Khao Sok, Thailand

There are many places in Thailand that bring visitors in, and most of them have guarantee a wonderful, and relaxing time. But they do tend to blend into each other especially if you drive up and down the coast. It is one beach resort after another competing for your money, and they will pull out all the stops with great restaurants, fun night time atmosphere, exotic beaches, and a sprinkle of culture so you can feel like you gained something by traveling half way across the world and visiting this place. It works well for those who might be here for a couple of weeks, but when you cannot leave Thailand, you start to look for something a little different. I would even say that after a couple of weeks, you would probably want the same thing. This is where Khao Sok comes into play.

Khao Sok is a national park located in the southern part of Thailand, right above the island of Phuket. It is a big reservoir that they made sure to limit the amount of impact that humans could have on it. There are a few resorts floating on the lake that was created, but they are far enough away from each other that it feels like the group of people that you came in with are the only ones on this big, huge nature reserve. 

And nature is allowed to thrive in this location. I personally did not see a wide range of animals, probably because they kept themselves hidden in the deep foliage that can be found on all of the mountains, but I was lucky enough to see a couple of hornbill birds fly in front of our resort, and one morning I got to experience a family of elephants foraging for their breakfast before taking a morning dip in the cool water. Despite this, Khao Sok is home to a variety of other animals including water buffalo, bears, panthers, and deer. They are not always witnessed because they like to hide in the forests that cling to the mountains, but it is always a good idea to keep a watchful eye out because you never know what you are going to see.

There are many places to say in this National Park, and they vary in luxury and the programs that they offer for people who stay there. We decided to stay at the Panvaree Resort even though this is a destination that more Thais go to rather than foreigners. In fact, we were the only English speaking people at this resort, and if it wasn’t for a couple of Japanese ladies, we would have been the only foreigners. It did not matter much because the staff there was still incredibly friendly with a couple of them speaking English fluently. And when things got tight, I still know enough Thai to get by.

The main reason that we picked this resort over the other was because it offer a two day, two night package where most of the other place get you in and out within one day. This allowed us enough time to go and see what it was we wanted to see while still having a little downtime so we did not feel exhausted.

The food that they served was all traditional Thai food, and it came out in huge portions with the option for being able to get a refill at any time that we wanted. It was authentic home made Thai food as well. With us being farangs (foreigners), they believed that we could not handle the spice that they gave to all over the other people staying there, and though I would tend to agree that I cannot handle the spice that many Thai people can, being raised on Mexican food, I can hold my own when it comes to spice. I kind of wished they added a little bit more of a kick to our food, but that did not detract from the overall pleasure of the meals.

They also created our itinerary for us, and made sure that we had plenty of activities. There were a couple of boats rides to take us to the various sites in the park, and give us the perfect picture opportunities. We got caught in a rain storm in one of them, and they had to bring us back early, but they made sure to reschedule it for the morning so we could make sure we could take in all of the beauty of the park. The sunrise probably made for a better picture opportunity rather than the sunset, so I am glad that it worked out this way, and all I had to do was endure a little bit of rain in the process.

There was also a little hike through the forest. Many times this would be the place where you would see the wildlife, but we were not that lucky this time around. It wasn’t too strenuous either. Most of the time when I go hiking out in Thailand, I come back a sweaty mess, but that was not the case with this hike. There was a little uphill and a little downhill, but it led us to a little alcove and a couple of boats that would take us to our next destination.

The boat could have been one of the most interesting things I witnessed on this trip. Most of the time when I hear the term boat, I think that they have at least a couple of sides to them to help them keep them afloat, but this boat was nothing more that a few bamboo logs lashed together with a walkway on them and a motor to take people to their destination. It did not look like the safest thing in the world, but we were not going far, and everybody seemed okay with it, so I went along for the ride.

It was worth the trip too because it took us to another of the natural wonders in this national park, a cave that can only be reached from crossing this small inlet. It was not the most amazing cave I have ever seen, but the people in the park have a healthy respect for nature and made sure that nobody disturbed anything in the cave in order maintain all of the natural features that can be found in it, and there are quite a few.

Khao Sok has easily become one of my favorite spots in Thailand, and it is must see for anybody coming out here. I know that it does not have the name recognition as some of the island resorts or bigger cities, but it is that hidden gem that is really worth finding. It only takes a couple of days to truly enjoy the experience and everything will be taken care of if you find the right place, so please make sure you try to pencil it in.

Otherwise, thanks for reading and I hope that you can get back out there soon to see what the world has to offer.

Elephants in the Morning Mist – Khao Sok, Thailand

I am not usually the type of person that likes to get up early in the morning while I am on vacation, but I was not really given a choice today. The plan was to get up early to travel to one of the more iconic spots on this vast lake, and it was worth the annoying ring of my alarm. Khao Sok looks completely different in the morning. The clouds hang low over the hills creating a misty atmosphere that I originally thought could only be seen in a Hollywood movie about this part of the world. I wondered what it would have looked like during the rainy season, or if the clouds would have dipped down even further, making it impossible to see anything at all.

Being on a boat in Khao Sok National Park is also an amazing experience whether it is in the heat of the afternoon, or early in the morning. The water instantly cools you off, and there are so many nooks and crannies to explore in the mountains. It is fun to find the explore the dramatic landscape and find the place for the perfect picture. Of course, the guides know these spots already and will take you there, and most of the time they know how to rotate boats in and out so it appears that you are the only person on the lake, but there are a couple of places where the boats get a little packed in, but with patience you can still find that perfect shot.

The place we stayed in also had kayaks that we could take out on to the lake anytime that we wanted to which gave us a little more freedom to explore, though they told us not to wander too far away from the place. One of the things about Khao Sok and the surrounding area is that a storm could roll in at any time and catch you unaware. While we were there, we got to witness two of these storms. One of them came rolling in while we were lounging around the dock, swimming and kayaking. We were close enough to find shelter quickly. But the other one caught us while we were on the bigger boat looking for the perfect evening shots. There was not much we could do but rush back to our resort while holding the life jackets over our heads to try to stay as dry as possible.

Needless to say, it did not work very well.

It just meant that we got to spend more time on the boat in the morning. And we were lucky that we did because as we started to make our way back to our resort after enjoying the sunrise, someone with an eagle eye caught a glimpse of an elephant on the distant shore. Breakfast was going to be delayed for a little bit because we had to go check out these rare sights to the park.

Khao Sok does have a multitude of animals that run around through its forests, but most of them remain hidden, and it is only once in awhile where they venture out to the places where humans can witness them. If you are around during one of those rare instances, you go out and enjoy it.

What looked like one elephant far away turned into a family of elephants enjoying their morning breakfast. We sat there and watch for awhile as they munched on leaves and tore down trees, but after a bit, we decided to get some breakfast of our own and give them some privacy.

After our breakfast, we could still see them as they got in the water a moved a little further down the coast to get closer to us. This is where the kayaks came in beautifully. We hopped on one, paddled out to where they were and enjoyed their presence for a little bit longer before they wandered back into the trees.

These kinds of experiences have been what has made this place such a wonderful one to visit. I know we have been pretty lucky so far with the experience, but I am sure that whoever comes out here will get to collect their own stories to tell. It is why that it is regular destination for many Thai people, and a must add to an itinerary for people thinking about making their way out to Thailand.

A Holiday Delayed – Khao Sok, Thailand

It was supposed to be the last hurrah during the holiday season, and we were supposed to be wowed by what we were going to experience. But then the Thai government threatened to close down the boundaries between the provinces, and because we were worried about being stuck in a part of the country and not being able to get to work, we cut our vacation short and cut out the couple of nights at Thailand’s national park, Khao Sok. We were lucky that they told us that we would be able to reschedule our trip for a later date when the Covid crisis had calmed down a bit. Not every place we had booked had been so generous, and I am glad that this place in Thailand made this concession.

It wasn’t necessarily the best time to leave work, but my time in Thailand is starting to tick down and this was one of the places that I wished to visit before we left. So considering I have not really taken much time off from work while living out here, I took the day off to enjoy what I now consider a mini Spring Break.

Khao Sok is a remote place in southern Thailand where the connection to the grid is a little spotty. It is part of the reason that many people book a place down here. There are a few resorts dotting this huge lake surrounded by jagged peaks. The only way you can get to one of these place is by boat, and once you arrive, there is nothing else around. They supply all of the meals and subject you to an itinerary of hikes, and boat rides that will introduce you to many of the amazing sites around as well as the wildlife that inhabits this location. I have already seen one of Thailand’s famous hornbill birds soaring over our resort, and we have not even gone on one of the tours yet.

When not hiking or visiting the sites, there are many other things to pass the time at the place we are staying. They have a whole fleet of kayaks that we can borrow at any time to do a little exploring on our own, and the water is warm and clear. It is the perfect place to float around in and see the mountains that tower over us. I have not done a lot beyond travel to the place and unwind from the last couple of months of work, but I am looking forward to the adventure that this place will provide. I am happy that I will be able to enjoy the holiday that almost didn’t happen, and I am excited to squeeze in this corner of the country before I have to go.