In not too early morning in October 2014 we were on our way to Phu Thap Boek. From Khon Kaen it is easy to get there, just follow route 12 in direction of Chumphae and Phitsanulok. Traveling the Thai way means that just 50 km after Khon Kaen we stopped already for a drink & snack at a new kind of "winery" restaurant & coffee-shop. They have a fruit yard and the beginning of a winery yard. So of course they are also selling grape and grape-juice. We continued our trip and about 30 km after Chumphae the road starts to go into the mountains of Nam Nao National Park (no entrance fee). It is the most beautiful part of the trip where the road goes into the high mountains with beautiful views. Just 500 meter after the exit check-point there is a coffee-shop "Nam Nao" serving not only drinks but also good food. In front of the parking locals are selling vegetable and mushrooms from the "jungle".
After the coffee-shop the road continues to go thru the mountains and you will pass a view-point & local market after about 10 km on your left side. After leaving the mountains you reach the valley of Lom Sak and Phetchabun. We continued over route 12 until about 5 km after the intersection of Lom Sak and Phetchabun (second traffic light) where we took a right turn to route 2372. This route follows the mountains of Phu Hin Rong Khla and Phu Thap Boek. After about 12 km we took a left turn to route 2331 in direction of the mountains (and of Nakhon Thai). Route 2331 up-to the Phu Thap Boek is one of Thailand most twisty roads and starts at an altitude of about 300 meter and "ends" at view-point at almost 1600m! At the view-point you have a beautiful view over the road we just came up. In the weekend there is a little local market from Hmong people and the little coffee-shop is even open sometimes.
Directly after the parking & market is a small road to your right (before the entrance of Phu Hin Rong Khla National Park). This road goes to Ban Tab Baek and in the end even to Dan Sai (but the road is not very well). Here the road goes on the top of the mountain range and there are a lot of vegetable plantations everywhere. But also small & simple resorts and restaurants setup by the locals. It is still a very nice area that in the weekends might be a bit busy with Thai tourism going camping. The resorts are simple, very simple but not cheap. Price of 800 thb are normal. We did choose to stay in a new looking small resort with about 5 wooden bungalows on a slope overlooking the valley of Lom Gao. It was very beautiful and relaxing to just sit there, have a drink and enjoy the simple dinner on the small balcony of our very simple room. In the evening the clouds were gathering along the mountains and there was a lot of wind. So much wind that our small wooden cabin on the mountain was shaken but luckily not stirred. When we left the valley it was 34 Celsius but here on the mountain it was 22 C and at night it would even become colder as to 16 C in the early morning. So we did sleep with our cloths on and I was very happy with hot water in the morning for a shower.
After breakfast we followed the road on the top of Phu Thap Boek to the small village Ban Tab Baek. This is an village of originally Hmong people and you can still see that on the faces and cloths of the people. In the village we followed to road to the temple on top of the mountain. And although the temple itself is (not yet) something special to visit the view from there was almost breathtaking. At the moment they are building a huge new stupa.
After Ban Tab Boek we did drove back to the entrance of Phu Hin Rong Khla National Park. I had been here before and was always quoted the Thai entrance fee, but not today and you know it really pisses my of to pay 200 thb pp for white-face people for traveling over a road that goes between to places but thru a national park. I call this stealing and so I tell this to the people working at the entrance and I wish them an bad re-incarnation in their next life. Would it not be great to put a sign in Paris "Entrance fee 1 Euro, for Thai people 5 Euro"?
The all area of Phu Hing Rong Khla and Phu Tab Baek has a sad history of war between the Thai government and people called Communists. In the 70's and 80's groups of people who did not agree with the Thai government did hide here in the jungle. And they did build schools, hospitals and even villages. But heavy fighting (assumable with the help of the good old USA against "communists") forced most of the young students out of the jungle.
Somewhere half way you can take a right turn to the village Rong Khla, a beautiful area that needs more exploring by mountain (motor)bike. Well, that will be for a next time. After about 10-km there goes a road to the left to the "Flag Pole Cliff". The road ends at a big parking from where you can walk a 3.2 km trail passing the old communist HQ, cemetery, hospital and the famous flag pole, where now the Thai flag is proudly waving in the air. A side from the historical value it is a beautiful area to walk around with beautiful nature and views. After the national park we continued our trip in direction of Nakhon Thai and from there to Dan Sai, where we did stay overnight in one of the few but beautiful resorts.