Monday, January 09, 2012

Year End Trip - Khao Sok National Park

Once again, my annual year end trip this year to South Thailand to celebrate Xmas and New Year! 2 weeks in total, covering Khao Sok, Koh Muk, Koh Lipe, Koh Adang and Koh Tarutao.

My 1st stop was Khao Sok National Park. With the help of my ex-colleague in Bangkok, I managed to book a sleeper train from Bangkok to Surat Thani (14hours of uneasy sleep). As expected, train was late in arrival (1hour late) at Surat Thani. Upon arrival, I called Smiley Bungalows to secure my transport to Khao Sok for 150B. The agents at Surat Thani were offering 250B for the minivan, apparently they say it's the direct transport while 150B is the local minivan where locals get up and down along the way. But hey, 100B savings i'll take it! Anyway, it took about 2hours to reach Khao Sok, which wasn't too bad.

The streets of Khao Sok. Very quiet, unexpected of for the Xmas period

I had earlier booked my accomodation at Smiley, so straight off I headed over. Recommend Smiley Bungalow with its lovely, every smiling hostess Phaiwan! 300B huts (cheapest) with a hammock outside, hot water shower, and double bed!! It's very worth the amount! Josh (Canadian I met on the lake tour) stayed at Jungle Huts for the same amount but the hut was half the size and no hammock.

Immediately, my adventure starts at noon! To enter the national park, foreigners have to pay 200B for a 24hour pass, by time of entry. Which means, if you're intending to go for a 2D1N lake tour, do that the day after you explored the forest at Khao Sok town. And make sure you visit the forest after 1030am (preferably around 11am) so that your 24hr will cover the 2nd day's entrance to the lake (you'll likely reach the lake before 11am). And you'll have paid 200B for 3 days!

There are 2 main trails when u enter the park, western trail or northern trail. You will only have time for 1 trail in a day, so choose carefully. Western trail is easier than northern trail (though longer). I chose western trail, in search of the 7 stops and also the 7th waterfall. Mind you, the 1st 4 are easy enough, what's the hardest is 5th and getting to 7th.

I went left

The beginning of the trek is easy enough, you can walk slowly through the rainforest enjoying the surrounding. 1-4 is easy to find, these are just small rapids and pools of water for you to dip in and swim a little.

The difficulty comes at 5th. Looking at the map, you would never have guessed how to go about finding it! The instructions on the map said 'you will have to wade along the river bed for a few kilometers'. That sounded easy enough and a group of farangs followed that same instructions but still couldn't find it! Turns out, according to Kai (our lake tour guide) the day after I trekked, you actually have to cross the impossible river (water up to your waist or shoulder), hike through 2 mountains for 3km before you are on your way to 5th waterfall! How the hell is that possible! Without proper signboards and directions even! So i gave up on 5th when I couldn't see anything and proceeded to find 7!

Hike to 7 is not difficult but the directions sucked! The 1km signboard appeared twice, so is it 2km or 1km? And the trek there is infested with those bloodsucking monsters! Yes Leeches! I had to stop every 5mins to get rid of those suckers! In the end, my sandals were sticky due to my bleeding.

I thought I cut myself accidentally, but it was actually leech bites

It says go left, but NONONO, u have to go straight!

I reached the 500m mark after 40mins and passing 2 1km mark, and time was approaching 330pm, sky was getting dark. Had no choice but to throw in the white flag and head back. Just as I was heading back, it started to rain, rather heavily. And there I was, alone in the forest, with really dim lighting, trying to find my way back to the correct trail, missing/losing my trek a few times and having to retrace my steps, and soaking water. Not the nicest feeling but I managed and got out of there before night falls.

On Christmas day itself, so began my 2D1N lake tour (2,500B each). In the group were a Canadian (Josh), 2 Dutch siblings (Vanessa and Giddeon) and a German family of 3 (with a 4year old) and our crazy but funny guide Kai! The day started out pretty ok, not sunny but not raining. It took us about 2hours to reach the pier and that was when it started to rain.

The map of the lake. It says 'Do not bring alcohol into the lake'. Ya Right!

We had to wait it out for the rain to subside a little before we headed out for the boat trip. About 40mins later, we sat in the longtail boat in the drizzle and started the day in gloomy weather.

Though weather was shit, still enjoyed the scenery! This is afterall the Guilin of Thailand. The boat trip took about 40mins and before long, we arrived at our river raft houses and all ready for lunch!!

The river raft house is really cool! All along the calm river, you can just step out of your hut and jump into the refreshing cool water! Each of us get 1 hut to ourselves! No worries for mossies here!

I was No 5

We had a really sumptious lunch of loads of dishes - black fungus, vege, curries,chicken etc etc, and they serve up the plate again when you finished it! Like a buffet! Easily the best meal ever during this trip!

After lunch, we had an hour to R&R, canoe or swim or just chill out before we headed out for forest trekking and a little of the caving.

Due to the earlier rain, the cave was deemed unsafe for us to complete the entire 860m as this is a wet cave where u need to wade through knee deep water and should height section of 300m. But fortunately, we managed to experience 100m of the thrill! It was fun! Now I absolutely regret not having been able to do the entire 860m

We had another sumptious dinner that night to celebrate the Christmas! And then out for night boating trip, which was really boring. Josh and I were like dazing a little cos there was nothing to be seen.

After we got back to the raft house, it was time to party and have fun! The Changs came, the sang-son came! And the fun games began! I did say our guide Kai was crazy right? He started us off with a series of really cool and great IQ tasks/games. I shall not reveal much here, have to try that out to other people the next time!

After a series of those games, the real fun began! With water bottle soccer! Tie a full bottle of water at the waist, use it as a tool to hit the lemon (which is the ball) past the goal post! Hands cannot be used at all times.

It was hilarious man!! The game just went on and on and on. In the end team Canada won over team Thailand. Both players were exhausted after the game.

The next morning, early wake up call for 7am boat trip. Damn sleepy and tired, kinda dozed off during the boat trip. Weather was too windy to see anything and it was another wasted trip but our guide had to do what was required! We understand his situation.

After breakfast and another long break, we headed back to mainland, stopping at the viewpoint and another cave.

It was about an hour trek up to the cave, walking through jungles, saw a few small insects, spiders and stuff...

The cave was big and nice enough. With tons of bats inside. Still would have enjoyed the wet cave better....

Trip ended at late afternoon, and the weather started to clear up! Had dinner with Josh at the Khao Sok River Lodge place where the food was NOT GOOD!! The restaurant just over the bridge. We asked for Thai Spicy when ordering our curries, but what came was NOT spicy at all! Disappointing. Had to ask for chili padi to spice it up but the dish was ruined. The night was spent drinking Changs at Jumanji bar with Josh, and Kai and an American till midnight.

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