Written by Sinba Guang, published by Forrest Yu
"With limestone cliffs, majestic waterfalls, cooling rivers, a beautiful lake, and a tropical evergreen forest made for trekking and wildlife spotting, Khao Sok National Park has something I wanted: freedom, open air, and adventure."
- Sinba, Sales Manager at Odynovo (parent brand of Indochina Odyssey Tours)
Getting to Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park is tucked in the deep south of Thailand, not far from Phuket. A 55 minutes' flight from Bangkok took us to Surat Thani, a starting point to Khao Sok National Park.
From the airport, we traveled approximately one hour by bus to a town near the park, where we purchased some daily items (toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, etc) for an overnight stay in Khao Sok National Park. Another 30 minutes' drive from the town, we reached the entrance of the park - the pier of Cheow Lan Lake.
There it was - the Cheow Lan Lake! The jewel in the crown of Khao Sok!
The shimmering Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park
Boat Ride on Cheow Lan Lake
We hopped on a Thai-style long-tail boat. As it was July, the busiest month of monsoon, weather on the lake was totally unpredictable. Sunshine welcomed us at the beginning, but soon there were dark clouds followed by a rain. Nevertheless, we were able to witness more mesmerizing scenery thanks to the dynamic weather.
Traveling across the lake on a long-tail boat was chilling but exhilarating!
After our lengthy yet exhilarating journey (2 hours), we arrived at the floating raft houses (Thai-style bungalows). The weather cleared up. The blue sky, white clouds, verdant forests and emerald water…everything looked so refreshing.
Candy-colored floating bungalows by Cheow Lan Lake
As soon as we checked into our floating house, we decided to go on a safari in the vicinity. The landscape appeared all the more beautiful and serene in the afternoon due to the summer monsoon rain. We felt like on our own private island.
Cheow Lan Lake in the afternoon
Overnight on Floating Bungalow
A rain shower poured down that night. A full moon hung up in the sky after the shower, casting reflections on the mirror-like lake. The serene place looked like a wonderland.
I woke up in the raft house to the early morning drizzle and the call of the gibbons in the jungle. Totally relaxed, I sipped a cup of hot coffee and stunned into the silence at the natural beauty that lay before me. What a wonderful morning!
Leisure morning In Khao Sok.
Early morning is the best time for spotting wildlife in Khao Sok National Park when the animals are the most active. We took the chance. Monkeys appeared as expected. With a bit of luck, we also saw a wild elephant. Pi Gai, my Odynovo tour guide, told me that the park is a heaven for bird watching from October to April the next year.
Wildlife spotting on a boat
After the breakfast, we checked out the floating house, albeit wistfully. On the return trip, we decided to trek deeper into the rainforest and climb up a waterfall. The whole hike took us some 40 minutes. The lack of people and trails let me feel we were the first to explore the lush jungle. And I didn't break much of a sweat.
Left: Eric (left) and me (right) standing in the fresh mountain water Right: Pi Gai leading the path
Soon, there was lunch, which took place in an administration point of the park. It is also a floating raft house, offering local meals, fruits, and of course, eye-pleasing scenery.
Lunch at an administration point of Khao Sok National Park.
We then hiked to a cave - one that basically unexplored. There were no lights in the cave. Pi Gai pointed the way with a flashlight so I managed to see some bats and beautiful limestone formations of stalagmites and stalactites. It was an incredible experience to venture into such a primitive cave. I felt as though I had found a place long forgotten by man.
A real adventure in the cave!
Soon we climbed back into the long-tail boat. The journey passed some amazing limestone cliffs rising above the water. "People often call this Thailand's Guilin and Halong Bay." said Pi Gai. I couldn't agree more.
Limestone cliffs jutting out of the pristine water
About one hour later, we reached the pier. As we looked back, the park looked like a paradise on earth. What a pity that we had stayed only one night- though my 2 days were packed with nonstop activities, I yearned to see more.
Khao Sok National Park is absolutely a treasure. I loved every minute of it.
Travel Tips for Khao Sok National Park
1. Khao Sok is a short bus ride from Phuket airport. A visit to the national park combines well with a beach stay in Phuket, Koh Samui, or Krabi.
2. Khao Sok is worth staying for a few days. If it weren't for the fact that we were short on time, we would have stayed much longer.
3. The best time of year to visit is between December and April - the dry season. In the rainy season (the wettest month being September and October), most of the trails, waterfalls, and caves are closed.
4. Accommodation is no problem in Khao Sok National Park. There are plenty of floating raft houses and tree house resorts to fit all budgets.