Uthai Thani is in the Lower North of Thailand and is blessed with many forests and mountains. The most famous wildlife sanctuary here is Huai Kha Khaeng which I was lucky to visit about 15 years ago. Today it is listed as a World Heritage Site. In the same district of Lan Sek, I recently went to visit Hup Pat Tat which is surrounded by limestone hills and lush vegetation. It is about 50 kilometres from Uthai Thani City.
A cave here was discovered by a monk called Luangpho Thongyot in 1979. From here he climbed down into a hidden valley which later turned out to have many ancient and rarely found plants. In 1984 he drilled through the cave to further open it up to give better access. Fortunately, the Department of Forestry later recognized the uniqueness and importance of the valley and declared it a conservation area. It is open to the public today but you need to walk through this cave for about 60 meters in the pitch dark.
The rewards on the other side are worth the effort. You will see a lot of Tat trees which are ancient trees similar to palm trees. There are also rarely seen plants such as Tao Rang (fish tail palm), Plao and Khatkhao Lek. From this vantage point there are steps that take us down to the floor of the valley. As it is surrounded by steep limestone cliffs on each side, light rarely penetrates this evergreen forest.
In many ways it is like stepping back in time and you could almost imagine that you were walking in a place that hadn’t changed for thousands of years. In particular this photogenic cave with its natural rock formations. Of course, the illusion is shattered a bit by the crowds of Thai tourists with their transistor radios. For some reason, many of them don’t like silence. So, if you go to visit Hup Pa Tat then you might want to avoid public holidays.
Although I found the hidden valley in Hup Pa Tat to be very beautiful and worth a visit, I think the entrance price for foreigners at 200 baht is a bit steep for such a small attraction. Thai adults only pay 20 baht. To be honest, I have seen better national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Australia and many were free. The Department of Forestry really do need to re-think their two price system. How can they charge the same price for a national park and also this small area?