If you drive just past Hua Hin, past the military school and King’s Park, turn off the main road, over the train tracks you’ll enter a spot with coves, fresh air, long grass, a lake and the temple of turtles. This “place” is called Khao Tao, meaning turtle in Thai. (Let’s clear up the wonder now, yes, we left the proud owners of two baby turtles).
It was half term break in Bangkok, and as Covid-19 would have it, our feet were planted still, in a place that seems safe, and warm and beautiful. We are daring to be positive and take all of this in stride. A half term break off of school, usually means that Pete will be working to save his time for our big trip for Christmas break, yet, it looks like he has some days to spare. Now, let’s continue to be thankful and grateful for the blessings we do have. A family holiday.
We rented a lovely villa, we said it was Hua Hin, but once we arrived we realised it is Khao Tao. An area that has stunning views of the hillside, access to the bike paths, a lake to walk around, neat cafes and still within easy reach in to Hua Hin for a lovely meal and more entertainment.
Our first adventure took us to the Khai Temple, located off the hillside of Wat Tham Khao Tao. The boys lost focus when they stopped to observe a makeshift, side of the road pet shop selling fish, turtles and baby sharks.
They were already negotiating the purchase and Pete and I tried to sell the exciting hike ahead, but to be fair the baby sharks distracted us too.
The temple was full of sights and a combination of Thai and Chinese influences. The boys could duck into what looked like a cave, say a prayer and head up the steep and very wet stairs to the next destination. Upon reaching the very top, to the largest Buddha we were stopped in our tracks, in awe at the machine sat to the side. A rusted and broken machine that was used to send up building materials and tools to create the area around us. Taking that information in was fascinating for the boys, while Pete and I felt that way about the surrounding views once we reached the top. It was breathtaking, even on the overcast, and dreary weather day that it was.
Day 2 took us to a couple of hot spots on TripAdvisor, the Memory cafe where the boys thought they were at a fashion shoot with a serene setting with long, wavy grass, the lake and the hillside surrounding it. We journeyed onward to the 1d+ day Artists cafe and restaurant with a cool “beachy” and artistic vibe, the perfect spot for a smoothie and a swing out to sea. It was busy with photographers and tourists alike, the boys again felt underdressed for what was going on around them.
We took to the roads again, hills and bends and found the Pranburi Forest Park. Parker, perked up and said he had recognised it as his Year 4 residential trip itinerary took him here in February of this year. The Park itself is a project registered under the Queen’s patronage to protect the local mangroves. It is at the mouth of the Pranburi River in the Klongkao- Klongkob national reserve forest. We walked around half of the 3.17km hike and found a boat captain waiting for people like us to head out to the Pranburi River and see what was surrounding those mangroves. A serene, enchanting boat ride for 45 minutes was not only nice on the boy’s tired legs, but on our eyes as well. There was lots to see and search for amongst the forest, monitor lizards, birds and fish. When we moved out of the cove and into the river a world of fisherman boats, some sunken and some freshly painted budded up against docks and houses surrounded us. The fishermen were waking, beginning their day at 3pm and we watched them wake up with arms stretched out and tired eyes.
The hike through the wooded pathed mangrove forest had its own magic, and mystery. Full of seven different types of crabs, young and old mangroves we felt as if we had entered in to another world. Time stood still for us, there was no rush, no noise, we were at one with nature and that rooted and grounded feeling sunk into our souls.
Sai Noi Beach or “Khao Tao Sai Noi” was where our sandy toes landed on our last day, and our feet were just a few of the pairs gracing this deserted beach. Set between two impressive sized rocks, known for its lonely, quiet atmosphere with its “treacherous” waters. The boys love crashing into the waves and their laughs and adrenaline could be seen and heard bouncing off each rock face, only 200 metres long and 30 metres wide.
While we love a bit of excitement and hustle and bustle of the city, this area of Thailand offered my family of five boys and me a chance to not only escape to serenity but to find fun in the crashing waves, climbing and jumping off rocks and searching for the signs and sights of nature to refuel us and keep us positive and mindful of the limitless world at our feet in Thailand.