Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
When we were first contemplating a road trip to the south of Thailand, it sounded crazy to me! But my husband really wanted to visit Khao Sok National Park, and although you CAN book a day tour from Phuket (about 2+ hour drive) to visit the lake, with younger kids it just made more sense to drive our own vehicle instead of visiting while we were in Phuket a few weeks later.
This was our second stop on our long road trip to the south of Thailand, after visiting Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park near Hua Hin, you can read about that here. Our driver has been with our family for over 2 years now, and it was so fun getting to see an area of Thailand with him that he’d never seen before so we made sure he joined us on all the tours!
#KhaoSok #Nationalpark was truly a sight to behold! My words cannot do justice to the breathtaking beauty that you see for miles and miles and miles. Everywhere you look are limestone mountains, often covered in an ethereal mist that hugs the sides of the mountains. It’s beautiful in rain or shine. This post has a longer video than I typically share, but I want you to be captured by the beauty like we were, and feel like you experienced it as well. Not only was it gorgeous, you get to see what it was like through our kids' eyes too so I encourage you to watch the video above (but have shorter clips throughout this post). We only had 2 full days to fit in all the activities, so we were busy!
We chose to stay at Khao Sok Riverside Cottages because we wanted to experience being in
the midst of the #rainforest. I cannot say enough good things about the atmosphere of the cottages… walking along the bridges that connect the room to the restaurant with larger than life plants surrounding you… lounging in the hammock while watching the river meander by… wild monkeys that you hear (and see!) playing in the trees nearby… really great hospitality from the staff. We even had a monkey visit our room twice, which the kids talked about for WEEKS! A word to the wise… don’t bring food in you room when there are monkeys about.
It was definitely different than most places we stay. We normally book 2 separate rooms so my husband and I have space to relax after the kids are in bed, but we couldn’t pass up this opportunity. The rooms have comfortable beds with mosquito nets (which the kids thought were SOOOO fun), and fans instead of air conditioners. I was initially apprehensive about no air conditioners, but we actually were very comfortable sleeping under a blanket with a fan going – and I am usually a hot sleeper - so it was no problem! My husband and I are adventurers at heart, so although this was out of our comfort zone because of sharing one room with 4 kids, if we had been on our own or if the kids were even a few years older then I wouldn’t have been apprehensive about the stay, and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.
Our first day we went on a full day boat tour of Cheow Lan Lake. All I can say is WOW!!! It is worth the effort to visit! It reminded us a lot of our tour of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, but much larger mountains jutting up from the emerald waters. We visited while international travel was closed due to Covid-19, so there were very few other boats on the water and most of the time we didn’t see anyone else. But the lake is so big with a large number of inlets so there is always more to behold around the corner. The entire time we just kept saying “this is amazing” and we continued saying that throughout the whole day.
We stopped for lunch at a floating resort on the lake. The food was plentiful, it had a clean restroom, and an area to swim. The rooms at this particular resort were very small with a thin mattress and small space for a suitcase. I can imagine if you desire off the beaten path adventure and camping, you’d love the experience to stay there! I’d venture to guess there are a variety of floating resorts to choose from, possibly some with larger rooms and even one with air conditioning if that’s your idea of a vacation. After swimming for a bit the afternoon rain clouds were beginning to form so we made our way back to the Ratchaprapha Dam to disembark the longtail boat and head back to the hotel.
Our second morning we went on a canoe trip down the river, ending at our cottage. The tour guide picked us up in a truck with the canoes and took us a couple miles upriver where we started the ride. We visited in July, which is rainy season, so the river was high enough to boat down even though some areas were still very shallow. We saw lots of wild monkeys and several sleeping snakes in the trees. We had a coffee & tea break about halfway down river. The guides cut down bamboo and fashioned it into cups, spoons and even a larger tube to heat water for our coffee over the fire. Impressive!! The river was so fun that after lunch Tim took the older two kids and our driver back out to do the ride all over again on inner-tubes.
To finish off the day we went to visit a sweet old retired elephant named Somboon. He lives with a family at the Sonchana Eco-Farm nestled near a serene limestone cliff. This family has been caring for elephants for several generations now. We got to help make Somboon’s dinner of rice cooked with pumpkin and then rolled in flour. The kids had fun cooking and rolling the balls of rice in the flour. For an entire hour Somboon never really stopped eating and our little 2-year old loved feeding him. She was not shy at all.
After his dinner Somboon strolled down to the river for a bath and we got to go and help wash him… not that our little splashes did much good compared to his trunk loads of water. Besides being enormous and gentle, the most impressive thing about it was the relationship between Somboon and his caretaker. There was no poking or prodding just conversation and cooperation. You could tell Somboon was listening and knew he could trust him.
Having filled up our two days with so many activities we all slept soundly every night. The beds were comfortable, and since the kids went to bed about 730, so did we! We were more rested those few nights than we normally are on vacation.
The next morning we packed up our stuff and left for our next destination – Koh Samui.