Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park — Photo courtesy of Dave StamboulisKhao Sam Roi Yod is one of the better day trips a family can make from Bangkok. The National Park has something for everyone, from some nice beaches to excellent hiking, sea views and a magical royal throne located inside of a mountainside cave. Additionally, the park is home to thousands of migratory birds which call in here during the winter season.
The name Sam Roi Yod means “mountains with 300 peaks,” which appropriately describes the rugged limestone karst mountains that dot the landscape, rising out of the Gulf of Thailand and above the coastal marshland. The park is famed amongst ornithologists due to its position on an East Asian-Australian flyway for migrating birds. And between November and March, over 300 species of birds, many of them migrating from Siberia and Europe, stop over in the mudflats and marshes of Sam Roi Yod.
Other wildlife can also be spotted in the park. There are serow (a type of goat-antelope) up on the limestone crags, and plenty of dusky langurs and long tailed macaques which roam about in the forest and around the park headquarters and campsites. Additionally, Irrawaddy dolphins can occasionally be seen off the coast.Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
There are several caves to explore throughout the national park, but the Phraya Nakhon Cave is the most special, and probably the most photographed cave in Thailand. Getting to the cave involves a 20-minute climb up over a mountain, from where one descends into a huge cavern. The cave is actually composed of two large sinkholes whose roofs have collapsed, and in the early morning, light filters in from the openings and creates a dramatic and surreal effect on the surroundings.
The cave was named for its discoverer, a lord from Nakhon Sri Thammarat named Phraya Nakhon who wandered into it some 200 years ago after being shipwrecked in a violent storm. What makes the cave so interesting is that there is a giant throne pavilion with a four-gabled roof sitting in the middle of it, which is also illuminated by the fantastic light. The pavilion was constructed for the visit of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) in 1890, and has since been visited by numerous dignitaries, including twice by King Bhumibol.
Khao Sam Roi Yod National Park — Photo courtesy of Dave StamboulisFor the ambitious, the area around the park headquarters has several walking trails, from nature trails through the mangroves to more strenuous jaunts up into the limestone, the most spectacular being the trek up to the Khao Daeng mountain viewpoint, from where a stunning panorama of the surrounding peaks and sea views can be seen. From this section of the park, there are also boat trips up the Khao Daeng Canal which has excellent birdwatching opportunities.
Given the lack of transport around the park, it's best to rent a car or hire a driver to come here. Failing this, one can take a minivan or bus from Bangkok to Pranburi and arrange a taxi from there. There are also plenty of nice resorts just outside the park if you feel like staying.