Trekking in Krabi I – Dragon Crest and Tiger Cave

Dragon Crest
If you love trekking and hiking, you are bound to fall in love with the lush jungle and cliff area of Krabi. Among my top treks there would definitely be the amazing jungle trek of Dragon Crest (Khao Ngon Nak), the Tiger Cave trek and The Emerald Pool and Hot Stream trek.

Located about 30 minutes north of Ao Nang with its marvelous beach where I tend to spend most of my time, the park entrance and trail head for Khao Ngon Nak can be found at the northern end of Highway 6024 in Tubkaek Beach. My friend Nick and I truly enjoyed the scooter ride to that area, as we were traveling along some wonderfully scenic country roads and beaches.

Once you arrive to the park entrance, you have to sign your name at the check-in desk (and perhaps talk a little with the park rangers), and surprisingly, that is it. No entrance fee! That is quite a rare thing for Thailand. You may leave a voluntary donation in a box, and in fact the park ranger

The hike is about 4 km long one way (you have to go down again the same way you hike up) with two viewpoints, a waterfall and a small pond along the way, before you reach the peak with another stunning view over the sea, the surrounding hills and the succulent jungle. My favourite part was the second viewpoint and the lower part of the trail which runs along a stream that creates lovely, swimmable (or rather bathable), sometimes quite deep pools in the stream-beds. I remembered those when I went to the Hot Stream (see below) as they were much nicer than the bizarre tourist trap of the Hot Stream.

The hike is quite demanding as it is rather steep and can get slippery on the sandstone parts during the monsoon time. It is also partially formed just by rocks but includes a man-made staircase too. I walked half of the trail barefoot (as I like to do it) and for the other half I truly appreciated having my sneakers. There were tourists coming in their flimsy rubber flip-flops who were perhaps expecting that just like many other attractions in Thailand the trail will be paved with cement staircases to accommodate the tourists that flock to them. I could see the terror in their eyes when they were scanning the roots of trees coming up the ground, the sharp rocks and the muddy sandstone bits which were gobbling up their poor footwear.

The second viewpoint is spectacular. Most trek lovers say they enjoyed it more than the peak because there were no selfie sticks around and no crowds of tourists hungry to get their snap on the overhang viewpoint.

A few clear recommendations for this hike would be to take proper shoes, stop by at the waterfall (though very tiny it has its peculiar magic), bathe your tired legs (at least) in the stream at the end of your journey, and make sure to bring enough water with you (there are small water bottles for sale at the trailhead for 20 baht, but it is three times what one costs at 7-Eleven, the Thai convenience store).

Tiger Cave
Tiger Cave Temple is a Buddhist temple located northeast of Krabi. The sacred site is known for the tiger paw prints in the cave, tall Buddha statues at the top and the strenuous flight of stairs to reach the summit.

As for the name: in 1975 a Vipassana monk named Jumnean Seelasettho (Ajahn Jumnean) meditating in the cave witnessed tigers roaming around the cave. This discovery led to naming the temple Wat Tham Suea – Tiger Cave. There is also a legend that says that a huge tiger used to live in the cave and there were also discoveries of tiger paw prints on the cave walls. The bulge of the cave they say also resembles a tiger’s paw though I would not think so.

The surroundings of Wat Tham Suea consist of tropical rain forest including many ancient trees and caves. Trekking around and hearing all the sounds produced by the hidden exotic animals, you do feel in jungle, though from time to time you get to see a person dressed in an orange sarong – the local monks living at the temple complex.

There is no entrance fee to the temple which is quite amazing because in Thailand you usually pay a lot of money to get to places, especially as a tourist; they have double prices for admissions here and the one for tourists would be ten times higher than what the locals pay.

The temple has one stairway with 1,237 steps leading to the summit. Some of the stair risers are more than a foot (30 cm) high. The top of the stairs is 278 meters’ elevation.

Your effort is truly worth your reaching the peak, so, don’t give up, even if you feel at the half of the stairs that you simply cannot make it. Yes, there were people turning around and doubting there strength. Get your rest, drink some water, and continue! Do not turn back!

At around 800 everyone´s pace slows down dramatically, even trained hikers need to catch their breath. By this time, your shirt might be soaked with sweat and words of encouragement might be passed along by those who are descending from the top.

Sometimes the staircase is called “The Stairway to Heaven” for the simple reason – it is tough to get there, but it is totally rewarding once you reach it. The huge tall statue of Golden Buddha, the views and the sound of bells moving in the wind are just some of the thrills that will leave you in shivers and appreciative tears. You almost get the sensation of reaching the sky since the clouds there seem so near you, as if at touch distance.

Elsewhere on the compound, 184 steps lead to the foothills area where monks live in the caves. Certainly make your way there too but beware of monkeys that roam the lower stairs and temple grounds.

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