We had an exciting journey from Koh Tao to Khao Sok because, in true traveler style, we opted for the cheapest route which included a night ferry! We arrived at the pier at 9pm and were shown to our beds. The boats had two decks of dorm room style bunk beds. Each deck probably had 50 or so beds for the passengers. Louise and I both had top bunks which made doing anything but lying down rather difficult, but that wasn’t an issue as the lights were turned out and everyone settled down to sleep. At first I was worried about sea sickness but if you know me well (and if you didn’t you do now) you’ll know I can sleep pretty much anywhere this ferry was no different. I woke as the ferry docked at about 4:30 am into Surat Thani, from here we were popped into the back of a taxi and whisked with 6 other travelers to what looked like a shop but was apparently a mini bus station. We waited here for about 20 minutes before Louise and I plus another couple heading to Khao Sok were taken in a mini bus to a much larger coach station. Here we transferred from minibus to posh looking coach, this posh looking coach thankfully wasn’t busy so we spread out and slept on this too. We arrived at the bus stop near Khao Sok to be met by a surprisingly enthusiastic gentleman who told us he was the brother of “Smiley Bungalows” (where we’d arranged to say) owner. He also was resident taxi man meaning he gave us a lift there without charging us (I assume because we were staying with his sister). It was 9:30 when we arrived so we expected to have to drop our bags and check in later. However our room was ready and we went straight to our bungalow. Louise and I stayed in a small wooden bungalow on stilts with a balcony and an ensuite-luckily complete with a hot shower!!! All of this you’d expect to be pricey but it was our cheapest accommodation so far.
After both indulging in a hot shower (Koh Tao had cold ones…) and sending our laundry to be done, we geared up and walked to the National Park entrance. From the entrance there was a small trail which seemed to lead past multiple waterfalls and pools. Louise and I opted for this route and started walking up the well walked path. After a few meters I noticed that the trees to our right were filled with a family of monkeys. We marvelled at our first monkey sighting, watching as they wrestled one another for the best seats. After dragging ourselves away from the cute monkeys we continued up the path, en route we stopped at multiple pools and falls as the trail lead along side a small water way. The jungle here was lush just like where we hiked in Chiang Mai but the sounds were different. Here the wildlife was all-consuming: chirps, squares and whatever noise little beetles make filled the air. We walked until I thought I’d cripple and fall if we walked any further (for some reason this day felt particularly hot meaning I was sweating- a lot…sorry if that’s too much information). After freshening up at Smiley we walked to get dinner. There is really only one street of businesses near by, but restaurants were plentiful, as always. We chose a place which had an entirely vegan section so we thought ordering for Lou would be easier. However, on ordering, we discovered the owner spoke very little English, struggled with reading and clearly didn’t really know her menu. After a slight struggle trying to convey which dishes we wanted she went off to the kitchen returning 30minutes later with two plates of steaming hot food. Much to our delight the food was amazing, so much so we ordered more.
On returning to Smiley we decided that we would book onto their day tour to the lake section of the National park. The leaflet promised breakfast, lunch, a long tail tour, kayaking, safari trek and sun set view so we coughed up the money and headed to bed to rest up ready for the following day!
Our day began with a mini bus journey (via a small market) to the national park. Here we were transferred to a long tail along with 7 other visitors. The boat glided through the lake past the huge lime stone rock forms. We were driven through a maze of towering rock faces for over an hour (only slight downside was the racket the that long tail engine makes). The boat began to slow as a row of small floating bungalows came into view, these were Smiley’s floating rooms. From here we were able to kayak, swim and were surrounded by the stunning views of the National Park. After an hour Louise, myself and another couple were beaconed over to the seating area where a spread of food waited for us. Our guide, Kai then told us the plan. He informed us that we were the only day trippers, meaning we would be doing the cave hike just the 5 of us. He warned us that we’d be wading through water up to our necks in some places, this was followed by his recommendation to leave everything except out bikinis behind. However to preserve some modesty we wore t-shirts over the top. I also took my camera as I wanted proof of whatever lay ahead of us! (Kai had a waterproof bag don’t worry). We also were given strange rubber water shoes that Kai insisted would be best for the job.
After a short long tail ride the 5 of us docked at a small opening on one of the less steep rocky areas and began our 3 hour trek through the jungle. This wasn’t just a little stroll though, we waded through water at 7 different points, climbed over rocks, through small gaps between trees and all of this in bikini bottoms, a baggy t-shirt and black rubber water shoes. If you are familiar with vest and pants PE you’ll know how we felt 😂. Kai made sure to tell us all he knew about the various bits of nature, identifying the sounds we could here, telling us the uses of different plants and generally good advice for jungle trekking. Top tip: When running from an elephant run in zig zags, due to their size and eye position, it’s hard for them to follow you!
We got to the cave opening and Kai gave us each a head torch and beaconed us into the cave after him. Our lights were the only ones in the cave making the experience much more dramatic. On route we saw small bats, huge spiders and even catfish. Inside the cave we walked, swam and waded through the water at various points towards the second opening. The time through the cave flew by but was probably 1/2 of the trek length in duration. This whole experience was so surreal and raw. In England anything similar to this would be health and safety checked and probably deemed unsafe. However that’s not quite how Thailand works, Kai just waved us on to follow him and we did, not sure as to what we’d find. Louise and I journeyed back to Smiley with grins on our faces. Khao Sok was definitely one of the most beautiful things I’ve not only witnessed but been immersed in.
Thailand continues to amaze me in the sheer variety of landscape. From the canyon in Pai, to the coral reefs of Koh Tao. From the lush jungle of Chiang Mai to the vast cliff faces oh Khao Sok.
A fleeting visit but we experienced so much of Khao Sok. Next we go to Ao Nang and the islands of the west coast.