The hills in the distance to the East of the Thai Southern Line you can see the karst hills of Thailand’s first marine national park.
Khao Sam Roi Yot means “mountain with 300 peaks”. Its about 100 square kilometres of protected area with Thailand’s largest freshwater marsh nestled between limestone peaks up to 605 metres. Aside from being an important stop for migratory birds, it has inaccessible mountain forests that are home to rare mammals: the fishing cat, the Malayan porcupine and its critically endgangered cousin the Malayan pangolin, the barking deer and mainland serow (which looks like a cross between a goat and an antelope), the dusky leaf monkey and the slow loris (which is a rather forelorn looking primate). The endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin is also reportedly seen in the coastal areas.
In 1868, King Mongkut hosted a European guests here to observe a total solar eclipse. By combining the Thai system of measuring time with western methods of calculating longtitude and latitude, he predicted when the eclipse was going to be most visible, and exactly when it would occur down to the second. His guesses differed by those of the French by about 2 seconds. When his calculations proved correct, I imagine the entire Kingdom high-fived each other, and the standing of the Thai people lifted in the minds of the typically racist colonial powers. 151834 Mongkut is a star named in honour of Mongkut’s contributions to astronomy.
Unfortunately, during that trip both King Mongkut and his son – Chulalongkorn – contracted malaria. Mongkut died of the disease shortly after, and King Chulalongkorn survived not only follow his father’s footsteps, but to be Thailand’s great moderniser.
The most astonishing feature of the national park is the Phraya Nakhon Cave. It features a huge cavern with a hole in the ceiling allowing sunshine to peirce through, and – at certain times of the year – illuminate a pavilion that was built for King Chulalongkorn during a pilgrimage he made back here in 1890.