Before visiting Thailand, a place very high on our bucket list has been Khao Sok National Park. Chances are you probably have seen at least once a video or photo of Cheow Lan Lake since this year many posts went viral. What is even cooler, is the experience of staying at Khao Sok floating bungalows for one night. The place is indeed truly beautiful, nature is untouched and the jungle is home to some of the most exotic animal species in Thailand. If you are looking to do something adventurous in Thailand and unique a visit to Khao Sok is an ultimate must! There are so many things you have to consider before visiting the Natural Park of Khao Sok and Cheow Lan Lake and hopefully by the end of this post you will get a true insight on what to expect.
About Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok is the 22nd National Park in Thailand and was established in 1980. It is perfectly situated on the mainland between Krabi, Phuket, Khao Lak and Koh Samui and is one of the most enchanting places to visit in Thailand.
Khao Sok National Park is divided into two sections:
- Khlong Sok Town
- Cheow Lan Lake
Climate in Khao Sok
Due to high mountains and the fact that the rainforest is influenced by both Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean monsoons, Khao Sok has the highest level of rain in Thailand and is one of the wettest regions. If you visit between May to November it has the heaviest rains. When we started our trip to Khao Sok it was a beautiful sunny day. By the time we arrived at Khao Sok, it started raining so heavily that our clothes and bags got completely wet. The driest period is between December and April but it is still possible to expect some rain.
Khlong Sok Town
Khlong Song Town is most likely where everyone is starting from. It’s a small village and even If it’s not really considered too touristy, it’s mostly visited by tourists. I have found this place to be quite charming and relaxing. Staying there for a night is more than enough to explore the area and breath in some fresh air. When we visited the village we ran into an electricity outage so whilst it was quite scary at first, it was relaxing plugging out of reality and enjoying nature without any distractions.
How to get to Khlong Sok Town
If you are travelling from other cities in Thailand the easiest way to get to Khlong Sok is to fly to Surat Thani Airport and then you have two ways to make it to the town. The town is about 100 km away or 1h30 by car. There are two convenient ways to visit the place:
Bus: Minivan either departs from Surat Thani airport, Surat Thani city and train station. It costs approximately ฿180-300 from my research.
Taxi: It’s very likely that more people that fly to Surat Thani are heading to Khao Sok National Park as well. In our case, a taxi driver took us to Khao Sok for ฿300 per person along with 2 more backpackers (totally we were 5 people – not the most comfortable taxi ride). It seemed like there was a fixed price of ฿1500 per taxi to Khao Sok.
Where we stayed in Khlong Sok Town
We decided to start our adventure in Khao Sok by staying at Smiley Bungalow. Most of the guesthouses around the area are low budget and pretty basic so If you are not very happy about staying in such a place or seeing a bug or two you might want to consider staying at a higher end hotel at a nearby area. If you are a nature enthusiast, you will probably like the feeling of staying in tree-house like accommodation or relax on the hammock.
We had a pleasant experience staying at Smiley Bungalow and the hosts were really kind and friendly. It felt as If the business was run by a family and that they put their heart into what they were doing.
Cost of staying at a shared stone room for three people: ฿500 /night.
Cheow Lan Lake
The pier in the entrance of Cheow Lan Lake is located just 65km from Khlong Sok Town. The lake is more probably what you see in photos on Instagram and where the real adventure begins.
There are a few ways to visit Cheow Lan Lake:
- Day Tour: If you walk around Khlong Sok Town you will realize that many agencies are offering the possibility of one day tour to visit Cheow Lan Lake. The cost is around ฿1500 and it takes about 8 hours. The package includes bus from Khlong Sok to the lake pier, a long tail boat ride, meals and a guide.
- Overnight Tour: There’s also the possibility to stay for one night at Cheow Lan Lake. We decided to go with this as the experience turned out to be richer and more fun. We booked Smiley’s Overnight Tour which cost us about ฿2500 (+฿300 national park fee). The package included: accommodation in the lake house, 5 meals (2x breakfast, 2x lunches and 1x dinner), insurance, trekking, morning and evening boat safari, transfers and guides.
- Independently: You can rent a motorbike from the village for
- +and go all the way to the lake pier and negotiate with a boat driver for a Lake tour. It’s about ฿1500 for a set boat ride that can fit up to 6 people.
Khao Sok floating bungalows – The overnight tour at the Cheow Lan Lake
It might sound a bit expensive to take the overnight tour but considering it’s only ฿1000 more expensive than the day tour, it’s worthwhile and includes more activities. Also, it’s nice to think that you have a decent time to enjoy the lake and relax at your own pace.
Itinerary for the overnight tour at Cheow Lan Lake with Smiley Bungalows
8 a.m: Breakfast time at Smiley’s Bungalow Restaurant. Expect some freshly cooked eggs, toasts and instant coffee/tea.
9 a.m: Hop on the minivan that is taking you to lake’s pier. Expect a quick 20min stop at 7/11 to get some food supplies or some cash from the ATM.
(Note: Get snack supplies for that day, encouraged to get some drinks and perhaps a raincoat. Otherwise, expect to pay double the price once you arrive at floating bungalows)
10:30 a.m: Your long tail boat ride is about to start. The scenery is beautiful as long as the weather is good. ( Unless you are unlucky like us when it started pouring cats and dogs and our bags were almost completely wet – not fun!)
11:30 a.m: Arrive at Smiley Bungalows. You have one hour to check into your wooden floating bungalows, have a swim at the lake ( the water was surprisingly warm), kayak or rest in a hammock.
12 p.m: It’s time for lunch! There was a variety of curries, fried vegetables and steamed rice.
1 p.m: Free time – Use that time to explore the lake at your own pace. We swam a bit and hopped into our kayak to explore lake beyond Smiley Bungalows.
5 p.m: Evening boat Safari – Time to explore the lake while searching for animals. If you are lucky you might get to see wild boars, monkeys or even… elephants! It is said that even wild elephants live in the jungle. Unluckily (again) we didn’t get to see anything rather than listen to monkey sounds.
7 p.m: Dinner time and then you are free to use your time as you wish whether it’s socializing or taking an early night’s sleep.
6:30 a.m: Early boat safari ( for early risers)
7 a.m: Breakfast
8:30 a.m: Trekking – We were supposed to do a cave trekking but since it was the rainy season it was flooded so we took the waterfall route instead.
1 p.m: Lunch – We had some traditional pad thai
2 p.m: Longboat ride back to Cheow Lan Lake pier
3 p.m: Transfer to Khlong Sok
(Note: After our overnight tour the bus driver dropped us at a travel agency that took us to Surat Thani and then we continued our journey to Koh Samui. If you do not want to stay at Khlong Sok Town you should talk with hosts from Smiley Bungalows to better explain you how to continue with your journey.
Activities you can do in Khao Sok National Park
Even If you are visiting Khao Sok National Park to admire the magical lake of Cheow Lan Lake it is possible to take advantage of the breathtaking nature to enjoy various others activities. The travel agencies in the streets of Khlong Song, the guesthouses and the internet offer Some of these activities include:
River Tubing: Imagine being on a large rubber tube while streaming through the clear water and going through gorgeous white cliffs covered in bizarre flora. This activity is mostly recommended during the monsoon season (June till November) since heavy rain makes the river high.
Khao Sok National Park Hiking: If you enjoy walking and exploring the abundant wildlife and rich flora (over 200 different floral species per hectare). If you are lucky you might catch glimpses of shy leaf monkeys and see some of the most extraordinary butterflies. Even If it’s possible to do the hiking on your own, I strongly recommend booking a tour as the guides know the area like the palm of their hands and they know the hidden treasures of the rainforest.
Khao Sok Night Safari: If you are an adrenaline junkie you might want to take the night safari tour and explore the secrets of the jungle at night. Many animals come out only when the sun goes down!
Visit the Elephant Sanctuary: You can feed, admire and walk with the giant beasts at the Elephant Sanctuary at Khao Sok – an unforgettable experience!
Take a cooking class: What about taking an alternative cooking class and learning how to cook wild food that it’s grown in the jungle? Jungle house offers an exclusive cooking class and the menu changes depending on the season and availability of the ingredients.
Things to consider bringing with you to Khao Sok:
Sun-screen – If there’s one thing you should never leave out of your bag in Thailand is sunscreen! Never underestimate the power of the sun no matter what season it is.
Raincoat – In our case, a raincoat would be a lifesaver since most of the time when we visited Khao Sok it was raining a lot and it was only the beginning of the monsoon season.
Waterproof bag or cover – Learn from our mistake and make sure your bags are waterproof cause weather is always unpredictable.
Hiking boots/shoes – To be more comfortable during the walks in the jungle. It was possible to rent water shoes from Smileys Bungalows but it’s more comfortable to use your own
Swimsuit – a MUST!
Bug Spray – keeping the mosquitos away
Snacks – Even If meals are sufficient and you can eat all you want If you are snacking between meals (who doesn’t?!) you should definitely consider bringing some snacks. Don’t forget that there’s a quick stop at 7/11 before heading to Smileys Lake House.
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