Khao Sok National Park: A Family Mountain Escape from Island Paradise
Phuket is great if you love the beach. It is also great if you love little Thai girls or ladyboys. But Phuket is actually much more than that, as a lot of expats can tell you. (Expats are the ones that are actually not tan) But I´m not exactly writing about Phuket am I? That´s me, always starting somewhere else than where I´m headed. But Phuket is where we live and we aren´t the beachy type so it´s kind of ironic.
The rainforest in Khao Sok National Park is the oldest and most diverse in the entire world, yes it´s older and more diverse than the Amazon. That surprised me big time.
Thankfully, Phuket is also conveniently close to Khao Sok National Park. The most awesome mountainous wonderland anyone could ever ask for. Fog, gibbons, orchids, waterfalls, rivers, crazy weird karst formations, huge stinky flowers…it´s all there. And obviously, the kids love it. Ok, maybe not as much as they love the beach, but we love the mountains so the kids will just have to put up with it. Ok kids? Great, thanks.
First let´s get a little technical wikipedia like. The rainforest in Khao Sok National Park is the oldest and most diverse in the entire world, yes it´s older and more diverse than the Amazon. That surprised me big time but it´s pretty cool though huh? Specially since I´m Peruvian and there´s a little bit of Amazon in my heart. It´s now making space for Khao Sok, a place I will never forget once our Thailand time is up.
Let’s just go through some Khao Sok Glossary why don’t we…
Huge towering limestone cliffs that amaze and astound with or without fog, sometimes covered in trees, or lichen or colorfully bare. Ok so karst formations aren’t something you can only find in Khao Sok, you can see them in Krabi and Phang Nga and even in China. Either way they are awesome and when they come straight out of the water and in Chow Wein Lake they really are unbeatably cool.
A huge, red stinky (yes, stinky) flower that is actually a parasite of tree lianas that starts out as a dark ball and then opens up into a big scary (and beautiful) looking flower. You can only see these if you take a hike through the park and visit the most common places where they grow. They don’t grow all year round and there are less than there used to be due the classic touristic lack of respect. We still haven’t gone to see them because the trek is a long one and kiddos need more practice. But Astor of course knows very well what it is. He calls it “La flor que apesta” And yes, it is a standard design feature for all businesses in the area. Oh and Rafflesia only grow in this area of Thailand and in another area in Malaysia. So these are pretty special.
They look like monkeys but are actually apes. Wanna know the difference? Look it up! Anyway, gibbons are an asian ape that are all over the trees in Khao Sok. You can’t always see them but you can most definitely always hear them and their screeching calls. Unfortunately they are also used for shows and are sometimes dragged around for tourists to take photos with them. When the gibbons are adults they grow some crazy canines and have been known to bite tourists. In Phuket, there’s a Gibbon Rehabilitation Center but thankfully in Khao Sok they are a protected species.
Waterfalls (and leeches):
Ok so there are waterfalls all over Thailand but Thais will always find an excuse to make any waterfall into a sightseeing, bathing, chilling out opportunity. The park has trails that go from waterfall to waterfall, some bigger and better than others. And during rainy season all of them, and the trails, are full of…yes, you guessed it…leeches. Fuuuun! NOT! Don´t worry there are ways to make sure they don´t crawl up your ankles. It involves rubbing moist tobacco all over your legs. I never had leech get on me in Khao Sok, but yes in Laos and it was definitely an experience I’ll never forget.
Cheow Lan Lake and the Ratchapraba Dam:
A while ago, in the 70´s a river that ran through the park was dammed to make electrical power and thus created a huge, I mean huuuge lake right at the base of a series of valleys, fields and karst formations. Chow Wein Lake is now the most amazing place to visit. Seriously if you are in Thailand and are staying for a while, a trip here is a must. Just look it up online and you’ll see why. There are even floating hotels, I’ve heard 500 Rai is quite a nice one.
In Khao Sok like in a lot of other places in Souteast Asia there are Elephant camps. But I’m not so sure about elephant camps….Supposedly those wooden chairs they put on their backs to carry tourists are really bad for them. You can visit elephants and not have to ride on one of those chairs. Everyday the mahouts (elephant riders for life) take them walking along the road and you can see them quite easily.
All the other rainforest goodies: And of course Khao Sok is a jungle so there are plenty of other jungle things happening there. It’s hot, it rains a lot, there’s mud, water, lots of plants and trees and fruit and birds and orchids. And of course there’s lots and lots of little bugs and creepy crawlers. We love finding teeny tiny creatures all over the place, sometimes we follow them and take photos if they let us. Yes, Khao Sok is positively Buggy!
The Book: Waterfalls and Gibbon calls by Thom Henley
The bible of Khao Sok. Full of illustrations, history, information. Our kids love looking at it and it goes with us every single time.
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