Thailand’s Best Kept Secret: Discovering Khao Sok

When people think of Southern Thailand, their first thought seems to be the beautiful islands, scuba diving, and the nightlife scene. It’s exactly what I thought of Southern Thailand too. It seems to be the hottest new tourist destination, and there aren’t a lot of unspoiled spots left. Unless you head to Khao Sok.

Khao Sok isn’t totally off the grid. In fact, it’s an incredibly cute little tourist destination. The main street, which is one of the only streets, is lined with restaurants, hostels, and tourist information, but it’s not overrun. There are so few tourists in the area, that you can actually recognize most of them after spending a day there. On top of that, most people come to do an overnight tour of the lake, so very few people sleep in town for more than a night.

khao sok hostel thailand

khao sok hostel thailand

Khao Sok Hostel

The fact that it isn’t crowded is amazing, but the real gift is that if you spend more than a day here, you become part of the family. It’s something I love about Thai culture. They welcome you in as if you’ve been there all along. Upon my arrival in Khao Sok, the owners of my hostel, and their adorable daughter who can’t be more than two years old greeted me. She stole my passport and began reading it like a book, which was pretty adorable. After that she decided to put on my obscenely big hiking boots and walk around in them.

If you want to make friends with the locals, play with their kids. Babies in Thailand are a huge deal, and they adore them so much. Just by smiling and waving at them, the locals automatically like you. It’s really sweet. The next day I booked all of my tours through my hostel. They helped me plan every activity I wanted to do, plus my bus ride to my next destination. Now every time I pass the front desk, they wave and ask me how my day is going and what I’m up to today. The best part, it’s completely genuine. They really care.

At night, you might even find the whole family gathered; playing badminton, doing yoga, and letting the little kids run around. I sat and watched with them and was automatically handed fruit and snacks while I joined in the fun. Like I said, it’s as if you’ve been part of the family all along.

khao sok thailand secret restaurant pad thai

khao sok thailand secret restaurant lemongrass soup

Khao Sok Secret Restaurant

But it’s not just my hostel that makes the place feel at home. There are a few westernized restaurants in town offering burgers and pizza, but I was lucky enough to find a small restaurant attached to a mini mart that only served authentic Thai food. It looked more like someone’s home kitchen than a restaurant. The Khao Sok Secret Mini Mart / Restaurant has some of the best food I’ve had in Thailand.

One woman is the chef, and she makes each dish when ordered. Patience is a virtue here as your order might take an hour to come out, but you can hear her grinding herbs by hand and making every tiny bit from scratch. I decided it was my go to place to eat, and every time I go back she smiles and asks what I’ll be having today. It feels like my very own Thai grandma welcoming me in for a meal, and the food never disappoints.

khao sok river tube -  tubing in the jungle in thailand

khao sok river tube -  tubing in the jungle in thailand

Tubing Down the Sok River

Being as I decided to stay for a few days, I figured I’d book a few small activities. The cheapest was to go tubing. I went to sign up and realized you need at least two people to go. No one else had signed up so I was told to “come back with friends.” I told this story to two hilarious Slovenian girls who ended up sharing a room with me that night, and it became the running joke of the evening. If I didn’t find someone to tube with, I’d start acting like a tuk-tuk driver yelling at everyone who passed, “Tubing? Tubing? Tubing?”

The next day I was able to join another group who had signed up. Tubing through a jungle might be the most relaxing tourist attraction I’ve ever taken part in. Each group has a guide who holds onto their tube, so you don’t have to worry about steering. The jungle is quiet except for the noises from the animals. We saw monkeys and snakes in the trees, neither of which I’m fond of. Luckily they were pretty far away.

We went through small rapids and even stopped to swing from a rope swing. I read on the tour description that the hostel “does not recommend” using it since it “may not be kept up and the water levels vary”. I watched the two guides and one of the men in the group go first. After seeing that it was safe and the water levels were high, (due to monsoon season) I took a swing. It was pretty fun, but I didn’t realize how hard I would hit the water so my mouth opened, and I got a mouth full of river water. Yum.

Thai Massage

So, I know Thai massages are available every ten feet in Thailand, but it may come as a surprise that this is where I got my very first Thai massage… and it was AMAZING. Why does any other kind of massage exist? I ended up going right next door to my hostel (Aunchalee Thai Massage Khao Sok) where a lovely lady twisted, pulled, and massaged my limbs into oblivion. It was pure bliss.

She began to massage my head and hit a spot that felt tender. I didn’t flinch but she immediately said, “you have headache?” I tend to have mild headaches most of the time, so I told her yes. She massaged the spot on my forehead for a good five minutes and the headache was completely relieved. She did the same thing to several spots on my legs, hips, and arms. She concentrated on places I didn’t even know were muscles, nonetheless sore. I left feeling completely revitalized. Now when I pass her store front she waves and asks how I’m doing, making sure my headache has not returned.

khao sok national park overnight tour thailand

Khao Sok National Park

The major draw of coming to Khao Sok is that it’s right next to the National Park. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been to a national park, or at least not a famously beautiful one. This park is out of this world. I loved my experience there so much that I’m going to write an entire post about it. Not to give too much away but there was kayaking, a bat cave, and jungle trekking to name a few! It was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done in Thailand, right up there with my Elephant Trek.

Have you ever visited a place that was completely unfamiliar, yet still felt like home?

Thailands Best Kept Secret - discovering Khao Sok

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This post originally appeared on www.fulltimeexplorer.com

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