Seen at the perfect moment, few sights in Thailand are more spectacular than the Phraya Nakhon Cave. As the rays of the morning sun flood through the roof of the cavern, a small pavilion on the floor of the cave is bathed in a majestic golden glow. It’s the kind of place Indiana Jones would find a fabled life-renewing relic, or where a young apprentice would finally meet a reclusive Jedi Master.
The Phraya Nakhon Cave is located inside Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province of Thailand. According to local legend, the cave was discovered around 200 years ago when a local ruler, Nakhon Srithammaraja, was forced to abandon his ship during a storm and found refuge in the cave. Some historians, however, believe the cave was discovered by, or at least named after, a nobleman called Nakhon, who lived in the region in the 17th century.
Either way, the cave has long been a treasured natural attraction along the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. When sunlight floods into the cavern, it illuminates the cave’s stalagmites and stalactites, and the lush green trees that lean toward the light from the sandy floor below. It’s a serene and mystical sight, and one deemed fit for kings.
In 1890, for the visit of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), a mound was built inside the cave. Upon this mound was placed a small pavilion, built in Bangkok and assembled inside the cave. Positioned perfectly to catch the full flood of the morning sunlight, the Khuha Kharuehat Pavilion, as it is known, has since become an iconic symbol of the Prachuap Khiri Khan Province.
It was later visited by King Prajadhipok (Rama VII), who, like King Chulalongkorn, inscribed his name on the wall of the cavern’s main chamber. The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) also visited the Phraya Nakhon Cave, but unlike his predecessors he did not leave his signature on the wall.