Day Two in Khao Sok started bright and early as we headed out for a full day tour of the National Park and Cheow Lan Lake. This destination is well documented as the jewel of the park and having seen lots of awesome blogs and videos about it, we’ve been really excited to explore. Cheow Lan is a 71sq mile artificial lake built in the 80’s in conjunction with a huge dam for power generation and to combat flooding.
Khao Sok village in the Surat Thani province is where we are staying and is the gateway to the park. We were picked up by a mini van and we drove for an hour before we reached the pier and piled onto a long tail boat.
Almost immediately we could appreciate why so many people raved about the lake. It is incredibly vast and it’s surrounding scenery is stunning. The lake is an incredible blue colour and studded with huge limestone cliffs and mountains that majestically jut out of the water. As we ducked and dived around the rocks we felt like we had the lake to ourselves, barely passing another boat.
After 45 minutes on the boat we reached a set of floating houses on the lake. With nothing else around for miles it was impossibly peaceful. We did have the option to spend a night here but having peaked into the rooms which are essentially dark boxes with a filthy looking mattress on the floor, I’m pretty relieved we didn’t go for it.
We did however stop there for a great lunch of fish and stir fried chicken dishes before we embarked upon a trek in the National Park.
Our tour guide had really been selling this big hike which would take 3 hours in total and culminate in a spectacular cave walk. He reiterated the importance of plenty of water and proper trekking shoes so were anticipating a hefty slog in the midday sun. Turns out the route was no more than 3 km in distance, but did take us across streams, scrambling over rocks and on paths crisscrossed by huge tree roots. Major tripping hazards that, much to the amusement of Gary, I managed to stumble on repeatedly.
Immersed in the greenery and dwarfed by insanely tall bamboo, it was awesome. We saw monkeys and a wonderful array of butterflies sunbathing on the river bank. So many butterflies that dispersed when disturbed that they looked like confetti.
Once we arrived at the cave entrance we were told to turn our headlamps on and advised that once inside to stick to walking and not climbing.
Turns out that the ‘cave walk’ was essentially potholing in the pitch black with no helmets and the world’s worst lamps that illuminated a two cm spot a meter in front of us. Our guide gave us no advance warning of how slippy the rocks were or the best route to take and he went at such a pace that the 13 of us in the tour group were struggling to keep up. We were fumbling along, tripping over rocks and then falling into water. At some points we were in ankle deep water and at others we were plunged into icy cold pools where the water was so deep it came up to our necks and took our breath away. It was so farcical that it was almost funny……that is until I heard the dreaded words shouted back by our guide to “watch out for the snake.” Needless to say, I lost my shit. A horrid snake perched on a little ledge eyeing us up. It’s the only time our guide displayed any real care and attention so I can only assume it was poisonous. After gingerly crawling past and giving the beast a wide berth we continued on our way, this time without gripping the walls and rocks for balance. I was so nervous about touching or grabbing any more snakes lurking in the darkness.
We got to an opening where bats were congregated and then returned the way we came. Whilst an interesting interlude and another new experience for us, it’s not one I need to do again in a hurry.
We walked back to lake and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and sunbathing and drinking beer in the most picturesque of settings in Thailand. The swimming was glorious and easily my favourite part of the day. It’s sometimes hard to fully appreciate your environment when you are there, and already I wish I’d taken it in more. The pictures do a great job of reminding us of the incredible grandeur of Khao Sok though.
We enjoyed the gorgeous beaches of southern Thailand so much that it had to be something pretty spectacular to pull us away. I’m pleased we made the effort to get here and experience a different side of Thailand. I’m surprised that Khao Sok isn’t completely inundated with tourists because it really is beautiful and well worth the trip.