the camping solo trip to Laem Sala beach at KSRY.
After all gears were ready, I took the bus from Bangkok to Hua Hin. If you wanna do like I did, then you should stop where I stopped. I got down from the bus at the clock tower, right In front of a big temple. This stop is typically the place where the tourist would stop. There was a tourist information office near the there.
After gaining info I need from the information office, I walked to the gate of the temple (sorry again, I forgot the name). I then walked across the temple to the small gate at the other side of the temple. The gate led me to an alley. There were bars, guesthouses, and cars/motorbike rentals. I stopped at the nearest motorbike rental.
After learnt the requirement of renting a bike, I handed my passport to be copied, paid the bike (THB 250 per day), chose my matic motorbike and cruised to the KSRY. It was in the middle of the day and the dark cloud was hanging low over head. However, I found the trip was nice and about an hour later, I found myself surrounded by hills. It was it. It was KSRY.
I stopped at the entrance and as usual, I negotiated with the officer to get the local admission fee. I showed her my Thai skill. But I failed. She was tough and covered in Thai smile, she shook her head calmly and asked me politely to pay farang (foreigner) price. THB 200 was out of my wallet.
Along the way to and around the national park, I met with an old men guarding herd of local cows, something that brought my mind to my hometown. The herd left dung trails on the almost perfectly built asphalt road (this was not city but the road was just smoothly built). Few times I met people sorting shrimp completed with huge pails, ice, and big truck ready to carry the load to factory/market. These operations were held on the half-side of the road.
After relax motorbike journey, I arrived on a beach where sea food restaurants were plenty. I asked a restaurant owner the location of my camping site. She pointed to the hill right beside her restaurant. Puzzled, I asked again in Thai where Laem Sala beach was and got a respond that I had to park my bike here and I had to climb the hill.
Well, I followed her advice. I parked the bike in her restaurant and I climbed the hill to get to the camping site. One told me that there was another way to go there, ie. renting long tail boat and paying THB 300 (per boat one way supposed to carry 6-7 people at once; charge for round trip was THB 500). Of course that was not my option. Moreover, money should be preserved.
After about 20 minutes hiking the hill (the view of the sea was magnificent from the hill top), I landed on a beach with fine sands shaded by pine trees. There were cottages, small office, and restaurant. After asked permission to the Thai-only speaking officer, I walked around to learn the location. I decided that I would build my tent at the farthest spot from the office and those buildings, near a solid rock cliff, and about twenty meters from the shore line. The beach faced to the east and the spot I chose was perfect for viewing the sunrise, I suppose.
After afternoon pray, night seemed to fall fast. My tent was ready and now it was time to collect dry woods for my night fire and cooking.
When everything was in complete dark, it was time to relax and enjoy the nature. There were not many visitors, and no other campers at all. I was all alone with the tent, the fire, the trees, and a beautiful song of the waves continuously hitting the shore. What a time!
After having a meal and planning for tomorrow (Sunday), I fell asleep. The next morning I found wonderful and serene surroundings. After morning pray, I just sat there facing the beach. Everything was still asleep but the waves weren’t. Before I knew, the first sunlight broke the eastern sky leaving a magnificent color stretching north-south.
I moved on. After a great night beach camping, I packed all my gears and climbed to the hill at the back side of the beach. The next mission was going to the Phraya Nakon cave, the spacious cave where the royal pavilion built by King Rama V lies. It was still very early in the morning, around 6.30, and as far as I knew, I was the first person climbing the 430 m hill that day.
Some monkeys were seen and at the middle of the way up, there was a view point where I could see the the beach and the gulf of Thailand. About half an hour later, I arrived to the mouth of the cave. It was a sharp descending to the cave. But once I got into the cave, the ground was evenly flat.
There were two chambers in the cave. Well, it was not cave per se, but a connected two sinkholes. The pavilion was in the second chamber. There was nobody there yet. It was so peaceful inside but gave me a nuance of thrilling magic as I could see a dark corner completed with the instruments for spiritual ceremony by the monks. Other descriptions were just like what I read from the net.
After spending time in the cave, I decided to see as many places and objects as I could at the park. So I climbed the hill back to the ‘restaurants beach’ to take my bike. The next destination was another cave with great stalactite and stalagmite formations. After that I headed to the park office where one could walk on the routed wooden trail through the mangrove forest. Birds and monkeys were common objects could be seen there.
After the mangrove tour, I went to Khao Daeng (Red Mountain). It was a steep hill with sharp stones with a special substance that made the color of the stone and the hill reddish as its name. I spent half an hour in a scorching midday heat climbing the hill. It was a struggle especially with an empty stomach. However, the view from the top paid off. I could see almost all parts of the park: the shoreline, the sea, the river snaking through the villages, the shrimp farms covered by red or blue nets (birds were threat for the shrimps), the hills, the roads, the houses, the birds flying far below me. My Bushnell binocular helped me to understand the surrounding below there well.
When I got down back to my bike, I found my mineral water I left on the bike and the helmet on the ground. Prime suspect? The monkeys of course. What else could cause such ‘clever’ devastation like that?
After two caves and a mangrove forest, I wanted to go to the marshland. It was said that the marshland was the home of various birds and offered a great view. Unfortunately, time was late in the afternoon and I got to go back to Hua Hin, returned the bike and headed back to Bangkok.
Funny thing was happened in my way back from KSRY to Hua Hin. I was stopped by a police. Before opened a conversation I evaluated myself whether I did any mistake. Nope, I decided. When the officer approached me, I was ready. He spoke to me in Thai. I knew he didn’t think that I was a foreigner. That’s always the case to Indonesians living in Thai.
After he finished his words which I didn’t understand (I guessed he said that I was breaking the law or something). Then I replied, “Yes, Sir, is there anything wrong with me?”. Just after I finished saying that, the officer was stunned. A moment later, he said something in Thai, in a sorry expression and left me.
Overall, the trip was great. It was not difficult for backpackers willing to ride motorbike two hours vv.