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Paradise for birders and naturalists

Besides Hua Hin and other nearby beaches, Prachuab Khiri Khan Province holds within its embrace marshes, wilderness, and unspoiled natural beauty that can be found at Khao Sam Roi Yot Marine National Park.

In 1966, Khao Sam Roi Yot, or the Mountain with 300 Peaks, was designated Thailand's first marine national park. The park supports various ecosystems through an assortment of freshwater marsh, coastal plains, islands and rugged limestone peaks.

Although some shrimp farms have sprung up lately on one side of the mountain, it's the marshland on the other side that are the main draw, attracting birds and tourists in equal numbers. I even spotted children lingering around quietly, their eyes trained on the telescope scouring the scene for birds.

"More and more children are taking to bird watching," said Supoj Sukapat, who is advisor to a student group from the local Sam Roi Yot Vitthayakom School.

The school has a bird watching club set up with the objective to teach students about nature and their feathered friends so that when they grow up they will act responsible citizen and help conserve nature.

The students, aged 10-16, were adept at spotting birds living in the marshland. One after the other they pointed to me egrets, herons, the black-winged stilt, blue-tailed bee-eater and others until I could no longer remember their names.

"There are some 300 species of birds here. Many of them migrate in winter," one student, barely 10, filled me.

Apart from the birds, the park was the abode of langur monkeys. I saw them hopping from tree to tree not far from the park's headquarters. They certainly didn't look intimidated by human presence.

Visitors to Khao Sam Roi Yot can take a cruise on Khao Daeng Canal that snakes past a mangrove forest, lush green vegetation and jagged cliffs before opening into the Gulf of Siam.

If that is not enough, there is the beach of Laem Sala, a headland, dotted with graceful pines where you relax and enjoy your melancholy.

Another attraction at the park is Tham Phraya Nakhon, a huge cave with a royal pavilion built for King Rama V.

The cave has a big hole in its roof through which sunlight filters in the morning illuminating the royal seat and the entire pavilion. It's a beautiful sight and most visitors go there just to see the spectacle.

So make sure you get there at the right time.
Bangkok Post December 05 www.bangkokpost.com

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