Khao Sok / Thailand
We spent one night in Khao Sok, just outside one of the park entrances and one night within the park on the Cheow Lan reservoir (gotta do this!).
We stayed in Khao Sok Paradise Resort, a quick walk from a handful of other lodges, a few restaurants, two markets with ATMs. We got a cute hut made entirely out of woven mats and bamboo, home to critters that also wanted to escape the hot jungle rain. The outdoor toilet was especially liberating because the fern meant to cover us was a recently planted sprout. Mid-May at the start of monsoon season, it was hot and humid and the river was just a stream so we couldn’t freely cool off. Our hotel offered a bunch of outings from hikes to cooking classes.
Looking for water, we opted for a nights stay on Cheow Lan, which we learned is a man made reservoir. In 1982 a dam was built and a massive valley was flooded, creating the beautiful green glassy lake you see here.
Cheow Lan Lake
Initially we wanted to go on our own, but the registration form was confusing, so we opted for a one-night trip organized by our hotel for $70 each. Turns out that was a better option – it included our stay, meals, van and boat transport, a few hikes and tours of caves, and a guide to ask questions. Even just laying in a tiny floating hut during a torrential downpour, feeling like we are adrift on the open sea, was well worth the money.
It’s shockingly beautiful – dense jungle clings to jagged cliffs that emerge from smokey green water. We had an hourlong drive to the dock at the eastern end of the lake, then an hourlong boat ride to a strip of floating huts. We had a Thai lunch then a three hour hike through jungle and down through a cave full of stalag mites and tites. After traipsing through murky water and going chest deep in water in the dark cave I expected many more leeches than the one that nestled between my toes – Reece and our guide plucked it off and gave it an unexpected flight into the trees. The cave was full of spiders, snakes, bats, and crickets. It was hot and the air was dense. We got to dive off the dock and swim a few times – not so refreshing, as the water was body temp.
There are about twenty floating hut camps on the lake, half of them are ultra rustic and run by the park. The others are privately run and can run you up to $300. Our little hut was on the rustic and would’ve fallen in my “cute” category except for the army of ants claiming the floating island as their base. Three days later I’m fairly certain the last of the ants have left my backpack and hair. I would suggest a midrange lodge. One night is enough on the lake, unless you stay in one very nice lodge with AC and can comfortably get lost in a book. Each lodge will have a restaurant and minimal snacks and beers you can buy. The conversation that bubbled up in our group was also really interesting – two Americans, two Czech, one Russian, one Tunisian, and one Belgium talk politics.
The Belgium guy clearly does not like America. After Khao Sok, we caught the public bus headed for Phuket – we heard there was surfing and scuba there and we desperately needed a swim.
At a Glance…
- Stay overnight on Cheow Lan Lake.
- Get there by public bus – it’s cheap and efficient.
- Don’t forget sneakers that can get wet and muddy.
- Don’t eat the snail
- Do check for leeches