Chiew Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
When I was researching our recent trip to Thailand, one destination I just couldn’t resist including was the spectacular Khao Sok National Park in Surat Thani Province. The more I read about it, the more I wanted to go and see it for myself. I’m so glad we did and despite being ill for our journey to the lake, it was well worth the effort.
The gem of Khao Sok National Park is Chiew Lan Lake, or Rajjaprabha Dam Reservoir. It’s a 165-square kilometre artificial lake that was created by the construction of the dam and visiting is like going back in time.
After our stay in northern Chiang Mai, we took a direct flight to Surat Thani and from there on to our hotel in Khao Sok. The trip from Chiang Mai to Khao Sok was a little rough as my husband had food poisoning the night before travelling. He was such as trooper for travelling that day but staying behind would have meant missed flights and hotel bookings. I don’t think I could have done it but some how he managed and we made our way south to Surat Thani.
It is possible to get a public bus from Surat Thani to Khao Sok but by the time we got off the plane and into 35 degree weather, Derek was in no shape for the planned taxi-public bus-walking combo it would take to get to our hotel 130 km away.
Instead, we found a taxi driver and negotiated a 1700 bht fare directly to our hotel in Khao Sok. It was the most we spent on transportation during our trip, but that day, it was well worth it. Air conditioned, private taxi luxury saved the day. The only hard part was seeing 2 dogs getting run over on the way there.
I cried and and the taxi driver, unsure what to do, just kept apologizing. I couldn’t get those images out of my mind for days. No one stops to help them and that’s just the reality of a country like Thailand, but it never makes it easier to see.
There were so many stray dogs alongside the road I could barely stand it the rest of our trip, I was always on the edge of my seat driving by them. I started asking all of our drivers to honk at them, I don’t know if it helped but it made me feel a little better.
The drive from Surat Thani to Khao Sok is absolutely beautiful. The road becomes more and more rural as you get closer to the park and thick, lush, dreamy jungles start to spring up on all side. Eventually we arrived at Khao Sok Paradise Resort and were greeted by the friendly owners. The husband and wife team the run the hotel are welcoming, hospitable and very helpful. I helped Derek to our room to crash before heading back to book our trip to the lake the next day.
Khao Sok Paradise Resort is rustic, peaceful and cozy. For $40 a night you get a lovely treehouse room with air conditioning, a must in that heat and humidity. With Derek asleep and recovering from the previous night, I had a few beers on my own and chatted with some of the other travellers. I ate pesto pasta for dinner and caught up on my journal. The resort was really very lovely. With relaxing music playing in the open-air restaurant and the sounds of the jungle in the background, it was a nice quite evening.
I booked us to travel with a group the following morning to Chiew Lan Lake for an overnight stay in the floating huts. Derek slept from the time we arrived at Khao Sok straight through into the following morning when it was time to join the group for the trip to the lake. The minibus picked us up at the resort and we drove an hour or so to reach the entrance point to the lake.
On the way to the lake, the tour stopped at a local market and that was when I knew I was in for some trouble. Whether it was the same thing my husband had dealt with a few days earlier or something new all together, it was now coming for me.
A sweltering seafood and raw meat-filled market didn’t help the onset of whatever was coming. The smells in those markets can be overwhelming on a good day. Feeling sick, it was too much. I was able to find a near by washroom for 5 bht before running back to the reprieve of air conditioned mini van. The members of our group eventually returned and we were on our way to the national park.
We arrived at Rajjaprabha Pier and hopped on our long tail boat to head to the floating huts. By this point, I was not doing well, but I held it together and tried to soak in the incredible beauty of emerald water, karst typography and lush jungles.
The long tail boat to the huts was about a 45 minute ride and althought I spent it clutching my stomach, I was still able to enjoy the beauty. Arriving at the bungalows was stunning with the tiny huts set against a thick wall of jungle and colourful long tail boats tied up at the dock. The gibbons didn’t waste any time starting up with their yelling nor did the cicadas with their piercing calls.
The floating huts are exactly that, huts. Small, tin huts with nothing more than a thin, well-used mattress the floor and a barely there mosquito net. Rustic would be a stretch but for me it was just fine. We both immediately ditched our clothes and jumped in the cool, jade-coloured water.
We floated around on tubes and logs until they served lunch. Unfortunately, I was in absolutely no place to be eating. Between trips to the bathroom, all I could do to keep it together was float in the lake to stay cool. There’s no air conditioning there and it was at least 35 degrees plus jungle humidity. Not a great feeling when your stomach is fighting with your every move.
They did offer a vegetarian lunch but neither of us ate anything, Derek still recovering and my problems only just getting started.
I must say, being sick in a foreign country in the middle of the jungle, with no AC, no cold water, shared bathrooms up a hill, no toilet paper and nothing but a floating tin hut to lie down in? I wouldn’t really recommend it. But looking back I don’t really remember the awful sickness. I do remember the intense sounds of the jungle, the perfect water, the hot sun beating down, the sounds of monkeys and toucans in the distance and the freedom of no plans for the following 2 and a half weeks.
After lunch, Derek and the rest of the group left for a trek in the jungle. I stayed behind, literally not moving from my spot on a floating log out in the lake, except for slow, painful trips up to the very questionable washrooms.
I didn’t mind staying behind though. I had the whole place to myself except for a few staff members. It was so peaceful. Absolutely away from it all.
The group returned back form their trek and we had we lazed around for the afternoon until dinner time. They served a beautiful, home cooked meal but I still wasn’t up for eating. I did manage to get down a few bites of watermelon and pineapple but that’s all I could muster.
Everyone else enjoyed a beautiful fresh caught fish from the lake, curries and noodle dishes. It looked really good but my stomach had other plans and I wasn’t going to question its intentions, that’s for sure!
After dinner we all hopped in the long tail boat for a night safari around the lake. We didn’t see any animals but there were about a gajillion stars out and the jungle sounds filled up the air. On the way back to the lake, we raced with one of the other long tail boats, flying into the pitch black darkness at top speed side by side.
I wasn’t up for much after we got back, we were both exhausted and decided to just relax in our hut and take in the sounds of the jungle. When I said it was peaceful there, it was, but it is far from quiet. It’s actually incredibly loud and those crazy, crazy jungle sounds only intensify at night.
We awoke around 5 am to the calls of toucans flying back and forth in front of the huts. Our guide told us they come by to wake you up before flying off laughing. I didn’t mind. Sunrise in the jungle isn’t something to be missed.
Around 6 am we all climbed back in the long tail for a morning safari and this time the monkeys were out to play. We watched them jump and leap between trees, there were babies and big ones and they stared at us as we stared at them. Oh and if you’ve never heard gibbons calling before, it’s really something! We sat in silence and listened for a while, laughing in awe.
Breakfast was fruit and pancakes and I finally managed to eat a bit. I was feeling pretty weak by this point, not having eaten much in almost 48 hours. Our group went on another trek to some caves in the jungle, I couldn’t go but enjoyed a long kayak with Derek and more swimming. Scorching hot, we stuck to the shoreline to stay in the shade. A group of monkeys followed us as we quietly paddled alongside the jungle.
After a quite, peaceful morning with the lake to ourselves, the group returned, we had lunch and then headed back to Rajjaprabha Peir. We went back to stay another night at Khao Sok Paradise Resort before leaving the next morning for Koh Lanta.
We found some almonds at a little local shop and those seemed to rejunivate me a bit, that and 2 huge bottles of ice cold water! My stomach was still in knots but I was on the mend, finally. It would be a few more days before I was completely back to normal.
I’d never been sick before in all my travels and I would have to say it really, really, really sucks but it also could have been so much worse. The worst of it only lasted about 12 hours and the rest was just recovering from the dehydration and exhaustion. I’m sure glad I had Derek there to comfort me, as I did for him. When we both finally felt 100% again, about 4 days later it only made the rest of the trip that much better.
So that was my trip to the floating bungalows on Chiew Lan Lake in amazing Khao Sok National Park, Thailand. It really is a special place and I would completely recommend visiting if you ever get the chance.