Sok It To Me

Trip Start Nov 01, 2011
Trip End Apr 12, 2013

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Jungle Huts

Flag of Thailand  , Surat Thani,
Saturday, January 21, 2012

Abi and I had now gotten so used to travelling by sea between destinations, it was a weird feeling being back in a minibus to travel inland again. We were headed to Khao Sok national park, a sprawling area of dense mountainous jungle terrain a few hours from the coast, supposedly home to the world's oldest evergreen forest, and site of the world’s largest flower.

The primary reason for heading here, a place well off the beaten track, and sure to be a welcome relief after the teeming madness of Koh Phi Phi, was to undertake a two day adventure into the national park territory. Our friends Morag and Martyn had recommended it to us, suggesting it was one of their favourite places in Asia, and we were more than happy to give it a go ourselves.

We arrived to a chorus of thunder and the threat of a downpour, so quickly found ourselves some accommodation in a charismatic little collection of raised up jungle bungalows. We were given an extremely warm welcome by the eccentric staff, two women going by the names of Spider-Woman and Tiger-Woman, who turned out to be unrelentingly friendly and really made us feel at home from the outset. By the time we had checked in, the heavens had opened, and things weren’t looking good for our plans of a two day trek. We had our hearts set on this, an adventure which would involve taking a boat into the vast lake situated inside the national park, and staying overnight in some water-raft bungalows, smack bang in the middle of the Cheow Larn Lake. We had seen pictures online, and it looked like a totally rare opportunity, and one which we would be completely disappointed to miss out on. Rather than risk the weather ruining our trek, we booked an elephant ride for the next morning, in order to allow a little more time for the weather to hopefully improve.

The next day, we woke up to much better weather, and set off for our elephant ride. Since we were in such a quiet area, removed from the traveller map somewhat, we ended up being the only two people doing the activity, allowing for some good alone time. We spent over an hour on the back of the giant, trekking through some fabulous jungle scenery along the way. We had a lot of fun on our private little expedition.

The weather was still looking a bit dodgy, but we decided to press on and book the two day trek for the next morning regardless, deciding that we were too desperate to experience it to move on. That afternoon, while reading in our bungalow, a group of brave monkeys foraged in from the surrounding jungle to have a wee explore through our resort. We watched them brazenly invade the balcony of a neighbouring bungalow and play about with a poor guy’s flip flops and towels. It was hilarious watching him discover this, angrily shooing the monkeys away in a tense standoff. We were properly living within nature’s grasp now!

That evening we were unexpectedly thrust into babysitting duty. Sitting playing cards in the restaurant, Spider-Woman came over and had a nice chat with us, accompanied by her cute little daughter Lisa. Her father was German, so she could speak fluent German and Thai, but not hardly any English, so it proved an interesting couple of hours. We spent a while drawing with her, and playing around, and one of the other young boys got jealous and involved himself in our games too. Spider-Woman treated us to some local recipes, a small plate of Thai noodles and veggies, followed by some black sticky rice cooked sweetened with coconut milk. Both things weren’t on the menu, so it was a real privilege to try some local fayre. It was then she asked if we would mind looking after Lisa while she went to pick up her husband from work. We had no choice of course, having just happily accepted her food and company for a while! We ended up entertaining her for almost two hours, a good laugh but relentlessly tiring work! Still, it was a memorable experience, and a welcoming atmosphere to be surrounded by. We went to bed that night hoping desperately for a change in the weather before embarking on our expedition the next day.

Upon waking, we were greeted by a delightful sight; dazzling blue sky, with hardly a cloud to be seen. Finally, luck was on our side it would seem! We arrived at the lake in the early afternoon. It is man-made, owing its creation to the building of a hydroelectric dam thirty years previous. This had flooded an area of around 165km, establishing an enormous expanse of pristine water, once again surrounded by towering limestone mountains. Because the land was flooded, it also had the eerie addition of many ancient trees which materialise slightly above the surface of the lake, hinting at a vast underwater forest contained beneath. Quite spooky.

We trekked over one of the mountains, in the midst of beautiful and untarnished jungle country, our guide stopping every so often to show off some local wildlife, and emerged out the other side into a breathtaking lagoon, sheltered almost fully by huge limestone cliffs. We had lunch on the boat and cooled down by hopping off the side into the lake. Some cliff jumping was on offer too, which I gladly undertook of course. Abi, not so keen, was on camera duty!

We then set off for our accommodation, and arrived there around an hour after. Skirting round a bend of trees in our longboat, the row of bamboo bungalows floating on the surface of the water was slowly unveiled to us, the whole boat was silent as we took in the majestic beauty of where we would be spending the night. It was just as we had hoped for, a wonderfully serene encampment, on the edge of the forest, looking out onto the calm turquoise waters.

It was amazing to be able to walk straight out of the bungalow and dive into the cooling waters in front, surely the most epic front garden in the world! Abi and I went for a little explore in a kayak, through some winding channels in the forest, a completely peaceful place.

We were served a great feast for dinner, spied another fantastic sunrise, and then set off on the longtail boat once again on a night safari. Our guide took a booming spotlight as we attempted to spot local wildlife. We were largely unsuccessful unfortunately. We did manage to spy a few animals, a wild pig foraging in the near the waters-edge, a mouse deer cautiously peering at us from the shrubbery, some longtail macaques sleeping high in the branches, and a few monkeys clambering around. Not too bad I guess.

The next morning, we awoke around 6am to an eye-wateringly beautiful sunrise, and I had the perfect start to the day by diving straight into the chilly water, instantly invigorating the senses.

Our day continued along the same adventurous vein, as we went out in the boat for a bit of animal spotting again, before heading for our main event of the day, taking on an arduous walk through a 700m cave. I was immensely excited about this, Abi the opposite, she was completely petrified at the thought. Still, with my stubborn persistence, she was eventually persuaded to give it a go.

We arrived there after trekking through the jungle for well over an hour. Headlamps were given out, and in we went. The cave contained a huge tunnel going from one end to the other, surrounded by all manner of different rock formations, stalactites and stalagmites, and contained some abysmal creatures! The roof was covered with a population of hanging bats, quite interesting to see in the torchlight. Worse though, were the several hundred spiders, some devastatingly big. Our guide, of course, was no stranger to this, and happily picked up different species to demonstrate to us. We were both happy to get this section out of the way fast! Most of the cave was quite narrow and confined, with some water going up to chest height at points. It felt like a real adventure, barrelling through the underwater ravines, drenched in cool water, surrounded by pitch darkness. Eventually we emerged through the darkness unscathed. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but we can safely say Abi won’t be rushing underground any time soon! She was proud that she conquered the cave, but I don’t think she gained much satisfaction in the actual doing so!

With that epic task over and done with, we headed back to the bungalow for lunch, and then said farewell to the national park and headed back to our guesthouse for the night.

The next day, we departed not only Khao Sok, but Thailand as well. Our next stop, via a lengthy bus journey of course, was Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, and country number five on our journey! We had been in Thailand from 29th December until the 25th January, spending more time there than we had for Vietnam and Cambodia combined. A sumptuous time was had, island hopping, diving, caving, drinking, kayaking, snorkelling, beaching and much more besides, but it was time to continue yonder!
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