Beach photos from Thailand became a meme among my Facebook friends this winter. That is why, when thinking about what to write about my trip to Thailand this January, I've decided to start with a place, not so common among pale European tourists, like myself - my 2-day 1-night visit to the Khao Sok National Park in the Surat Thani province.
I have to be honest – I haven't heard of the place before I spotted a picture from the Cheow Lan Lake in my Instagram feed. It was so breathtaking, that I convinced my boyfriend to skip Krabi and Phuket and go there instead. Overwhelming crowds on the Phi Phi Island didn't attract us as much anyways, so we booked a tour with the Khao Sok Lake Tours and didn't regret. I wish the trip was longer, though, since the place was a surprisingly amazing discovery.
The first day a long-tale motor boat picked us and another tourists from the pier and took us for a 1-hour long ride through one of the most breathtaking landscapes (without exaggeration) I've ever seen.
Cheow Lan Lake is not a natural lake, keep that in mind. It was created in 1982, by building a dam on the Klong Saeng river and flooding as much as 165 square km of land. Locals said it was a bad and a good thing all along. I can imagine the sadness some older people feel about the villages, which were washed away by the water and now are buried on the bottom of the lake. At the same time the damn provides electricity for the South and the lake created new jobs and new opportunities for the region, so this coin does have two sides.
National Park has the largest area of the virgin rain forest in the South of Thailand, which is older and more diverse than the Amazon Rain forest. Speed-boating among the limestone rock formations, covered with ancient greebery felt like entering the Jurassic Park.
After an hour we arrived to the bamboo houses, which are built directly on the water. The ones we've got were pretty basic, but there are upgraded or even a luxurious versions available.
After a lunch break we took a boat a bit further and had a walk through a jungle to a large cave, filled with spiders and bats. I can imagine it can be terrifying or repulsive for those who are scared of insects or darkness..or narrow spaces – but we survived. Walking with a head-lamp through a neck-high water of the underground river is not my usual idea of great fun, but it was pretty cool after all.
After arriving back to the bamboo huts, we took a kayak for a short paddle around the lake arm we were in. Since the area was previously a forest, some dead trunks are still seen sticking out of the 40-m deep water like skeletons. The adventurer I am, I climbed one of those (a very realistic threat of being left sitting in the middle of the lake didn't scare me off).
In the evening and the next morning we took a speedboat to the remote arms of the lake for a so-called "animal-safari". We managed to spot a buffalo (it was just a black moving dot in the distance, so no picture here), a pelican and a group of very agitated monkeys. The lake also has great amount of fish, so fishing trips are also possible (see the fishes directly under our dining area at the bamboo lodge in the picture below right):
I have to admit, that the beauty of the lake and the National Park exceeded my expectations by far.
The limestone formations, the wildlife, the beautiful sunsets and sunrises – these all combined left me with great memories and a strong desire to come back for a longer time. The fact, that the bamboo lodges didn't have internet connection added up to the unplugged experience I was longing for.
The park is easy to reach from Phuket or from the Surat Thani pier or airport.
Touristic transportation system in Thailand is A_M_A_Z_I_N_G ( I cannot stress it enough), so you won't have a problem getting into or out of the park at any time.
We booked our 2-days tour through the Khao Sok Lake Tours, who also organized a great village dinner experience for us, where we met the locals and visited a farm.
If you are tired of Thai beaches and want to discover a different side of Thailand, then I highly recommend visiting this gem in the South.