Sawasdee krub, people!
It’s time of the year when the cold spell hits Northern Thailand again. During this period of time, there are two and only two things you should be doing – hit up Lopburi or Saraburi to visit the sunflower fields, and spend a day or two camping in the mountains in Northern Thailand.
During the year-end holidays, both locals and foreigners alike would throng Doi Inthanon – the highest mountain in Thailand situated some 2,565m above sea level in the northern province of Chiang Mai, as well as the mountains in Phetchabun and Loei provinces, in order to enjoy the chilly weather.
On Doi Inthanon, temperatures would oftentimes dip to the single digits. This is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Bangkok, were temperatures rarely drop below 30°C throughout the year.
So anyway, my better half and I, as well as our friends Aof and his girlfriend Nu, went on a camping trip to Phetchabun this time around last year.
Aof is in the Thai army and based in Lopburi. After spending two days in Lopburi and counting down to the new year at his barrack in a hilariously drunken state (we were partying with a bunch of Aof’s and Nu’s army friends), early next day we immediately set off on a camping trip to the mountains of Phetchabun. I remember spending half of the first day of Thai year 2560 getting a serious hangover at the back of Aof’s car because I had had too much whiskey the night before.
Khao Kho, Khao Kho District
We were supposed to camp for one night in Khao Kho (Thai: เขาค้อ), a 1,143m high mountain in the western range of the Phetchabun Mountains, but then decided our short amount of time there simply didn’t do the staggeringly beautiful mountain views and nice, cold weather any justice.
For those who intend to go but wonder where and how to go about it, the best way is probably to drive around, identify a campsite, and get down to ask if there’s any spot or tent available. Since many of these campsites are private properties, you can either pitch your own tent for a small fee or sleep in one provided.
We found our camping spot at the Khao Kho Post Office. It was just a small post office with a considerable area of land around it, and they let people rent spaces within its vicinity for camping.
Aof was kind enough to bring along two tents, so we didn’t have to rent any. All we did upon reaching the campsite was to quickly snatch up an available, desirable spot before others did to set up our tents.
We only proceeded to make payment after setting up our tents – I think it was just under 50 Baht per person, very reasonable. We also rented from the post office two large mats and a charcoal stove for cooking.
Since Aof is in the army, everything was pretty much military-themed – that included my, or rather, Aof’s jacket!
This was how Aof’s and Nu’s tent looked like:
And my other half’s and mine was right opposite, with some space in between for some cooking and chit-chatting at night.
As the night wore on and the sun began to fall over the horizon, the temperature too began to drop to around 19°C. The stable, chilly breeze was all it took to send us into a shivering state.
The weather was perfect and exactly like what we were expecting. It was very relaxing; we were really carefree. Below was us spending time chilling out and drinking at our “common area.”
I remember waking up early on the next day, at 4.30am or so due to the cold draft and some noise other crowds were making. Apparently some had woken up early to watch the sun rise.
Later in the morning, we complained about how we hadn’t had enough of the breathtaking scenery and nice weather and unanimously decided to extend our otherwise very short holiday for another day. After all, the leftover food was enough to last us for another night.
Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, Khao Kho District
Before we left for Phu Thap Boek, the highest mountain in Phetchabun at an elevation of 1,794m above sea level, we visited Wat Pha Sorn Kaew (Thai: วัดผาซ่อนแก้ว).
If you have come across a picture depicting a series of five sitting Buddha statues, this is the place, situated in the district of Khao Kho. It is also said to be one of the most remarkable temples in Thailand, and I have to agree.
The main temple building has nearly every surface beautifully covered in glass, ceramic, and beads in an elaborate manner. It looks wonderfully unconventional and one of a kind, almost like a palace.
Since I don’t have a lot of pictures of Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, you may want to check out this link to see some really beautiful pictures and read more about the special temple.
Phu Thap Boek/Phu Man Khao, Lom Kao District
Khao Kho and Phu Thap Boek (Thai: ภูทับเบิก) are about 85km apart, which translates to less than two hours’ drive between the two places.
As we were heading closer to the peak of Phu Thap Boek, the temperature got lower and lower, and I began experiencing ear pain due to the increased air pressure.
By the way, Phu Thap Boek is also home to the Hmong hill tribe, so in certain places such as Ban Thap Boek, if you’re lucky you may get to witness a different way of life of the ethnic minority group, just like we did.
These mountain-dwelling people speak a different language and can be found in various places across Thailand, China, Laos, and Vietnam. If you’re interested, you may want to read my entry on the Hmong ethnic groups in Vietnam.
By the time we arrived at the peak and viewpoint of Phu Thap Boek, it was already close to evening and the site was packed with campers. While there were a few foreigners, most people who thronged the spot were locals.
It wasn’t easy to find a parking lot near to the campsite, but nevertheless we were able to secure one close to where our tents were. That way, it wasn’t much of a hassle carrying things up our tents.
It was also our lucky day because we were able to secure a spot with a reasonably good view to the surrounding landscape. Many had already set up their tents by that time.
Like in Khao Kho, if you don’t have a tent, you can always rent one from them for a reasonable fee of 500 Baht. Otherwise, you can set up your own tent at a desirable spot and pay perhaps 50 Baht (can’t remember the exact amount) per pax.
By the time we finished setting up our tents and cooking, it was already 7pm or so and the temperature had dropped to some 16°C. Always, it isn’t the air temperature itself, but the constant blowing of the wind, that determines how cold we may feel.
After dinner, my better half and I took a leisurely stroll around the campsite and some pictures of the night view. It was so windy and cold that we could see our own breath as we talked. The night view from the peak of Phu Thap Boek was nothing but magnificent.
We were hoping to witness the panoramic view of the sea of clouds the next day, but instead we woke up to thick fog blanketing the entire area.
As the sun gradually rose above the clouds later that morning, the fog began to disappear. Unfortunately due to the strong winds, the otherwise breathtaking view of the sea of clouds wasn’t too obvious to be seen, so we had to make do with what nature provided us.
Here are some videos I took of the panoramic view at the viewpoint of Phu Thap Boek:
Before we headed back, we went to several sites around the wind turbine area to take some photos, and the sceneries were just fascinating:
Alright, that’s it for this entry! I hope it will be a handy reference guide to you.
If you have any question or comment on camping in Phetchabun, do feel free to drop it in the comment box below and I will try to furnish you with more information that I can remember.