My favorite experiences always seem to be the ones that I don’t know that much about. I research everywhere I go, but sometimes you see too many photos and reality doesn’t live up to it. Other times, you only get to see a few photos, and you end up being totally blown away in person. That’s how my trip to Khao Sok ended up. You can read about how I fell in love with the tiny little town here, but this post is about my time in the Khao Sok National Park and Cheow Lan Lake.
I decided to do a two day one night tour of the lake and surrounding areas based on a few tour packages I had seen available. The lake is man-made from a dam and has only been there for 36 years. Meaning this lake is only eight years older than I am! It’s kind of crazy to think that underneath the lake lies an entire underwater jungle. Seeing as the lake is fairly new, it’s pretty uncrowded and hasn’t been overtaken by tourism. There are a few places that have floating bungalows, but otherwise it’s miles of nature in every direction.
Long Boat Ride
The tour starts with a one hour long boat ride out to the bungalows. We were extremely lucky to have incredible weather on our first day. It’s currently monsoon season in Thailand and this lake is situated right in the middle of a jungle. Translation: it rains a lot. Our first day, we didn’t see a drop. The sky was blue, the sun was out, and the turquoise water radiated. Once we were on the boat for a half hour, we got to see the incredible limestone mountains that the area is known for. It was hard to put my camera down because every direction was breathtakingly beautiful.
When you sign up for a tour in Thailand, you’re never really sure what you’re going to get. The water bungalows blew my expectations out of the water. I expected some kind of shack on stilts with no electricity or plumbing. In reality, we each got our own little bungalow with a private bathroom. It was nothing fancy, but it was much more than I anticipated. The bungalows were attached to a giant dock with ladders to swim and free kayaks to take out any time you wanted. Did I mention, we also got four delicious meals?
I love kayaking, but I always have a hard time convincing myself to rent one. I don’t kayak often enough to go on a long trip and renting one for an hour seems like a waste. Having a free kayak at my disposal might have been the best part of this whole excursion. I did at least three trips over two days, staying close to the camp but still venturing off far enough to have some nice alone time. Bobbing up and down in the middle of the lake and listening to all the noises of the jungle was a highlight.
Trekking isn’t exactly my cup of tea. Everything in the jungle looked like a snake to me. Roots of trees, vines hanging down, and even the trees themselves all twisted and turned in weird snake like ways. In a place where king cobras are a risk, I wasn’t too fond of wandering around the forest. That being said, I actually enjoyed the hike. It was muddy and wet, but overall a cool experience. We saw a small waterfall and climbed across it. Our guide showed me how to lay on it for a massage which I attempted. I was less successful than he was. The trekking lasted a few hours and made me feel like I was in The Jungle Book.
Remember that time I said I’d never do a cave trek again? You don’t? Well you can read about that here. When I saw the word “cave” on the agenda I had a touch of PTSD, but then I read that it was only a half a mile. We ended up seeing two different caves. One was part of the jungle trek, which involved swimming in the cave. It was extremely easy compared to my last experience. The second cave was called the bat cave and for a good reason. If you looked up, you’d see a few dozen bats flying around the ceiling. I was happy that a very tall Australian guy was in front of me. I figured if a bat was going to fly into anyone, it would probably hit whoever was the tallest. We all came back unscathed, and again, it ended up being a cool experience.
Night & Sunrise Boat Safari
I would go into this experience expecting a quiet and relaxing boat ride. The night safari amounted to little more than a very odd flashlight show on the trees and bushes. We sat silently in the dark trying to see if any animals were in the trees. They weren’t. It was nice to listen to all the noises coming from the jungle, but I wouldn’t really call it a safari. The sunrise safari was a little more eventful. We saw a family of monkeys and a toucan. They were pretty far away, but it was still interesting.
Symbol of the Lake
The symbol of the lake was one of my favorite parts. Three large limestone rocks are where the original village once stood. If you scuba dive underneath, you can actually see the old buildings. The three rocks make you feel like you’re on Avatar’s planet Pandora. As we floated through, it felt like we were in another world. I half expected a giant blue alien to fly by. It was truly beautiful.
I’d recommend this trip to anyone in Southern Thailand. It was so much more than I expected and I feel like I got a truly unique Thai experience. It was unlike anything I’d done in Southeast Asia before!
This post originally appeared on www.fulltimeexplorer.com