While browsing through our guidebook, trying to figure out what we were going to do in southern Thailand, I came across a description of Khao Sok National Park. It’s located inland unlike the beaches we’d be visiting in the rest of our travels, and was described as having a 160 million year old jungle forest, “straight out of Jurassic Park”. After thinking about it for a bit, we decided to make a detour to visit the park and see for ourselves some of this natural splendor.
While we initially planned to explore the park on our own, once we arrived, we realized it was going to be difficult to see some of the more spectacular sights. In particular, Cheow Larn Lake in the north is inaccessible except by longtail boat, and the pictures of the karst formations surrounding it were stunning. In the end, we decided to book a one day tour of the lake through our guesthouse, which also included jungle trekking and a trip through a water filled cave.
After about an hour’s drive, we arrived at the reservoir docks, and we could see right away that we were going to have great views. For the next hour, we sped across the lake, taking in towering pillars of rock surrounding brilliant deep aqua-green bays.
The trip was not without incident, of course. At one point, we pulled up alongside a stranded longtail and helped them repair their outboard motor.
Alina and I proceeded to go for a much needed cooling dip, and wandered around, exploring the premises. The rafthouses are built atop huge floating logs, and are mostly small bungalows, where tourists on multi-day trips spend their nights.
A short whistle blast from our guide later, we were summoned to lunch, and what a lunch it was. Huge pots of steamed rice, freshly caught fried fish, sweet and sour chicken and veggies, fresh fruit, spicy chicken, and really spicy yellow curry.
This cave is about 800 meters long, and horseshoe shaped, though we wouldn’t be able to tell at all once inside. The nearby river drains through it, and we were told we’d have to wade up to our chests, and even swim at times. Our guide very carefully checked the sky to make sure it wouldn’t start raining, as people have died here from flash floods and strong currents once underground. We were in luck though, and were able to enter, being told it would take about an hour in pitch black before we emerged again. Fun!
As we walked, wading through small streams, we saw hordes of bats sleeping on the ceiling, and cave crickets jumping everywhere. Several more monstrous spiders were encountered, but they seemed pretty non-threatening.
Eventually, we began to descend, and the pools and streams of water got deeper. We all packed away our cameras in our guide’s drybag, and followed his lead. We encountered glittering stalactite and stalgmite formations, including ones shaped like a lurking alligator, and a gigantic sea turtle with eggs. The cave constricted and dropped away, water flowing down the narrow channel.
As we waded through the current up to our chests, our guide nimbly bouldered his way above our heads, telling us where the best paths were. Towards the end, several of the shorter people in our group had to swim through the deepest pools, but eventually we headed back towards the surface.
After resting for a few moments we made our way back through the jungle and to the rafthouses, where we enjoyed mountains of fresh pineapple before taking the longtail back across the lake to finish the day.