Khao Sok National Park is located the South of Thailand and offers a quiet retreat away from all the party islands and crowded beaches. For anyone with an adventurous soul, this is a great spot to go! I arrived in Khao Sok and booked an overnight tour directly through my bungalow accommodation, though booking in advance would be preferable in peak season.
I was picked up, with a number of other backpackers, by a large Thai fellow who called himself Big Ben. He had a cheeky smile and drove the mini bus which was to take us to the park. Along the way, he sang along to Robbie Williams at the top of his voice and kept the whole group laughing with funny stories. At the lakeside, I bought sticky rice in banana leaves tied up with string for 10 Baht at a local stall. The adventure had begun!
We took a long boat over to Cheow Lan Lake. Fresh air blasted our faces and their was an immense feeling of freedom! The islands on the lake were covered in dense, tropical rainforest and we saw a Langa and other smaller monkeys jumping through the trees.
After an hour or so, we arrived at the floating raft houses, where we were to sleep that evening. They were built on the blue green water in the midst of the Thai jungle. It was a totally unexpected delight and somewhere I never expected to end up! We spent the morning swimming, balancing along the log that separated the pool with the rest of the lake and diving off it, flipping backwards and forwards and trying all sorts of tricks.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch of rice (served in a big silver pot) and sweet and sour vegetables, water melon and pineapple. Following this, we took the boat to the start of a walking track and trekked through the rainforest, arriving at the large opening of a cave.
Preparing to get wet and with head torches working, we walked through the huge, dark cave tunnels where thousands of bats hung from the ceiling and huge spiders clung to the rocks. At one point, while wading through the river, I stepped into a very deep hole and the water came right up to my neck, giving me quite a fright! It was a relief to get out of the tunnel at long last and breathe fresh air once again.
The trek continued. Throughout the day, Big Ben showed us different bush foods including an ‘energy-giving’ leaf. He also gave us nicknames. I became ‘Smiley Bear’ because apparently I looked like a big furry bear when I smiled. I tried to take it as a compliment!
Back at the raft huts, I remember sipping on Chang Beer with a nice couple. The lady was a professor in environmental science who was living in Bangkok. Her boyfriend worked in New York in finance. As she was Thai, she was introducing her boyfriend to all these Thai desserts and they generously shared them with us too. We tried cone-shaped leaves filled with a sticky rice flour, a square of coconut jelly wrapped in leaves, a pumpkin mousse and a salty pudding. Dinner was fresh fish, Massaman curry, vegetable stir-fry, fried eggs and big silver pots of steamed rice.
On the night safari that evening, we saw two toucans and a pair of Slow Loris eyes shining out of the jungle. The stars were bright and the sounds of croaking frogs and deafening crickets rung in our ears. That night, I crept into my raft house, under the mosquito net and let the water rock me to sleep. In the morning, the mist crawled over the mountains and hovered over the tranquil lake, changing every minute.
We had an early morning boat ride to check out some of the animals. We saw gibbons, langa, toucans and an eagle. Back at the raft houses, we feasted on a breakfast of banana pancakes and honey.
After breakfast, we took the kayaks and paddled up the river to see some more gibbons, this time up really close. We floated in blow-up tyres and relaxed for a while, before getting back in the longboat and setting off for another civilisation, where there was a bush garden full of snowpeas!
Here, we met a new guide who took us on a trek up the mountain, armed with a machete. It was a very steep mountain with occasional glimpses of a view out to the lake. On the way, he chopped off some wood– it was sweet and a smelt a little like licorice, but it was also spicy. On the way down, we listened to the gibbons howling in the trees.
Back at the lake, Big Ben was waiting for us with a lunch of fried rice and egg with chilli and fish sauce, plus pineapple and bottles of water, which were much enjoyed. The final leg of the journey took us back to the mainland. We lay down on the boat, soaking up the sun and the water which sprayed up from the sides of the boat. On the pier, we shared iced coffees full of sweetened condensed milk, which gave us an instant high. Back in the village, we proceeded to drink a wide variety of cocktails!
We moved to the Reggae Bar later where we had a dance and did some fire poi. I awoke the next morning with a queazy stomach, soot down my legs and a very hazy memory of the evening’s events! Managed to get down a slice of toast and butter and suffered terribly in a mini van as we headed off to our next destination!
Have you been to Khao Sok National Park? I would love to hear about your experience!