Khao Sok National Park : Fun and Relaxation
If you live in a city and have a stressful job, it's nice to have a "getaway", a favourite place to relax and recharge your batteries for a couple of days, somewhere quiet and beautiful, not far from home but seemingly in another world. It may seem odd, but even living in Phuket it's nice to have a place nearby that suits us as a getaway. Sure, Phuket is beautiful anyway, but we're very lucky to have Khao Sok National Park on our doorstep. Over the years, we have enjoyed a number of short trips to Khao Sok, not for the hiking, kayaking, rafting and other adventure activities that are offered by tour companies, but just to relax. We have stayed at the same resort - Cliff and River Jungle Resort - many times and until our last trip, we ignored all tours and just relaxed by the amazing pool with the cliff towering overhead, enjoyed the good food in the restaurant and enjoyed listening to nature. Even enjoyed heavy afternoon rain showers!
This latest trip was different. We had planned to stop in Khao Sok on the way back to Phuket from Chumphon, but the weather was wet and windy, so we headed straight home. No point checking in with the rain hammering down. From the Cliff and River it's about a 3 hour drive to our house. Just 2 days later the weather cleared up, and it just so happened that some friends were heading to Khao Sok on the same day. We had plans for relaxation, but also wanted to stay a night at some floating bungalows on the Chiew Lan reservoir, and our friends wanted to try some river-based activities. We were going to be kind of guinea pigs for some new Khao Sok tours which are now being offered by my friends at Easy Day Thailand.
We started at the reservoir. Chiew Lan is a huge man-made lake created by the building of the Rajaprapha Dam, which was completed in 1982. Probably looked a mess when it was being built. Looks beautiful now. The boat dock where you can hire boats and pay your national park fees is a busy place. No real need to book in advance if you have your own transport. You can just turn up and get a boat out onto the lake.
The plan was to cruise the lake for an hour or so, check out some of the floating bungalows and splash about in the water. The scenery in the lake is quite similar to Phang Nga Bay, only here you have fresh water. It's nice to have your "own boat" rather than be on a big group tour which dashes around on it's own schedule. We had no fixed schedule, I don't like to rush. The day was hot and sunny, and Khao Sok was looking great...
We stopped at some of the floating bungalows where a late breakfast was being prepared for our group (eggs and toast). We weren't planning to stay that night, but this quick stop gave us a chance to check out the accommodation. It's basic - bare rooms with a mattress on the floor and a cold shower. It was late morning and sunny, and the rooms were already hot inside. I wondered how they'd be for sleeping. But - ignoring the basic nature of the rooms .. here's the view:
And after a bite to eat, the kids were soon having fun in the water. Once you jump in, you can see the attraction of these bungalows. They had some kayaks too. As it turned out, we never did stay at the floating bungalows as the weather only stayed good for 2 days, so that means .. we'll be back! Boat rides and bungalows can be booked through Easy Day Thailand.
Oh, and the kids weren't the only ones jumping in the water. It was a hot day, so I jumped in too. Lovely. We splashed about in the sun with these great views long enough that the bungalow staff suggested we had lunch there too! They cooked up curry and fried fish and rice, and a couple of beers magically appeared :)
The boat took us back to the jetty, it was about a 30 minute ride back and then about a 45 minute drive from the reservoir to reach the Cliff and River resort to the west. The weather stayed great so we could have a splash about in the pool, a couple of beers and dinner in the restaurant. If you stay at the Cliff and River, and want to "eat out" the nearest alternative would be about 10km away to the west at the main national park entrance where there are many small bungalows and small restaurants. But we happen to like the restaurant at Cliff and River! We'd all had an early start at 6am, driving up from Phuket, plenty of sun, and an early night after a couple more beers was very welcome!
I like to wake up early in Khao Sok. Why? Here's why ...
The air is fresh and cool, the mist hangs over the hills, the insects chirp, the birds are not angry and the gibbons call through the jungle. This is our getaway! The mists slowly clear revealing the 1000 foot cliff that towers over the resort. We filled up on breakfast, the usual "Thai-American" breakfast with coffee, toast, eggs, ham .. or you can ask for Khao Tom (rice soup). The day ahead was to be a day of fun on the river. We drove out mid morning to the west (up river) - the Khao Sok river starts in the hills and winds it's way east joining up with a river that exits from the lake/reservoir and finally hits the ocean at Surat Thani. The section of river that runs near the Cliff and River resort is mostly tranquil with a few very small rapids. We had met our guide Tee the night before. He works for Easy Day Thailand, and lives just a few km from the resort - a real local! We'd been to his house for a few drinks, a BBQ and karaoke. A very nice guy, speaks excellent English, and his daughter and mine became instant friends!
We started with a little downhill walk to the river and climbed aboard our canoes. A box of beer was brought along for the ride. After an hour or so, my wife and I had the hang of canoeing and had stopped blaming each other for heading in the wrong direction or drifting sideways into overhanging trees. Fun for all the family, and our group had lots of kids in it, some as young as a year old.
The river was mostly very tranquil, with just a few very very small "rapids". There are places in Phang Nga with some more serious water, but this is suitable for everyone.
We stopped a few times on the river to jump in and swim in the cool water, and there was one spot with a rope swing too which many people enjoyed trying, and a few even managed not to look like a donkey :)
Tee's friends had prepared a "jungle lunch" at a secret riverside location (he knows every inch of this area). Just our group by the river with a little BBQ. And from there it was tubing downstream all the way to the Cliff and River. Tubing is fun, relaxing (except when you drift into overhanging branches) - next time I think I need a dry bag and a waterproof camera, and maybe a couple of cold beers :) I'm a pretty large person, so my tube seemed to be slower than some other people as most of it was under water! But there was no rush, no rush at all.
(above) Tubing in Khao Sok - that's me and my wife right in the background. Our kids loved it, a great family day and finishing the tubing right back at the resort was ideal, just a quick walk up to our room! Wanna do this again! Our friends left back to Phuket that afternoon, but we stayed another night at the Cliff and River. The weather had been so great for 2 days. Lots of red sunny faces in the family! We thought about heading back to the lake next day for an overnight stay, but the next morning was a little wet ....
Boo! Raining again! Well, it is rainforest. This area on average gets 40 - 50% more rain than Phuket. I like rain in the jungle, but it would not have been such a nice boat ride. So we headed back home instead. This trip was in early May 2012, and Easy Day Thailand now have regular Khao Sok tours including the resort, lake trip, river activities and/or staying on the lake - ask them! I'm often reminded how lucky we are to live in Phuket. Having Khao Sok on our doorstep is one of the many reasons we are happy to call Phuket home!
• You can contact Easy Day Thailand for Khao Sok Tours
• Cliff and River Resort - Online Booking
• More Hotels in the Khao Sok Area
Khao Sok National Park Map
View Khao Sok National Park in a larger map