It was late morning by the time we arrived in Khao Sok. We had just taken the night train down from Bangkok and off the back of a surprising good nights sleep, our eyes were already wide open. But nothing could of prepared us for the beauty of Khao Sok. At the waters edge we boarded a long tail boat and began the 30 minute journey to our bungalows. As the boat skimmed over the water, our waypoint the gap between two large mountains, burst from the waves, we were engulfed in shock, and awe, and all those cliches. We passed between the mountains with a thin layer of fog developing on the waters surface. Like a scene from Pirate of the Caribbean, we navigated the water, weaving between mountains each larger and more dense with vegetation than the last, and once we reached our bungalows, nestled in a lagoon at the foot of two mountains – paradise.
Established in 1980, Khao Sok National Park was home to the small flowing Pasaeng river, various locals who lived in the park, and high levels of flora and fauna. However, in 1982, the Rajjaprabha Dam was built to provide electricity to the south of Thailand, and as consequence the small flowing Pasaeng river became the Cheow Larn Lake, a 165 square kilometre freshwater lake inside the Park. The result was an oasis of limestone karst mountains bursting from the waves of Cheow Larn Lake, raising to over 400 meters.
In the same way animals adapt to changes in their environment, so did the locals of Khao Sok. As their previous homes became underwater houses, they took to the water, on floating bungalows. Utilising nothing more than old barrels for floatation and wood for construction, the bungalows were built. There is nothing quite like living on the water; the gentle rock as your hut bobs on the waters surface, or waking up and diving into one of the largest lakes in the world. The water here is fresh, no salt, no bad taste in your mouth or salt in your hair. This is a 165 square kilometre bath, cold enough to help you cool off but warm enough that you never want to get out.
The bungalows are basic, but fancy amenities are unessential when your in a place like this. All you need is the water, and there is plenty of it. We spent the entire day in the water; cliff jumping, kayaking, drifting on rubber rings – and then the rain came. From midday to sunset it rained. Khao Sok was just entering its rainy season, from May to November, and Khao Sok is holds the largest rainfall in all of Thailand, so when it rains, it pours. Not that it mattered, we were in the water anyway, and the rain added extra charm to the already outstanding scenery.
After a permanent 6 hours in the water, only existing the water to jump back in, we retreated from the water to head for dinner. Sticky rice, thai curry, phad thai, the usual but the lovely, and of course the one required western dish of fried chicken for the unadventurous traveller. Dinner done, back in the water for sunset.
Khao Sok is like nothing else in Thailand. The islands on the east and west, Koh Tao, Ralley, and the others, are beautiful. The beaches, the weather, the lifestyle, and Bangkok also has its charms. But Khao Sok is something else, totally different to everything. There is so much to do in Thailand, but for any itinerary, Khao Sok should be there.
How to add it to your Itinerary:
- You can get to Khao Sok from both sides of Thailand, Surant Thani in the East or Phuket in the West.
- Most hotels will offer some form of transportation or shuttle for around 2,000 baht, though you can hire a taxi from either place for around 1,500 baht.
- If you’re on a budget you can catch a public bus which is 250 baht each way from Surant Thani and 300 baht from Phuket.
- There is an Entrance fee of 200 baht per person, 100 baht if you are a student.
- I highly recommend that you hire a guide from one of the tour operators or guesthouses, on average these costs 1,000 baht per person, and likely comes with lunch.
- Bring cash as there is only one ATM in Khao Sok.
- For accommodation you can find budget guest houses for around 300 baht per night with very basic amenities. Midrange rooms will set you back around 600 baht with luxury rooms starting at over 1,000 baht per night.