What I love the most about traveling is that you can find yourself in a place you’ve never been before and it provides you with totally new experiences. And once you realize, that something extremely different to what you’re used to, is completely normal to people who live there, you may be even more stunned and curious how come it’s possible.
A trip to the jungle was one of those I couldn’t even imagine but in the end I found it very exciting.
The best way to get to Khao Sok National Park, Thailand, is by a local bus. Not only it’s very cheap, but also you will be surprised how nice and hospitable people you can meet there. We drove from Phuket with a bus change in Takua Pha. There you have to let the driver know what village you will be staying in. The driver with a big smile on his face left us on request on a main road from which we had only a 10 minute walk to our accommodation.
It’s very important that you save at least three days for the jungle experience and soon I’ll explain why.
We arrived in Khao Sok village in the evening and spent a night at Khao Sok Las Orquideas apartments. The owners, a friendly Thai-Spanish couple, recommended us the best local bar with an amazing chicken curry, drove us to the ATM when we had no cash and served the best chocolate chip banana pancakes for breakfast ever. The apartment was simple but very clean and comfy. A humidity in this area was so high that once we were inside an air-conditioned apartment, we could see windows steaming up OUTSIDE!
We bought our jungle trip on site, and it was definitely cheaper than booking it in advance in such resorts as Phuket.
The next day at 9 AM a guide named Yaya drove up. He was very welcoming, funny and what’s not that common, he spoke fluent English. We picked up few other tourists from different apartments and set out. On our way to the jungle we stopped by a local market where we could try some grilled bananas in coconut cream – delicious!
A real jungle trip started once we arrived at the entrance of the Khao Sok National Park. It is one of the largest areas of rainforest, even older than Amazonia! The Cheow Lan, huge artificial lake, dammed by the Ratchaprapha Dam, makes a heart of the jungle.
There are two main types of trips. You can either go on a day trip which includes a long tail boat ride and some hiking or you can extend it to an overnight stay in floating houses on the lake with a night safari and a morning trip to waterfalls.
We were glad we could leave most of our luggage at Las Orquideas, and having only a small bag with cameras, swimsuits, a towel and some extra clothes we were ready to spend a night in the middle of rainforest with no connection to the world. A boat ride to the raft houses was very picturesque. I loved a colour of water and beautiful steep hills.
After over an hour we reached a remote bay. There were several floating bungalows connected with a wooden path, a bigger house for dining and two houses of family who run it. All surrounded by pure nature, you could even hear monkeys screaming and birds singing in the forest. The houses were made of bamboo, very basic, equipped with a mattress, a bed linen, a mosquito net and a light-bulb which switches off at 10 p.m. 🙂 We felt really weird once we realized the water under us was 15 meters deep and just couldn’t imagine us spending a night there.
After a delicious dinner prepared by the locals, we went hiking with Yaya. Since the day was rainy we were warned of leeches before the walk. Oh, how right he was.. Not only the trekking included going on a muddy hillside, crossing the streams which meant soaking shoes, but those leeches! They were everywhere, hidden in the grass just waiting to jump over your legs and sneak under your clothes. Bastards! We wore long trousers, thick socks, hiking shoes and still they would manage to get to the skin. And funny fact – the guide was barefoot, wearing shorts and no t-shirt and still no uninvited guest dared to bite him! Maybe leeches spare the locals 😉
Despite the fact the trip was quite disturbing we really enjoyed it. Soaked to skin and muddy we jumped into the lake which was very refreshing. In the evening everybody gathered in a dining area, chatted and exchanged some travel tips about Thailand. Our night safari on the lake was disappointing because the rain made all animals hide deep in the trees. But the night itself provided some special attractions. Not that often you can sleep in a fragile floating house in the middle of nowhere, when water is under and a thunderstorm right above you…
The following afternoon we headed back to the village and were very happy to stay one night longer. We somehow managed to dry the only shoes we had, did the laundry and got some rest before our next destination.
After the trip I realized how powerful and unpredictable can nature be. I feel deep respect for people who live on the lake and actually depend on wildlife surrounding them. This kind of an experience makes you appreciate simple things like never before. Just look around…