Khao Sok National Park Tipps

Posted in: National Parks of Thailand- Mar 01, 2011 No Comments

In the Sydney Morning Herald there is a writeup on the Khao Sok National Park in Thailand. It’s title is Basic, wet and wild.

She mentions the Putawan Raft House resort, and it sounds heavenly. Well, as heavenly as you get for 600 Baht per night. Very basic and simple accomodation in beautiful surroundings. In fact, after reading it I decided to go there and visit this place.

Here’s a quick overview, but you might want to check out the original article:

Julie Miller explores Khao Sok National Park, where frills are few and the gibbons are plenty.

IT’S A lavender dawn and the distant buzz of a long-tail boat announces that rural Thailand is open for business. Tying my bikini in the dim light, I push open the bamboo door of my sleeping quarters, take one step down from the front porch and dive straight into the warm, liquid embrace of the lake below.

Ah, the joys of over-water living. Is there a better way to greet the day than from the balmy depths of your own private swimming pool?

This, however, is no ritzy coastal resort with palatial, credit-blowing bungalows dangling seductively over mirrored turquoise waters. My abode is the no-frills variety: a basic bamboo hut perched on a wooden raft and anchored to a wobbly, rotting walkway on the edge of a man-made reservoir.

It’s simple in the extreme – four walls, a roof, a mattress covering bamboo flooring and a little balcony under thatch. Communal bathrooms, consisting of Thai-style toilets (self-flush and predominantly squat, though lucky punters may chance on the one Western-style throne) and cold showers, are a good two-minute walk up a hill and there’s a restaurant and bar that serves fresh Thai meals, the obligatory Singha beer and rotgut Thai whisky.

Hardly a five-star resort; then again, what do you expect for 600 baht, or about $19.50, a day? Including three meals, that is. And free water sports, if you count the kayaks available to paddle around in. And with million-dollar, mind-blowingly beautiful views, could there be better value for money?

The Putawan Raft House is one of nine so-called “resorts” hidden in isolated coves of Ratchaprapha Dam (also known as Cheow Lan Lake) in Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand. Covering 738 square kilometres in Surat Thani province – halfway between the tourist meccas of Koh Samui and Khao Lak – Khao Sok and two adjoining wildlife sanctuaries combine to form the largest area of pristine rainforest in the Thai peninsula, a remnant of an ancient, 160-million-year-old ecosystem.

Think about it. A 160 million year ecosystem, and we can walk around in it today and enjoy it’s beauty. It’s just a reminder that we human beings have a great responsibility. Yes, we have the power to create cities and change the shape of the world – but we should always remember that nature is doing a much better job at this than we do.

Hidden in these dense jungles are the rarest of Asian species – wild elephants, sun bears, leopards and even tigers – as well as 180 species of birds, including the magnificent white-crowned hornbill.

Here you’ll also find the world’s largest flower, Rafflesia, a putrid, parasitic monster that blooms only in January and February; while a walk through the forest is rewarded by close encounters with curious gibbons who shimmy down from the canopy for a closer look at their human visitors.

The heart of the park is the man-made hydro-electric reservoir, created in 1982 and covering 165 square kilometres. As the valley was flooded, more than 100 islands were formed, dramatic forest-clad limestone peaks rising majestically above the waters. The locals call this their Guilin – and it does recall China’s World Heritage-listed treasure or even Vietnam’s Halong Bay, minus the crowds. I take a few languid strokes in my massive freshwater pool, before flipping on to my back to absorb this panorama.

The sun is now striking karst clusters on the opposite shore, parting the mist to create a pastel watercolour with a Sensurround track of near-silence.

Such a rarity in south-east Asia, the absence of man-made racket is overwhelming. But it’s soon clear that this jungle resonates with its own symphony – the buzz of cicadas, the splash of fish jumping, the caw of a seabird and the distant whoop-whoop-whoop of a gibbon.

Lakeside ablutions performed – why walk up all those steps to shower when perfectly fresh, clean water is at your doorstep? – I later meet fellow guests at the dining shelter, where a poster suggests “a cruise on the azure lake amidst lust”. With such irresistible temptations, we head off in a long-tail boat to explore the remote tendrils of this watery wilderness, pottering around the cliffs, winding through narrow inlets and past waterfalls and occasionally cutting the spluttering two-stroke engine to bob around in silence, allowing the sounds of the jungle to dominate.

Several stops are made on the way – some souls less claustrophobic than I brave the dark (and hideously large spiders) inside a limestone cave where bats flit between stalactites and stalagmites. Later, we trek a steep rainforest trail, admiring the view from the top before meandering back accompanied by a cheeky family of gibbons, who venture close enough for halfway decent photos and whispered admiration.

Back at the raft houses, there’s not much to do but relax in the sun, potter around in kayaks (a popular activity among the Thais, who squeal with delight at every splash that lands on their lifejackets) and drink beer as we wait for lunch to be served – fresh and tasty home-cooked local cuisine, including the catch of the day, freshly hauled from my pool.

For a more in-depth exploration of the park, we move that afternoon to relative civilisation – Khao Sok Nature Resort, on the Klong Sok River near the main entrance of the national park. Here we not only share the grounds with monkeys; we live like them, up in the canopy in quirky and surprisingly luxurious tree houses.

Built into the existing gardens, the tree houses blend unobtrusively into the environment, the trunks creating unique features inside the suites. My palace curves around a massive trunk penetrating the balcony.

Each of the 11 tree houses features a queen-size bed shrouded by a mosquito net, and an en suite with a waterfall shower feature created to look like a real cliff face. Shutter windows can be left open to capture the sounds of the jungle or shut tight to avoid being raided by naughty monkeys or bats (which have a tendency to whiz in open bathroom windows if you make a nocturnal visit).

But, for me, the magic comes at dawn, as gibbons begin their chorus, whooping their love song to freedom. Now a rarity in Thai forests, it’s reassuring to know this pocket of wilderness still houses healthy populations of our long-armed simian cousins, at last protected rather than exploited by the demands of the tourist industry.

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