So where in Thailand can you find a place that combines a magical cave, a workout, idyllic beaches, postcard worthy views and minimal amounts of tourists? Orla Corrigan has found just that place. She shares her experience, her adventure and her heart pumping, sweaty trekking workout with us.

Having lived in Thailand for almost a year now, I have recently been on the hunt for more meaningful experiences in the “The Land of Smiles”. Expats and long term travellers can truly appreciate being able to visit untouched places that are off the beaten track. Gone are the days where I want to join every other wanderer amongst the tourist trap hotspots. I now long for those places that give you more to take away than just that snap on your camera.

Well over the Christmas break I decided to explore the mostly unknown but up and coming area of Pranburi and I was truly amazed by what I discovered. Pranburi is about a 45 minute drive from one of my favourite beach cities and popular weekend getaways for Bangkok locals, Hua Hin. Pranburi however is a lot more quiet and chilled in comparison (it’s not yet a tourist destination after all). It is however an ideal location for relaxation, unwinding and taking in the surroundings at your leisure. Without a shadow of a doubt the most spectacular thing to witness here, is the Phraya Nakhon cave. Haven’t heard of it? Well this is the reason it’s probably one of Thailand best hidden secrets to date.

‘The most spectacular thing to witness here, is the Phraya nakhon cave.’

The cave itself is nestled amongst a large national park called Khao Sam Roi Yot. Being Thailand’s first coastal national park, with an abundance of area to explore the cave will just be one of the reasons you will want to visit. The drive here from the local town will take you around 30 minutes, where you can enjoy mountainous backdrops and picturesque floating fishing villages. Once getting to the park, you will have two options of how you can reach the cave. The first is to take a long tail boat for 150/200B (depending on the number of people) and sit back and relax. Only for a few moments though, as there is some trekking involved. The boat will drop you off at Laem Sala beach and then you will have to proceed on 500m trail from there (no rest for the wicked).

The second is the hectic trekking option costing also 200B. Bear in mind, even if you are a fitness fanatic, this trek will get you pumping a sweat (trust me it is no walk in the park). There are many steep steps to climb on an upward path but also many a stunning viewpoint (you don’t get to see those if you take the boating option) along the way too where you can have a moment to catch your breath. Oh and don’t forget to wear good comfortable walking shoes. You will see Thai locals climbing in their sandals (like pros might I add) which I am sure does make for an interesting journey (I’ll stick to my trainers, thank you very much). About halfway into the trek you will come upon Laem Sala beach as I have previously mentioned (perfect to have a dip and cool down) which will be mostly secluded and that in itself is mostly impossible to find in Thailand these days. Could this place get any better?

‘You will see Thai locals climbing in their sandals, like pros.’

Indeed it does as once you have reach the cave and upon descending into it, you can instantly feel how peaceful it is inside. Almost everybody is mesmerised in silence at the beauty of the dry waterfall and the dangling stalagmites and stalactites. Nothing however, can quite prepare you for the beauty that overwhelms you when you reach the main chamber of the cave with the colourful temple (pavilion) glowing inside. The cave is part of two sinkholes that gave way, creating this sunlit cavern. This is a precious moment, as you stand there and see the natural sunlight shine in and ultimate the cave and the pavilion so perfectly. It does so through the open roof of the cave that was caused by natural weathering and erosion. Worth every single drop of sweat on the trek to witness this!

This cave is the first I have set my eyes on that resembles a jungle cave. With trees growing up from the bottom towards the light and roots dangling down, the natural growth is allowed from rain and sunlight coming directly in on the chamber. People often say that a place needs to be seen to be believed. Not a truer word could be spoken about this mystical cave!

‘You stand there and see the natural sunlight shine in and ultimate the cave and the pavilion so perfectly.’

What I also find really special about this cave is its historic connections. The Kuha Karuhas pavilion as its better known was built in preparation for the King Rama V visit during the 19th century. It is believed that other kings have been visitors since (wonder did they take the trekking option?). You can see some of their signatures engraved on the cave wall close by the pavilion.

Honestly, this cave is what I imagine heaven might look like in an Indiana Jones kind of way. When you see it shining and glimmering for yourself, you will know what I mean! This isn’t a day out that will suit all ages unfortunately, I would not recommend the strenuous trek to those with very young children or elderly individuals. In saying that I did see one family there with school age going kids, so I guess there is no real need to leave the kids at home. You won’t need to take any food supplies with you either as there are some food stalls along the beach path. Maybe just bring a bottle of water to keep you hydrated on the journey. I would be jumping at the opportunity to do this 30 minute trek to this cave again in a heartbeat. There is something so touching about Phraya Nakhon cave and its setting that could keep me coming back time and time again. I know if and when you visit, you will feel exactly the same. So if you’re looking to explore some history with a magical touch and get a good workout in at the same time …. Phraya Nakhom cave is everything you have been looking for and more!

Orla Corrigan is a passionate traveller and has been living overseas for five years. She has lived in London, Greece, Australia, and Vienna and now is based in Thailand. She has a BA in social care and a background in events, promotions, fashion/beauty and now currently an English language teacher. Orla writes about her travel experiences on her travel blog www.travelorlabout.blogspot.com. To learn more about Orla, contact [email protected]

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