Just a couple of weeks ago on a trip to northern Suphanburi I decided that I would investigate Uthai Thani (neighboring province of Suphanburi) a little more in the coming weeks. I have to say it is a beautiful province with many attractions and much to see. Two of the more notable attractions I wanted to see were Khao Pla Ra, a mountain range that contains prehistoric cave paintings dated 3000-5000 years old. The other being Tham Hup Pa Tat, a sealed mountain pass that opens into a secret valley. So off I went to do my internet research prior to setting off.
Like most travellers in Thailand I research the locations that I want to travel to and photograph using several sources but the easiest and most accessible of these resources is the internet.
One of the things I have become very aware of is rampant copying of information from site to site by so called "Thailand Guide" sites. This is particulary a problem as these sites are written
by individuals who have their so called internet sites just to garner traffic and probably advertising revenue potential and none of them seem to have actually visited the locations their sites give information about. Its one of my pet hates, misleading information - that and my ESRI map of Thailand - an truely fantastic GPS map of Thailand except for the areas of Kanachanaburi and Uthai Thani which are almost always wrong for the location of landmark attractions.
So as you have probably guessed I had a trip of frustrations - lets forget that the ESRI map sends you to completely the wrong location, for both places (as well as nearly all the other landmark locations in Uthai Thani) - based on what the internet led me to believe I would see or incomplete information. But out of my frustrations I can now accurately describe both locations.
Tham Hup Pa Tat is quite an interesting location, it is not a huge valley as noted on many sites it is in fact two small valleys that are surrounded by a single limestone mountain or karst and are connected by a cave (see pics). To access the first valley you enter through another cave that is about 50 meters long and completely dark in its centre portion, filled with bats but a simple short walk. After exiting the cave you are in the first valley and a 30 second walk puts you in the cave entrance to the second valley. This second valley is the same size of the first and its interesting to explore and view the palms and very junglesque valley floor. Its all paved and very much on the tourist attraction route catering for tour buses (4 came whilst I was there) - it has a dual pricing policy of 10 baht for Thais and 100 baht for tourists. Interestingly, the whole site was not know of until about 25 years ago when a monk from the local monestry was putting a prayer flag on top of one of the karst peaks and saw the two hidden valleys. The route into the valleys, through a "cave" was only cut about 10 years ago. It's worth the trip but its definitely not a hike and your arthritic grandmother on a bad day would have no problems getting around it.
This is completely unlike the Khao Pla Ra prehistoric paintings site! The entrance to the trail for the cave paintings is just a few hundred meters from Tham Hup Pa Tat, but be warned - leave your grandmother behind! The paintings are on the top of mountain and it is one hell of a climb, it may only be 1.3 Km trail taking you up 450 meters in elevation but it really is only for the fit, especially considering Thailand's climate. It is a trail that covers a rocky forest floor and good strong ankle support is very much recommended. The trail winds you up the mountain pass through verdant forest to a clearing at the mountain top. Just in case you are wondering its for the helicopter to land as four or five times a year hikers are not able to make it down from exhaustion and heat stroke. Once at the top the pathway starts to descend once again for about a hundred meters before bringing you to spectacular view point and ultimately the prehistoric paintings. The paintings cover a wall stretch about 8 or 9 meters in width and are truely interesting. Also there is an unmarked but impressive cave with 3 light orifices about 20 meters below the paintings on the trail. Be sure to pack plenty of water and a snack as the route down is possibly more difficult than the route up because of the loose rocks on the trail.
It is definitely worth the hike and its somewhere I will return (note: since writing this I have been back 3 times sans camera) to hopefully photograph the view/vista when the weather is a little clearer.
For details, maps and accommodation at Pla Ra CLICK HERE