Khao Sok adventures

After a few days on Koh Samui we were ready to move on – to the national park of Khao Sok on the mainland. After an early morning boat to Surathani, we were then whisked away from the pier on a bus to a holding area 30 minutes away.

Chieo Lan Lake, Khao Sok

Chieo Lan Lake, Khao Sok

We waited an hour, before getting into the back of a pick-up, wondering if this was really our transport for the many miles ahead. We bounced through town for 20 minutes before pulling over. They dumped us next to a coach and pointed at it. It was the Surathani to Phuket public bus (a nice air conditioned coach) which, we’d read somewhere, should be taking us past Khao Sok National Park. So far so good.

Grass hopper in pick-up truck

Grass hopper that hitched a ride in our pick-up truck

It was our first bus ride in Thailand and proved enjoyable if slightly stressful – Thai buses don’t really use bus stops as such (although they exist), they can be hailed if you’re on the road and can stop where you want if you’re on the bus. This leads to loads of stop / start, shouting down the bus by the conductor, lots of place names being called out in fast succession, people jumping on and off.

The bus drives at speed, overtakes for fun and proves quite a ride. The bus gets busy, people standing in the aisle, men making-way for women with children. We stopped at a bus station and a women got on balancing a large tray of fried chicken pieces and bags of fruit, skilfully negotiating the handover of goods and cash, gliding up and down the aisle.

Monkey at Khao Sok

Monkey at Khao Sok

All we knew was that we had to get off at the entrance to Khao Sok National Park – all we saw were Thai signs. We kept mentioning Khao Sok to the conductor who didn’t speak a word of English….after 2 hrs we hadn’t arrived, thinking we probably should have done by now. Where were we? A slightly anxious English guy came up from the back of the bus asking anyone who’d listen if we’d passed Khao Sok.

We tried to chill out and thought where-ever we end up doesn’t really matter, we’ll always find somewhere. In the end, as is predictable, as we came to our stop, our conductor made a special effort to repeat it many times and a few tourist-types stood up and we knew we’d arrived. Easy, despite the language barrier. Maybe we learnt a traveller’s lesson that day.

Jungle at Khao Sok

Jungle at Khao Sok

We had booked into Riverside Cottages on a 4 day / 3 night package which included numerous day trips. We were picked up by Frankie – who looked after us very well throughout the whole trip – and were driven 10 mins up a dirt track to the resort. Our home was a large en-suite bungalow over-looking the river, with jungle surrounding us. The whole place is elevated off the jungle floor on stilts with wooden walkways – all quite rickety but good fun. πŸ™‚

Khao Sok

Dead trees protrude from the water, hinting at the time before the lake was created

Our meals were included in the package and we ate very well during our stay (too well!). In the open-air restaurant dinner times grew to be slightly uncomfortable – starting off with a well deserved beer but as it got dark the lights came on and of course attracted the bugs. We had bats swooping through the restaurant, crazed flying beetles, millions of moths, ants biting us, geckos galore – ok, that’s the worst bits from 3 dinners, but we were still pretty jumpy not really being insect fanatics.

Spider at Khao Sok

Spider at Khao Sok

We tried hard to ignore them. In fact, we enjoyed watching a fat spider who spun his web near the lights get fatter as hapless little moths blundered into his web, only to be rapidly dispatched. All this led to us opting for a few early nights in our cabin to get back indoors.

Day 1
The next day proved to be a really special day. It was an early start with an hour drive to the Ratchapraya Dam for a boat trip on the Chieo Lan Lake – a man-made lake. We went photo crazy with the amazing views of sheer mountains and rock rising out of the lake, covered with thick forest at the top. Luckily, it was just us two in the boat, with our guide – Tu – and a young kid driving! We stopped off at a floating village of raft houses, made of bamboo, to have a coffee, before taking a gentle trek through the jungle.

Raft houses at Chieo Lan Lake, Khao Sok

Raft houses at Chieo Lan Lake, Khao Sok. These are floating rooms to rent - each with just a mattress on the floor and the most incredible view

Tu happily chatted away in a mix of English, Thai & jibberish and every so often would stop dead-still and cock his ear to the forest canopy. We would automatically stop too and often heard the faint sounds of baboons calling, as well as an array of creatures and insects.

Audio MP3

This is one of our favourite audio clips. Tu is trying to explain about the time of day and associated behaviour of monkeys. See if you understand him!

Audio MP3

In the distance you can hear the baboons calling

Audio MP3

We then took another short boat trip to a cave, in which sat the most intricate stalagmites and stalactites, which had formed into all manner of interesting shapes and designs. Tu played them like a xylophone.

We trekked back through the jungle with Tu pointing out lots of interesting trees and flowers, which we happily acknowledged as sweat poured off us, before taking the boat back to the floating village for lunch. We were brought out a huge fried fish, curry, stir-fry, rice, fruit – a massive feast! Then we had time to relax for an hour and instead of kayaking, we opted for a lazy dip in the freshwater lake. It was lovely and tranquil even after we scared ourselves with thoughts of fresh-water crocodiles – there are actually none living in the lake!

Tu the guide at Chieo Lan Lake, Khao Sok

Tu, our awesome guide at Chieo Lan Lake, Khao Sok

We then took our boat back to the main port, all the while sailing passed the stunning mountain ranges, rocky out-crops and lagoons. We finally managed to spot some baboons happily sitting on a small island, but our longtail boat engine was enough to frighten them away.

Day 2
We were driven about half an hour away from the resort to the river – which is the same river that sits in front of our bungalow – and were ferried into a canoe with one guy paddling at the back. We took a leisurely ride down the river, at times hitting some rapids which took us along at a quicker pace, whilst passing jungle reminiscent of scenes from Jurassic Park!

Canoeing at Khao Sok

Canoeing down the river at Khao Sok

Along the way we saw bright-pink dragon flies, a massive lizard-type reptile, a single school of fish and an array of flora and fauna.

After lunch back at the ranch, we were taken elephant trekking – which was a great experience! Our elephant looked mature and wise, and was constantly spoken to by his guide, by tone more than anything else. We rode up a fairly narrow bit of jungle, with a stream cascading down through it, with our elephant carefully negotiating his massive frame through the steep and rocky path. He could climb up rocks surprisingly high, tossing us about on top as we held on for dear life.

We took our flip flops off and rested our feet on his warm and prickly back. His ears continuously flapped away as he spoke the odd grunt and occasionally waved his trunk. He seemed well cared for.

At the top the elephant had a quick hose-down and we had a 10 min trek up-stream before getting back onto the seat atop the elephant’s back. At the bottom, we fed our elephant bananas onto his gargantuan tongue as a thank you for our ride. He turned around and picked up the next couple to repeat his trip.

A video of our first 2 days in Khao Sok - at Chieo Lan Lake, canoeing and elephant trekking -- all were amazing experiences.

Day 3
We were joined by a German couple for a trek through the national park with a very well-informed guide, who was called ‘Chicken'(!). We took a stroll through the jungle along the well established trail, with our guide pointing out various plants – each with their poisonous traits or healing remedies. We resolved to simply not touch any of them.

Reptile at Khao Sok

The Black Eye Lizard, as I like to call him

After about an hour we stopped at a pool, compressed by the large boulders surrounding it, just down from a waterfall, in which we all a quick dip – it was fairly cool, but as we’d all worked up a sweat, it was perfect.

We got back to the resort slightly later than planned – thanks to Mr Chicken leading at an extremely leisurely pace! – so we hurried through lunch before getting a lift to the bus point, where we were to catch the bus to Khao Lak. Luckily, as we sped along in the back of the truck, we saw the bus racing up behind us (and overtaking us!) but Frankie had already signalled to the driver that we wanted to get aboard. So the bus pulled in, we hopped out of the back of the dusty truck and into the air conditioned bus and regrettably raced away from the natural beauty of Khao Sok.

Your views on Khao Sok adventures? Please add your tips, recommendations or general thoughts about Khao Sok adventures to help other round the world travelers:

4 Responses to “Khao Sok adventures”

Thailand Eco Portal
March 6th, 2011 @ 3:43 am

Cool website! We will be following your journey through Thailand. Check out our website for more must see places in Thailand.

March 7th, 2011 @ 7:43 am

love the video of khao sok – looks beautiful and tranquil…makes me want to pack my bag RIGHT NOW!

Carol & Mike
March 8th, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

thanks great video of khao sok where are WE going next!xx

March 11th, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

Finally got to see videos which are brilliant.

Contribute your thoughts