Sunday, August 26, 2012

Khao Sok National Park

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Thailand was the three days we spent in Khao Sok National Park. I had done  a lot of reading about it before deciding to add the park to our itinerary, and the experience exceeded expectation.

Our Jungle House
We stayed at the lovely Our Jungle House, where I had made a reservation online about a week prior to arriving. I can't recommend this resort enough -- it offers several types of accommodation including riverside bungalows and tree houses. I tried to book one of the tree houses (with no luck), but I loved our room all the same. It was just rustic enough (open air bathroom, complete with frogs, snails and other park critters), but clean, charming and full of character.  Great food, friendly, attentive staff and myriad tours that allow you to explore all areas of the park make it an ideal option if Khao Sok is on your list of must-sees (which it should be).

Lake trip
We opted for a full day tour of Cheow Lake, an awe-inspiring spot I didn't want to leave. It's touted as a must-do trip and although I try to make my own calls on where to spend my travel time and money, it really did live up to the hype. We started with a scenic long tail boat ride across the lake to a perfect swimming spot (think emerald water surrounded by limestone karsts) where you could take a dip or kayak. We were served a delicious lunch including lots of vegetarian options (perfect for us) and then came the hike to and through Namtaloo Cave. 

Getting to the cave involved a short boat ride an easy hike, but the trip through the cave itself was the fun part. First of all, it's dark (headlamps on, please) and it's full of water. So full of water that at times we were swimming through the cave (the water is also mighty cold). Oh, and there are lots of spiders and some slippery parts so athletic shoes are a must. But back to the spiders. If you hate them, you will not want to do the cave part of this tour. They're huge and they're everywhere. Luckily you can't really see them if you're not directing your headlamp on them, but knowing they're there is enough. Then it was back for fruit and more swimming before the return boat ride.

We also did a canoe trip and an afternoon at the nearby hot springs, which, in retrospect, might not have been the smartest call for such a hot country, but still relaxing.

Getting there
You can easily get to Khao Sok National Park from Khao Lak, which is a nice spot in itself for a few days. There are many tour operators that offer the two hour trip daily. While in Khao Lak we stayed at Jerung Guesthouse, a clean, friendly option right on the main road and only about a 6-7 minute walk to the beach. Khao Lak is great for avid divers (which I am not), but I still found if a nice three day stop.

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