We like to take the opportunity to do a hike whenever we go on holiday, even if we are going somewhere more noted for its beaches than its hiking. When we went on a recent trip to Krabi we had heard about a very special view that you can hike up to and we needed no second invitation! This is at the Hon-Nak Mountain which is just shy of 500 m above sea level. It was the last day of our trip and so we took a taxi to the trailhead and left instructions with the driver to pick us up again a few hours later so we could be in time for our flight back to Bangkok. This meant that we had to get to the top and back in the time we had available. The sign at the bottom of the trail suggested that the entire distance was 4km each way.
At the bottom off the trial that were lots of warnings about fitness levels and shoe wear. A number of people thought that going out in flip flops was a good idea and were either turned away by the guard at the bottom who signed people in and out of the hike, or if they made it past him soon realised the folly of what they were trying to do when they saw the state of the path. The bottom was actually not too bad with a broad gravelly path and a slow ascent through thick forest with a babbling stream for company. Soon we were to cross the stream on a small bridge and left it behind entirely. As we climbed away from the stream we passed by a small shrine and a path junction. We weren’t tempted by this alternative route. From here on the only sounds we heard were the relentless cicadas and the odd whoop from mostly unseen birdlife.
After some relatively level ground we came upon another sharp climb with no steps this time but with tree roots to help us out as we headed upwards. At the top of this part we managed to lose the trees briefly and this gave us a tantalising view out across the bay and the islands beyond. Without the tree cover we realised how hot it was though and were relieved when we managed to dive back under cover. Any notion that we were done though was soon snuffed out as we continued upwards. We managed to cross to the other side of the mountain top and get a view out the other side which was even better than the first. We were still not done however as the path managed to ease itself away from the view and plot a course through the dense forest climbing ever higher. By now we were actually wondering how long the path was for it seemed much further than the 4km suggested.
|1km to go|
As we continued to head up we soon came upon a sign that said 1Km - I think we were all a bit incredulous at this point as the distance seemed to be elastic. However, if true we had reached the 3/4 point on the walk and had therefore invested enough to want to get to the top no matter the heat and humidity. We were also meeting a number of people coming down who were most encouraging and telling us that the view was very worth it. We plodded on getting slightly slower with each step. Before reaching the top we had to negotiate some rock formations and the auburn zone, a rather strange area of vegetation that has that colour courtesy of the underlying geology and influence from the sea.
It wasn't much further past here that we reached the summit and the first view that we saw at Khao Ngon Nak Scenic Point was out across the strange karst landscape to the north of the coast. The limestone here has formed very distinctive shaped rocky hills that punctuate the otherwise flat landscape. It really is a beautiful sight; quite unlike anything I have ever seen before and definitely justified the climb and effort put in to get here. We weren't quite done though - in order to see the sea we had to climb a bit higher and so after getting our breath back we pushed on the short distance to the very top. Here I found a big rock to climb upon where I got a grandstand view of the surrounding coastline and countryside. It was quite breathtaking! I spent ages here admiring the scenery - it helped that there was a bit of a breeze to cool us all down. Having expended so much effort to get here the view deserved a good amount of time.
After 30 minutes or so at the top we started our descent. On the way down I decided to go and take a look at the two other side paths leading off from the main route. The first led to a pond while the second to a waterfall. However on account of the dry season and the lack of rain for a good many weeks beforehand there was almost no water in either feature and to be honest neither were really worth the effort, although arguably the waterfall was slightly better. I'm not sure if I'm saying this because the walk down to it was longer or whether I genuinely enjoyed it more though. Both features are probably better seen at the tail end of the rainy season.
The way down didn't see to take nearly as long as going up as you might expect. However some sections were trickier on account of the steepness of the path; the tree roots and the loose surface. There were a few occasions were we almost came to grief but luckily we all made it down in one piece. As we descended it was our turn to be encouraging to the greater numbers of people now venturing up the path. When we saw the numbers of people we were quite pleased that we had gone up when we did as we had the place to ourselves while these people will have to share it with lots of others... We managed to get down to the bottom with an hour to spare before the taxi came back for us - plenty of time for a well deserved ice cream and drink at the inevitable cafe at the car park. Thailand always delivers on this - they take every opportunity to provide refreshments whenever there are a few people that are would-be customers.
This is a relatively short walk but the fabulous viewpoint at the top more than justifies the effort you need to expend to get to the top. Being Thailand it's probably best to leave as early as you can in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat and any possible thunderstorms. Try and pick the clearest day that you can so that you get the most from the viewpoint.