Khao Sok National Park – Changing moods of Cheow Lan Lake

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Khao Sok national park is probably the most underrated destination of Thailand.

  • The park is remnant of a rainforest that is older and diverse than Amazon
  • Khao Sok national park is the largest in South Thailand
  • It has the best limestone karsts topology than what you see in phi phi or Krabi
  • In fact Phang Nga Bay is to the west of Khao Sok, like an extension to the park
  • It is the Thailand’s wettest region
  • Khao Sok National Park has the most scenic lake called Cheow Lan Lake..
  • It is just couple of hours from Phuket

With so many selling points, it has to be crowded as hell right? But no.. May be I should not write about such places and let the world know about it. But I went on a day trip down to Cheow Lan Lake and I was like awed with how majestic the place is that I have to share the pictures.

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Approaching Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park

After hopping through Ko Tao, Koh Samui and before moving to the next island of Thailand, my stop was at Khao Sok National park. I love national parks, the greenery, the ability to spot wildlife, birds, it is like the one place with so much life. So when I looked at the map and found a big patch of green, it got into my itinerary. Lomprayah ferry services helped me in getting from Koh Samui to Khao Sok. So the ferry dropped me at Surat Thani and a bunch of us were put in a bus to Phuket and some where in the middle we got shifted to a mini van and we were on the way to Khao Sok. Unfortunately I was at the wettest region of Thailand during monsoon and as we approached Khao Sok, I could see the clouds getting darker. Not just the clouds, the first sight of limestone cliffs bordering at a distant, forming a majestic line could be seen. I was thrilled, for this was my first sight of limestone karsts. The place was lush green that the greenery was spilling unto the roads. The rain started to lash down and my mind was all on the day tour that I wanted to do tomorrow. Rain is a damper no doubt..

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A Rainy Day at Khao Sok National Park

If you are coming from Phuket, there are regular buses that pass through Takua Pa and drop you at Khao Sok. Similarly from Khao Sok you get direct buses to Phuket.

Cheow Lan Lake Tour

Cheow Lan lake is an artificial lake formed by Rajjaprabha dam reservoir. It is also called as RatchaPrabha dam, so either of the name you see, you are heading in the right direction. The day I arrived at my place of stay, me and my friend quickly looked through the tours available and we booked the star of the Khao Sok National Park; the Cheow Lan Lake one day tour. The tour talks about a boat tour through the lake, lunch at the floating restaurant, explore caves depending on the water level and be back by the evening. Khao Sok national park and cheow lan lake is famous for their floating bungalows or raft houses in the lake. They look amazing by the way. Amazinggg.. I contemplated a lot to chose one such as a stay, but then it was not near my budget so I skipped all those. There was also an overnight tour which lets you stay in the raft houses overnight and they will pick you up the next day. However with so much rain battering down, we decided not to do that because there will not be much to do on a rainy night.

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Boat tour through Cheow Lan Lake

 

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The raft houses at Cheow lan lake – Khao Sok

The next day morning the sun opened up a little and I had a hearty breakfast. The owner of my stay gave towels and a water proof bag to put our stuffs in when we enter the cave. I looked slightly bewildered and asked her if we really require it and she said, the cave is gonna be filled with water because it has rained. And based on the water levels the tour guide would chose the cave that can be explored. The totally unadventurous and claustrophobic me cringed a little. But nevertheless the minivan appeared and we hopped on towards the cheow lan lake. The world seemed bright and little drying up until, just until we reached the pier.. Our tour guide was an old chirpy guy, who was determined to speak only with funny faces and sign language. The moment we reached the pier to hop into the tail boat (ugh! I hate that boat), it starts to pour.. Like just lash out.. I put on my raincoat or poncho and gingerly got into the tail boat. And thus we set out on a boat tour of cheow lan lake in the rain..

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First view of Cheow lan lake with cloud clearing up a little

I peeked through my poncho and the first sight of the tall limestone cliffs came in. Am always surprised with the kind of green vegetation on them considering they seem to be just a rock. But it is just so beautiful. I took out my mobile and braved it through the poncho to take a pic in the rain. A little bit of half an hour went with me trying to look against the rain and admire the beauty. Rain was then kind enough to stop just for a short while. The boat was veering fast through the lake. There they were, the karsts so tall, like so tall, like some mystical land.. It was wonderful to see how the colors of water kept changing from grey to blue to turquoise to green depending on the sun light. It was a sight I can never forget. I wish the boat guy drove a little more slow so we could soak it all in. Check it out for yourself.

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first view of majestic limestone karsts

 

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Limestone Karst with water so green in color

 

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Tail boat passing by a limestone cliff at cheow lan lake

The Karsts cleared up and we came to a a placid place of the lake with full of green shrubs and trees around. We stopped at a floating restaurant for lunch.. Adjacent to it were basic raft houses, nothing fancy but they were a pretty sight. These raft houses were as such not facing the Karsts, so I was glad I did not spend money on staying here. Some cooled themselves with a dip in the water and some decided to go kayaking in the lake. The fish was the main attraction of the lunch and it was fresh and so yumm.. After lunch it was time to explore the caves.

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Cheow Lan Lake view from where we stopped for Lunch

 

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The yummy fish for lunch

 

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Tail boats resting at Cheow Lan Lake

Just when we were done with lunch the rain started to pour again.. The tour guide said one of the caves is closed due to water level and the other we can explore. I know how sloppy I get when I walk on terrains and this bad rain with the muddy terrain I decided to stay back.. Am actually claustrophobic so I chickened out from exploring the cave. I decided to hang around in the restaurant watching the rain and tail boats coming in and going out. But here is the experience as heard from my friend Preetha and fellow tourists on the tour. You need to cross couple of streams with water upto knee level and walk on sludgy path, fall down multiple times, pick yourself up and enter the narrow opening of the cave through which water is gushing out. With a head torch you can walk up to a certain level with water upto your chest level and after a point you need to swim and move forward if you wish to explore. Come through the same way. By the time you cross the two streams all the mud and sludge on you will be washed off. Carry a change of clothes because you will get completely wet and you will have to change.

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Opening of the cave at Khao Sok national park. Picture courtesy my friend Preetha RK. She went into this and came out!!

 

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Tail boat approaching the restaurant for lunch – Cheow Lan Lake

 

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Karsts bordering at a distant – Khao Sok

By evening we started out again on the lake to get back to the pier. The evening was gloomy than the day. The thick dark clouds were gathering at the distance. It started to drizzle and when I looked around, it appeared to like am in gothic landscape. The color of the water was no longer green or blue. It was grey. The Krasts were threateningly looking down on us. The shadows of limestone cliffs at a distance looked like ghosts from the past rising out of the grave and dancing over their grave.. I swear, see!!

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Cheow Lan Lake with goth look

 

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Cheow Lan Lake sporting Goth Look – Khao Sok

The downpour was so hard that I could not even look up after that. For a moment I turned back only to see that the boat man had his face covered with rain coat as well and was just randomly driving the boat like a blindfolded guy. This is what is called being so confident with doing a thing everyday that you can close your eyes and do it! Soaked to skin, I was happy to reach the pier in one piece. The night was damp and cold with no electricity. But it was warm to think about the huge lake that was no ordinary one and that magnificent landscape.

Things to do at Khao Sok National Park

Apart from the one day tour through Cheow Lan Lake there are much more to do. But all these are doable only on days that are not raining. So visit Khao Sok sometime between December and May when it doesn’t rain much. What else can you do?

  • The next day we wanted to rest and not get soaked anymore. So we opted to canoe down sok river. A guide canoes and we follow the river. Small rapids here and there, brushing through limestone karsts, not many birds, but greenery along the way. It’s a way to spend a lazy day at the park.
  • There are few trek trails in the park that you can go on to explore the diversity of the park
  • The park has many mammals like elephant, tigers, monkeys that if you are lucky can be spotted
  • Go tubing down the Sok river. There are little rapids.. but the thrill of just following the river by itself is nice.
  • Early morning setting out looking for birds, if you have interest in birding
  • Night safari through the park on days that is not raining.
  • Exploring the caves of Khao Sok. There are three to four caves. Some get filled on rainy season and it is risky too.
  • Or just check into a river side or lake side bungalow and put your feet up and sip some iced coffee.

If you are looking for a quiet beach nearby, there is also Khao Lak which is just 60 km away as opposed to much crowded Phuket.

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Canoeing down Sok River – Khao Sok National Park

 

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Canoeing down Sok River

How to reach Khao Sok National Park

Surat Thani is the nearest airport and railway station. From here finding a mini bus or air conditioned bus should not be a problem. Similarly from Phuket you can find buses leaving to the park.

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Pin it to your board – Cheow Lan Lake Tour at Khao sok National Park

 


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