I get a bus from Chiang Mai to Phitsanulok. From there I take another bus to Nakkon Thai. I arrive there just about 5pm. There is no real public transport to the park but there is a sort of park van. I take that for the last 30km to the park. Once we enter the park, the last 10km are all uphill as most of the park sits above 1000m in elevation. I checked in at reception and then set up my tent under a bunch of pine trees. The campsite was very similar to Thung Salaeng Luang, with many pine trees and little else.
The mountain known as Phu Hin Rong Kla served as the strategic headquarters of the Communist Party of Thailand between 1967 and 1982. The area was declared a national park in 1984. I don’t often visit parks for their history but when that history takes place in a remote, forested area with trails and wildflowers, I’m definitely interested!
The park was a battlefield for 20 years between Thai troops and the communists. The Thai troops just could not defeat them, despite numerous efforts. The Communist party had grown significantly after a massacre of students in Bangkok in 1976 during a student-worker uprising. The Thai government announced that it would give amnesty for all the students who joined after 1976. The departure of the students was bascially the end of the movement. The CPT surrendered after a final military push in late 1982.
I ate dinner at a restaurant about 5 minutes walk from the campsite. It was fairly and I was one of the only diners. Despite the elevation the park didn’t get as cold as I expected during the night. I was okay in my thin sleeping bag.
The next morning after breakfast I started to explore the park. Most of the main sites are off the main road through the park, most within walking distance (for me anyway!). I was checking out an area of overhanging rocks that the insurgent army took shelter under when it started to rain. It was light at first but became very heavy. I was glad I had under the shelter of the rocks. The rain lasted over an hour. I start to walk on the road again and only get about 2km before it starts to rain again. I take shelter under a sign. Once that rain stops, I follow a sideroad to the attractions in the park. It’s still very overcast and misty.
The park is very rocky and has some unique landscapes not found anywhere else in Thailand. They are certainly unlike anything I have ever seen. The park has many orchids growing all over the rocks but most aren’t in flower. I visit the rock formations, an air raid shelter and the ruins of the old administration buildings. Basically empty wooden huts, they never had electricity or running water. I had walked about 4km to reach the area. As I walked back a truck pulled over and offered me a ride back to HQ, so I took it. I was curious to see how my tent fared in the rain. This was the first significant rainfall I had seen since about Jan. 26. It is the dry season and I wasn’t expecting any rain.
Back at the campsite I check my tent and the bottom half got wet. It seems they fly of my tent is loosing it’s waterproofing abilities due to age. If it was sunny, I would have been fine and could have dried everything but it wasn’t. It actually started to rain more again around 4.30. With my tent and sleeping bag half wet, I had no choice but to move into one of the cabins at the park. I took a very basic room in a cabin about 5 minutes walk past the campsite for 300 baht ($10). I hung up everything to dry outside on the vast veranda.
The rain stopped earlier last night and I was hoping that was it for the time being. I decided to stay in the cabin for one more night because I wanted to leave the park the next morning and didn’t want to have to deal with a wet tent if it rained again. I walk in the opposite direction to another rock formation today, Lan Hin Taek. Today the sky is clear and I get great views from the edge of the formation which is on a high cliff. I walk back to the main road and go past the area I explored yesterday. My plan is to walk the road the whole 6km to the attractions and then hitch back. The road goes through forest and can be good for spotting flowers and butterflies. I stop at an area with a small bridge over a small stream. I go to check out the stream when I hear something slip into the water. My first thought is a frog but when I turn to look, it’s actually a snake! The snake was swimming in the water when it stopped briefly to take a look back at me, then it was gone. It totally disappeared even though the water wasn’t that deep or the vegetation around very dense, I just couldn’t see where it went.
I carried on walking and arrived at the Political Military School HQ. It’s another collection of wood huts. There are a lot of butterflies around and a few lizards. I start walking back to camp and before I can hitch a ride, it starts to rain again, though only lightly. It continues as a sunshower for at least 15 minutes. After it’s done, I hitch back to camp. Most of my stuff is dry and it will be ready to pack so I can leave tomorrow morning.
The next I’m ready to leave the park and wait for a ride into Nakkon Thai, 30km away. A older guy in a pickup gives me a ride right to the bus station. From there I take a bus going to Phitsanulok but get off at the main #12 highway, as I’m going in the opposite direction. I just took any transport going to the highway. From there I waited a bit and then got a bus to Lom Sak. I waited in Lom Sak for another bus going to Khon Kaen. I was going to Nam Nao National Park, on the way the Khon Kaen. The bus was super packed, even in the aisles. I had to stand the whole hour drive to the park entrance. The bus dropped me off at the park entrance which was in the middle of nowhere. The park is one of the last remaining places for Asian elephant in Thailand and there were signs all over the highway warning drivers to be careful. Apparently the elephants like to cross the highway at night which runs through the middle of the park.