After a few years of putting off going to Thailand owing to its popularity with the western backpackers, I finally took the plunge. When I made the trip with my parents this year, I was pleasantly surprised that it was still possible to find a quiet corner without being too overwhelmed. We landed in Phuket during the very busy last few days of the year. Immigration in Bangkok was a nightmare. Phuket had nice celebrations at the Patong and some other beaches. However, the beaches grew old soon. Since we were driving, I started looking for day trips outside the Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga area, and stumbled upon Khao Sok National Park. Technically in the Surat Thani province, it is roughly a 3-hour drive from Krabi.
Part of the reason I was interested in the national park was the beautiful Cheow Lan lake. The lake was filled in the 80’s over a period of 3 years after Ratchaprabha dam was built over the river Klong Saeng. This resulted in a loss of many species of fish, as they couldn’t survive in the lake. It also turned the area into a local holiday destination and the pristine jungle-covered limestone scenery of Khao Sok very accessible in a boat. We intentionally arrived a little late in the day so that I had better chances of capturing good light. The national park service runs a variety of services: from one-way drop-off to the camps inside the park, and a 2/3/4 hours round-trip. They basically run the same course, but the longer trips allow you to spend more time inside the park. Surprisingly, there were only local people at the park, and absolutely no tourists. The prices are fixed and the boat owners work for the national park. Here is a little glimpse to give you a better idea of the place:
“From the get go, we were surrounded by drop-dead gorgeous beauty all around”
“Khao Sok National Park has some of Thailand’s tallest limestone mountains”
Some of Southern Thailand’s highest peaks are around this national park, and that makes for a very impressive backdrop to the lake. Tall limestone cliffs mark the landscape in all directions. As we moved further into the lake toward the national park, the jungle got increasingly dense, and the limestone cliffs more prominent. Narrow passages between small islands made for an interesting ride. The only annoyance was the loud diesel-operated engines that power these traditional long-tail boats. What a bliss would it be to be able to sail here! After a little over an hour, we arrive at the cabins dotting the shores of the lake. The cabins are built on stilts and look very cozy, albeit rudimentary. A quiet little restaurant serves some light snacks and some fish & chips. After a quick coffee break at the restaurant, we decided to make the journey back. The light was perfect for a few more shots of this beautiful landscape before we bid goodbye. I would love to return for an overnight stay in one of these cabins.
“Tall jungle-covered cliffs dot a large part of the Cheow Lan lake”