At times we wish to retreat into the calmness and beauty of the natural world. Environments where our minds can be at peace and we can relax along the sight of unperturbed fauna and flora. Thailand has many a place to offer in that regard, but few of them combine forest and sea as nicely as our feature this month. Located in the cosy province of Prachuap Khiri Khan and boasting of two islands, the Hat Wanakon National Park is a marvellous place in which to spend a day of tranquillity on your own or with your loved ones. Let’s find out more about it.

Before a full introduction to the Hat Wanakon National Park, it is important to know what legend has to say about this place. The story revolves most prominently around its islands. A tale has it that the daughter of an old couple was once courted by two men. The girl, beautiful to the sight, drew passions amongst them both, leading the first – a Chinese boy of royal descent – to approach the woman’s father in the hopes that he would allow for him to take her hand. The second, a lad from Phetchaburi, proceeded to approach the young girl’s daughter instead. It so happened to be that neither parent knew their daughter was seeing two different people, something which remained so until the day of the wedding. On this occasion, both of the grooms arrived at once, something which displeased both parents. They quarrelled for the right of having their daughter marry the man they each wanted and caused a scene difficult to digest. The father, enraged, proceeded to blame her for such scenario and did the unthinkable: in a bout of rage, he took his daughter and tore her in half, claiming the suitors could each marry half of his daughter. He threw one of her halves to the sea just off of Khao Sam Roy Yod and formed one of the islands called Nomsao. The other half he chucked east, this fell near Chonburi and formed Nomsao Island. He then went ahead and threw the wedding presents into the sea too, forming the two isles of Chan and Thaisi.

The Hat Wanakon National Park is known for being the newest seaside national park in the country, having been inaugurated only twenty four years ago. Having opened its doors to the public in 1995 through a royal decree, it was previously just a silviculture premise. Attractive because of its relatively minor size, Hat Wanakon National Park is not only the most recent, but the smallest of national parks in Thailand, something which makes exploring it a very handy feat. Covering a total of thirty eight square kilometres, it is the ideal place to go to for a weekend escapade from the capital through a three hour drive.

Almost sixty percent of the park is land, whilst about forty percent is based under water. This includes a stretch of beach and goes into the sea for some six kilometres – encompassing the two “present” islands from which the legend grows – and a large body of water. The park is home to number of different varieties plants and trees such as queen’s flower, the Makhamong, the crape myrtle, the Indian thorny bamboo and the Burmese rosewood. The stretch of sandy beach across the park is very clean and well maintained, something which attracts a great quantity of fauna to the area. The varieties of animals is vast. More than sixty types of wildlife can be found in the area. Amongst them are the porcupine, the tree shrew, the squirrel, the Burmese hare, the skink, the golden jackal, the squirrel and various types of snake.

Birds can also be found aplenty, as more than forty eight types populate the area. Bird watching is a common hobby amongst people who make their way to the park to witness the range of its diverse avian variety. Some of the birds that can be found are the pacific reef egret, the black Drongo, the black naped oriole, the blue tailed bee eater and the Indian roller.

Meanwhile, the seas are also a place to find a large variety of the aquatic creatures at the national park. These fish range from common to more unique species, including the snakehead fish, the walking cat fish, the Nile tilapia and the climbing perch. There are also non-fish species, reptiles and crustaceans, amongst them are the shrimp, a wide variety of turtle species and even dolphins, which are known to inhabit the deeper waters and can at times be seen from the shoreline.

But how about the landscape? What is it like for the hitchhiking fanatic or for those who enjoy the long relaxing walks? Hat Wanakon National Park sits on a fine shoreline which extends all the way up to the peaks of the Tenasserim Hills, which separate Thailand from Myanmar through the creation of a natural border. This makes the balance between trekking the mountains and strolling on the beach not only something beautiful, but activities accessible to visitors in a single day. There are several trails that hikers can take, amongst them the Hua Krang and the Hin Chuang nature trails, which extend two kilometers and three and a half kilometers respectively. Hua Krang leads you on a casual two hour stroll, whilst the Hin Chuang route takes about three hours. The trails take you through a large variety of flora, including a large array of mango trees and bamboo trees. Other curious features that can be seen are many different ant hills and termite mounds.

There are a variety of beaches famous at the park. The most prominent one is Wanakon beach, which on days of low tide extends up to a hundred and fifty metres into the water, allowing for visitors to venture into the sand and feel as if they’re endlessly walking out to the shoreline. It is common amongst visitors to venture into the park at dawn and watch the shining sun rise above the crystalline shoreline. This part of the beach gets a remarkable amount of breeze, which makes for a cool atmosphere even during the hottest days of the year during which Thailand can become a grueling hot pot.

Other sites to visit are Makha Bay, a river bed composed of a mix between reefs and banks. The sites from this area are of great attraction to visitors, who often remain there for hours.

Getting to Hat Wanakon National Park is easy and can be done through a number of ways. The most convenient way is by car, as it is located at an hour and a half from nearby Hua Hin. If you would rather take your time and do not mind travelling with a group however, you can always take the bus, both air-conditioned or not – though the former is recommended for the commodity. For those who may prefer to take their time or are coming from some distance away, taking the plane can be an option too. Though one will still have to take a short trip on the road, Hua Hin Airport is an option. The flight from Bangkok is a mere half an hour away and very convenient for those coming in from provinces further up north such as Chiang Mai.

As a whole, the Hat Wanakon National Park is a site that must be visited for sure if you’re an avid lover of nature, of the sea, of the mountainside or of both. This relatively new park is the perfect place in which to spend a few casual hours or days getting your fill of the beach, hills, sun, wildlife, flora and seaside breeze. If you have yet to go, you’re definitely missing out.

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