Road Trip Part 4, Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park …

To be honest, after my horrible choice of roads to begin the trip, I let my wife do most of the navigating and searching out of destinations and accommodation, while I held forth as the driver extraordinaire.  After wrapping up family obligations in Nong Wua So, she decided on a route to our next destination, a national park I had never heard of.  With the midday temperature rising and the scenery becoming less interesting by the mile, I began to wonder about this place we were headed to.

Suddenly we began to climb out of the heat, into the cool lush mountains.  The road was wonderful and only surpassed by the ever improving view as we climbed onward and upward.  Near the bottom of the mountain was the park entrance.  The sign clearly said foreigners were to pay 200 baht but I gave my driver’s license to my wife to obtain what is usually a 50% discount.  She returned having paid 110 baht, (30 for the car and 40 each for two adults).  Whether they didn’t see me or didn’t care, I don’t know but it did work in my favor.

By the time we reached the top I was in heaven.  It was beautiful, there was a chill in the air and there was renewed vigor in my step.  Stopping at the Visitor Center we enquired about activities and accommodation.  The official on duty was fun and charming, so we took his recommendation of a lovely villa on the edge of the housing area and he offered us a 30% discount off the published rate of 1000 baht.  It was a huge room, well worth the price, rustically appointed with a high lofted ceiling and four single beds pushed together to make two large beds.  The beds were rock hard but I still slept amazingly well.

Not wanting to waste the remaining daylight we set out to explore as much as we could before the sun set.  We stopped for a few pictures at what used to be a reeducation school after the communists were defeated in the area.  From there we drove up to one of the several mountain tops, Phu Hin Rong Kla, at around 1600 meters above sea level.  Phu Phangma, Phu Lomlo, and Phu Man Khao are a few of the other peaks in the area, reaching as high as 1800 meters.

It was approaching six o'clock when we pulled into Lan Hin Pum parking area and we wondered if the hike was doable before dark.  A returning family said it took them one hour to make the loop and at that pace we had our doubts about setting out on a rough, unfamiliar trail without flashlights and the distinct chance of ending our walk in the dark.  In the parking lot we were approached by a young Thai couple in their late twenties.  They were eager to make the hike, but were afraid to do it on their own, so asked if they could tag along with us.

We told them they could join us but that we wouldn’t be waiting around for them.  It would up to them to catch up with us on the trail.  I have to admit to having my doubts as to whether they would follow or not.  After all, they weren’t the most rugged outdoor looking people we have ever encountered.  We hoped to at least get to a view point before the sun set, in order to get some photographs so didn’t waist any time hitting the trail. 

Our timing was perfect in the end.  Our new friends caught up with us and everyone got some photos to mark the occasion.  After watching the sunset, no one wanted to turn back so we picked up the pace once again and finished the loop just as it was beginning to get really dark.  It took us maybe 40 minutes to complete the loop, even with all the time we spent watching and photographing the sunset.

We talked our new friends into staying in the park that night, instead of going back down the mountain as they had planned, and we all had dinner together at the local restaurant.  We ate and talked until the staff began turning off the lights, in a not so subtle gesture, signifying their desire to go home even though our conversation was in full flow.  It was getting late and cold so their timing was appreciated, with us feeling grateful in the end for a hot shower and a warm bed.

We went for breakfast on our own in the morning where I struck up a conversation with another couple who I had noticed camping only a hundred meters or so from our villa.  They had a Chonburi license on their truck so we discussed where they had been and I admired his Canon 60D camera.  Soon it was time to take one more short hike before heading home. 

Lan Hin Taek is not a long hike but it is not for the clumsy or accident prone.  The terrain is broken and the gaping crevasses are spanned in strategic places by the flimsiest of wooden bridges, with no railings.  Still it was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the mountain before heading home.

While my only interest was in the beauty of the place, their is a great deal of military history to this park, as well.  Google, Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park, for more information.  It was a communist stronghold from 1968 to 1972 and it wasn’t until after they were defeated that the park was founded in 1984, as the 48th national park in Thailand.

The drive home was around 500 km of pleasant and comfortable driving in our new Fortuner, which got us home just as it was getting dark.  As usual it really felt good to get home.  After a few days rest at home my wife is now down in Bangkok for a visit with a friend from Hawaii and some time with her Bangkok friends.  All to soon she will be back to her classwork so it is important to make as much of this break as possible.
Fall colors in the forest.
Visitor Center
Road up the mountain.
Road up to 1600 meters.

Excellent dirt road to the top.
View of the parking area from the top.

View from 1600 meters.

Reeducation school area with a few Maple leaves left for our enjoyment.
Beginning our sunset hike.

On the trail.

Lending a little support.

Enjoying the view.

Sunset at Lan Hin Pum.

Sunset photo op with new friends.
The trail to the lookout.

Parking by the front door.

View from the front door.

Our accommodation for the night.

Camping area.

Restaurant

Lan Hin Taek trail

Finding our way.

Amazing rocks and crevasses.

More unusual rock formations.

A view for Lan Hin Taek.
The memorial at the beginning of the trail.