Cheow Lan Lake – Thailand’s hidden secret
When we think about Thailand, paradise beaches are the first thing that comes to mind. What we don’t usually know and the travel guides or Instagram feed don’t show us, is how crowded and messy the most famous spots have become. For this reason, we set off in search of a place not much explored by most tourists: Cheow Lan lake in Khao Sok
The Khao Sok National Park region is one of those places that you remember for a lifetime. The hundreds of limestone rocks contrast with the emerald green waters of Lake Cheow Lan. As a backstage, one of the world’s oldest, mostly untouched rainforests in the world. These conditions set the scene for incredible biodiversity. 5% of the world’s animals are found there and this is one of the few places where exotic plants such as Rafflesia grow.
So many charms, coupled with the fact that it is not the most accessible place, added this paradise to our itinerary. And here we share a little of our adventure.
How to go to Khao Sok?
Leaving Bangkok we chose to take a 1 hour flight to the city of Surat Thani. Tickets cost £ 750 (at the time $ 25) which is a bargain, especially when comparing almost 10 hours of bus or train travel at half the price. For those leaving Phuket or Krabi, it is much cheaper to face the 4 hours by road.
The closest lodgings to the park are well isolated. As we were going to arrive very late, I was not lucky enough and I scheduled a transfer from the airport to the hostel at the cost of ฿ 350 per person. But in that, your hotel can help you.
Where to stay in Khao Sok?
We were quite scared by the price of accommodation in Khao Sok. Compared to the rest of the country, it even seems like a luxury destination.
For purely (limited) budgetary reasons, we chose the Palm View Resort. Our cabin was extremely simple, made of wood and covered with roof tiles. That was our mistake. Since there was no ceiling, several “little friends of nature” were able to visit us at night. There was a mosquito net covering the bed, yet the trips to the bathroom were always a reason for worries. In 3 days there were spider, frog, and lizard stopping by to say hello.
Other room options had the brick ceiling, of course, more expensive. However, what made us love this place was the kindness of the family that runs the hotel. Mainly by Mama Nui, who welcomed us with great affection.
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As I said, we arrived very late, tired from the road and starving. The hotel kitchen was already closed, but Mama made a delicious Pad Thai so we wouldn’t go to bed on an empty stomach. When she heard that we were not happy with the room, she did everything she could to change it. Always very attentive, with hints about the tours to the Cheow Lan lake and ensuring we were fine.
For this dedication and the great feeling that we had to be part of her family for a few days, this is our choice of accommodation in Khao Sok.
Cheow Lan Lake
Khao Sok is a beautiful destination for nature lovers. Its attractions are divided into two parts. On one side is the rainforest with its many trails where you can find several species of reptiles, monkeys and even large mammals. There is even a small tiger population in the region, but they have not been spotted for many years.
But our real interest was in Cheow Lan Lake, this huge dam surrounded by limestone mountains. The goal was very close, only once again it would hurt in our pocket.
Village hotels and agencies do everything they can for you to buy you a tour package before heading to the lake. On one hand, you are helping Khao Sok’s small economy. On the other, paying commissions to the seller, the driver who takes you to the pier, the boy who rides the boat, the floating hotel and all that may go a bit… Salty. We even considered doing everything on our own, but organizing transportation and especially the boat, which is hired by the hour, regardless of the number of passengers, seemed risky.
We dried our tears, hired a tour and woke up early the next day to take the van that leads us to the pier. Getting there was the moment we saw most tourists in Khao Sok. But after each group gets on their boat, loneliness comes in and it’s time to enjoy this landscape that seems to belong in a paiting. Oh yes, not before paying the ฿ 300 national park entrance fee.
With 20 minutes “ on the road” one understands why they call this place a hidden gem of Thailand. That infinity of emerald green water is enchanting.
After a couple of hours checking several other parts of the lake, we were introduced to the cabins where we would spend the night.
The tour also include an afternoon safari, but we preferred to stay alone in the hotel. It was our opportunity to swim and do some kayaking around. The location was extremely quiet and the lack of comfort did not detract from being in the middle of nature, with a huge lake on the doorstep.
The next day, we still had time to navigate the lake a little further, searching for animals (without much success). We also visited a cave, which for me was quite expendable.
As you can see, it was not a stress-free adventure. However, Khao Sok was an amazing experience. If we had more time in Thailand, we would try to do everything on our own to save some bucks. What would surely not go wrong again is hiring the lodging on the lake. There are so many cool option that so far I can’t understand how we allowed ourselves on that trap.