Khao Sok National Park and Float Houses

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There’s something about getting out to nature and just taking in and appreciating everything around you that is truly amazing.  This is part of the reason why we choose to venture to Khao Sok National Park.  We took a local bus from Kamala Beach to Phuket City (50thb each) then a bus from Phuket City to Khao Sok (180thb each) From the outskirts of Khao Sok it was 5km to Palm View Resort where we were staying so we shared a taxi with a dutch girl which cost us 50thb each.

Palm View Resort in Khao Sok is one of the best places I’ve ever stayed.  We booked our room online for $10cad/night so I assume rooms are around 300thb.  Every room is it’s own private bungalow on stilts with it’s own bathroom and hot shower.  They are all spaced out enough that you are secluded from your neighbors and they are constantly working on the landscaping by planting small gardens.

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It is a family owned “resort”: Mama, Papa and their son, Kong.  This has to be one of the friendliest, warm and welcoming families I have ever come across. When we arrived they insist we sit down in the restaurant and bring us water.  We relax and get settled in.  The restaurant is also the only place where they have WiFi which is surprisingly good for a tiny town in the jungle.

The food in the restaurant is good as long as you let them make it as it’s supposed to be made.  If you ask for medium or no spice, the food comes out quite bland as a lot of the flavor comes out of the spices they use.  If you can’t eat spicy food… you’re visiting the wrong country.  Even when I said that spicy was okay, they went easy on the spice and brought extra chili’s on the side.  When we requested “medium spicy” we got zero spice.  Just let them cook the food the way it was meant and you’ll have a good meal.

Kong is a pretty clever guy and enjoys making fun of the Asian stereotype that they all eat cat and dog.  He jokes about eating the cats running around the area but they are just jokes.  He also has a pet goose because he believes it eats centipedes and scorpions and it’s poop will keep the snakes away.  Papa makes him lock the goose up because he thinks it scares the customers.  I’m all for it eating scorpions and other shit that bites and stings.

We went to sleep early our first night and around midnight, Kristi got up to pee.  She turned on the bathroom light and followed it with a scream.  Something is running across the floor and she doesn’t have her glasses on.  I get up and we discover that it’s a small brown scorpion.  I grab my flip flop and go into action.  It’s kind of placed itself in a corner so I can’t whack it immediately.  I plan my attack carefully.  I poke at it with my flip flop to scare it back to the open space of the bathroom floor praying that it doesn’t have any surprises for me like spitting acid in my face or jumping and aggressively stinging my throat.  I am way too groggy for any sort of fast reactions.  Luckily for me, scorpions don’t do those things.  I nudge it with the flip flop and it goes right where I want it to.  As soon as it’s in the center of the bathroom I hit it as hard as I can with the flip flop, killing it.  From here I decide the best thing to do is use my flip flop to sweep it under the sink. It’s still in sight so other scorpions that  want to come into our bathroom can see what’s up.

I woke up in the middle of the night just a regular guy and went back to sleep a hero.

For the remainder of our time we were extremely careful stepping anywhere and reaching into our bags.  Hoping that none of it’s family members were seeking revenge.

We spent most of the morning walking around the small town and near the national park.  We opted not to go in because it was 200thb each and we were going on a tour the next day and our tickets are only good for day of entry.

As the afternoon heat came upon us, we decided we should go tubing.  350thb each and it takes between  1-2 hours to complete.  The Dutch girl, let’s call her “Clogs” is in the restaurant while we are booking so we invite her and couple other to join us.  Clogs accepts, the others politely pass.

The river is quite fast and they don’t give us life jackets.  Our guides know just enough English to regurgitate memorized safety instructions and away we go.

It’s actually a very nice tour.  The water is so refreshing in the heat of the day.  20 minutes into the ride, the water slows enough for us to get to the side wall where there is a small rocky area above the water with a rope swing.  The only rule is, don’t let go of the rope because the water is fast for weak swimmers (like myself).

After a handful of failed swing attempts we are back into our tubes and off again.  Only this time, we have company.  A dog has joined us.  Swimming alongside us and occasionally back on shore to run a bit before jumping back in the river.  The guides are really good with him too.  they tell us his name is “Me” and they call him and let him rest on their arms and have the river carry them together.  This is very refreshing to see as dogs are not treated well (in most cases, not all) in Malaysia or Indonesia.

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At the end of the tour, Kong picks us up and along with the guides and Me, we all head back to the town.  As we approach the starting point of the river, we drop one guide off and Me sees another group about to go into the river so he jumps off and joins the new group.  Life as a dog would be great here.

One of the reasons we visited Khao Sok is because in the national park there is a massive lake where they have floating houses that you can stay in.  It’s a nice getaway from civilization.  Kristi and her family did this 6 years ago when they visited.

I guess the word got out as to how great this is because the prices are insane.  They were asking 1000thb per person per night which is reasonable.  But then you have to hire a boat for 3700thb per day.  If you’re in a big group, you can split the cost but as a couple this just isn’t realistic.

Luckily for us, Palm View Resort has a tour book and inside is a 2d1n tour that includes a jungle trek, night safari on the lake, 4 meals (1B, 2L, 1D) and an “English” speaking guide.  All for the price of 2300thb.  This however, does not include your park entrance of 200thb.  So 2500thb each and we get a bunch of tours included.  Looks like we get to stay in a float house after all.

The list of things to bring included:

Shoes that you don’t care will get wet
A change of clothes
flashlight
Bug Repellent
Sun Screen
A good humor and attitude

We are picked up at 9am and we drive about 45minutes toward Suratthani.  We take a 15 minute break to walk around a local market… Kristi and I took advantage of this to buy water.  Another 15 minutes to the jetty where we pay our park entrance and head to the boat.  Packing 15 of so people on this long boat and getting ready to head off, I can’t help but think we’re over capacity.  Good thing we all have small overnight bags.  Kong was very kind and gave us a dry bag and headlamps to take with us and locked our backpacks up in his office.  Just another kind gesture from Palm View Resort.

A whole 5 minutes into the boat trip and the engine stalls.  This is not reassuring… Our driver gets it going again and we’re all good.  Just over half way there, we come across another boat.  Our driver and the other boat driver exchange words.  I can only assume his boat broke down because we spent the next 20 minutes helping them get going again.   It appears that none of that money we paid goes towards boat maintenance.

DSCN0678 We arrive at the float houses around noon.  Turns out half of our group is on a day trip.  They are all told they can swim while the rest of us are shown our rooms. On one side, we have a British couple. On the other side we have a couple of Russian “sisters”.  That was how they introduced themselves, I assume because they have been traveling (and living) in countries where homosexuality is not accepted and saying they’re sisters is just an easier option that prevents further questions and criticism.  Being from Vancouver, we have a massive gay community and I’m fortunate enough to have grown up where people can be themselves and not be criticized for their choices (for the most part). We also have one of the worlds largest Pride Parades which is a blast to attend if you happen to be in Vancouver when it’s going on.

And I’m completely off topic.

Clogs was on the other side of the sisters.

We had a quick swim before our lunch was ready and our guide took some time to formerly introduce himself.  His name is Big and though his English isn’t great, he is always smiling and has a handful of jokes up his sleeve.  Before we headed out on our hike, he explained a bit of what we would be doing.  We would be gone approximately 3 hours.  The hike is about 80 minutes into the jungle.  Normally we would go to a cave but because it’s wet season and the water is too high, the cave is closed for safety reasons.  Instead we will hike to three different waterfalls.

One of the Russians speaks up in a snotty tone, “Are they real waterfalls? I’ve seen your waterfalls here”  Big handles himself very well saying “they are real waterfalls and you will love them”.  As he finishes, he asks “Are there any questions?” Again the Russian speaks up, “What are the chance of leeches?”  Big says “zero point zero zero zero zero zero zero one percent”  and then drastically increases the odds by saying “about 1 out of 100 people see a leech”

Everyone kind of peers at each other around the table… the Russians seem like they will be really fun to be around.

Big attempts to lighten the mood with a song. I guess we could call it the Thai broken English version of “If you’re happy and you know it” and Big’s lyrics were as follows:

“Even if you’re happy clap your hands” and of course we follow along with the clap clap
repeat 2x
“even if you’re happy, even even if you’re happy, even if you’re happy clap your hands”
Clap Clap!

At first I thought I had just been entertained by a 4 year old but then I remembered I had packed my “good attitude and sense of humor” which resulted in me appreciating his efforts.

A quick 5 minute boat ride and we are at the start of the path.  Big tells us not to worry about our shoes getting wet.  As I jump off the boat, I land in ankle deep pee warm swamp water.  It’s like this for the first two minutes.  I am happy once we’re on the path.  Walking in that mushy warm water was very uncomfortable for delicate me.

We hike/saunter 10 minutes and Big stops us to explain some of the plant life in the area. Then it happens.  One of the Russians calls out, “I THOUGHT YOU SAID THERE WERE NO LEECHES HERE”  I can’t help but crack up laughing.  It’s perfect that they found a leech.  Turns out it wasn’t even a leech, it was a leaf.

Kristi and I like to hike at the front of the group because:
A) Kristi likes to be the first to spot any wildlife ahead of us alongside the guide
B) We enjoy chatting with guides as they have an amazing and fun job
C) When we stop to break, I get the longest rest possible while we wait for everyone else to catch up

This was more like a relaxing walk through the forest rather than a jungle trek.  Though they do a good job keeping it entertaining for us as we cross over a creek 3 or 4 times each way.  Plus Big had a few jokes up his sleeve like changing the lyrics to “oppa jungle style” and doing the Gangnam Style dance.

On the 2nd river we crossed, the water was just below waist deep and quite fast.  One of the Russians slipped and skinned her knee.  Of course, they came more prepared than anyone and had a first aid kit with them.  Big tried to help with the cleaning and offered to tie it off with his shirt but was rudely told to go away.  Someone walked by me and whispered out load “I believe that is called karma”  I know it isn’t nice to judge people but when you behave like a downer and the rest of the group is having a good time, you sort of alienate yourself.  The rest of the group seemed to bond together better because everyone felt the same way about the Russians attitude.

The first waterfall we reached was really cool.  Not overly large but the landscape of it was really neat with the rock formation.  It looked like a designer water feature that someone with way too much money would have in their yard.

DSCN0664  The second waterfall was built itself because a tree had fallen and another tree grew through it creating a natural dam that was overflowing. Due to it being very wet here, we opt to not take a picture.

The third and final waterfall was just an ordinary waterfall that offered waist deep water and you could stand under the waterfall as it ran down a large rock face.  Then Big climbed a tree to the top of it and invited us up.  Hesitant at first about climbing a wet, broken tree 12 feet up on top of a waterfall I looked to my inner douche to tell me #yolo and up I went.

Best decision I made.  Thank you inner douche.

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At the top is a large pool of water and the ability to sit right on the ledge of the waterfall looking down at all the little puss-pusses that didn’t join us.  Then Big got up on a ledge and yelled out “THREE…TWO…ONE…FREEDOM” and jumped into the small pool.  Turns out it’s 3m deep.  A few people did this too… there was no yolo for me this time.  Clogs gave me her camera and asked me to take a picture of her jumping.  I took one great picture of her jumping and 9 even better selfies.

We hiked back happy as can be.  Also our timing was good because we passed two other groups on the way out.

When we returned, the overnighters had 2 hours free time before dinner, the day trippers were pretty much done.  20 min to swim then they were leaving.

During dinner we had a chance to talk with the Russians because our group went from 15 to 7.  For the most part they seemed okay and tolerable but they were very open about not being happy so far.  “I come here and want to see nature.  I don’t like the clap clap” (referring to Big’s song earlier)

I guess they weren’t told to pack their good sense of humor and attitude.

After dinner, we got ready for our night safari.  Turns out Big was having problems with the boat and we would be joining another overnight group because Big wasn’t there.  We did not see anything, cramped on this little boat, the best part was the Guide caught a lightning bug and passed it around for everyone to see.  It was cool.  So as we sat there quietly on the boat the guide says out loud, “I want to tell you a joke” I assume his way of making up for not seeing any wildlife.

“Do you guys know airplane?”
“Yes”
“Do you guys know penis?”
“What?!?”
“Do you guys know penis… like on a man?”
At first I thought he mispronounced peanuts… he didn’t.
“I want to know, which is bigger? Airplane or man’s penis?”
This is getting weird.
“Show of hands, how many think airplane is bigger?”
Everyone raises their hand
“So you all think airplane is bigger than penis?”
Please stop saying penis.
“But when airplane go up, up, up it gets smaller… when penis go up, up, up it gets bigger”
*Insert awkward laughter here.*

It’s now dark and we’re all getting ready for bed.  They turn lights on from 6:30pm-10:30pm… no light switches… just on for 4 hours then off for the night.  The bathroom is at the end of the dock, then down another dock to land though a piece of the dock shifted so you have to take 1-2 steps in shin deep water to get to land.  Then up 20-30 awkwardly large stairs to the toilets.  I imagine this being hell to do in the dark, I’m glad Kong gave us headlamps.

After a long day of boat rides, hiking, swimming and climbing waterfalls.  We all went to bed around 9:45pm.  Sure enough I wake up and have to pee.  But the lights are still on… There’s no way it’s not 10:30pm yet.  I groggily stumble out of my float house and decide I’m just gonna pee in the water.  I know there’s some empty houses 4-5 cabins up from us so I can pee there without the neighbors waking up and watching me.

Mid pee and the lights go out.  It’s pitch black.  All I can see it a white glare because the lights had been so bright before shutting off.  Great.  Of course I left the headlamp in the cabin… This could only happen to me.

Taking careful step after careful step, I make my way back.  One step too far right or left and I could end up in the lake.  I can’t help but feel like every step is going to result in a fully clothed unwanted bath.  I have never walked so slow in my life… why aren’t my eyes adjusting.  I contemplate just yelling out for help and see if someone will rescue me with a light.  One slow step at a time.  I think I found my cabin.  I open the door carefully.  “Kristi?” I whisper,  “Are you in here?”

“Yes. What are you doing?”
“Just having the worst time of my life”

We woke up around 7am and went to the main dock where we were greeted by Big.  I ask how his night was and he tells us that his boat broke down and he paddled 18km to get back here at midnight.  That sounds like hell.  I hope they fixed our boat.

Nah they’re still working on it.  Hitting it with a hammer what appears to be randomly.  I imagine that’s what I look like when I try to fix something.  I tried yelling at it and hitting hit… nothing seems to work.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not handy.

Our 7:30am tour left at 8:30am once they jump started our boat.  That’s not reassuring.

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After an hour of not seeing anything, we hit the jackpot.  A big family of gibbons.  Six of them! Normally you only see one or two.  Another lucky wildlife safari for us.  We also saw oriental and rhinoceros hornbills that happened to land in the same tree.  It was almost like Big had paid them off to all show up there at the same time.

After breakfast of banana pancakes and fresh pineapple we got ready to leave.  Again getting jump started to go.  We followed the other group to a cave that was a hideout for communist students in the 70s where we saw ugly spiders the size of my fist and we touched a rock formation that looks like a crocodile for good luck.  We then got jump started again, and went to a quiet part of the lake where we swam for 20-30 minutes and had lunch on the boat.

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This entire trip they fed us very well and all of the food was delicious.

The other boat came by to jump start us again and we went to our final destination, a rock formation that we were told is the symbol of the national park.  The Russians asked if we could stop and take pictures… there’s no other boats around.  Please don’t stop.  Big wisely tells them we cannot stop.  They are unimpressed again.

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The rest of the boat ride back was rather uneventful and we were driven back to Palm View where we were greeted by Mama and Kong.  They gave us water and asked us about the trip.

Overall for our money, this trip was a bit expensive.  The tour seemed to be unorganized, the equipment was weathered and falling apart.  The bathrooms and floating docks needed maintenance done.  However, our Guide was an awesome guy who was happy and enthusiastic and did his best to make sure we were happy too.  The people working truly care about preserving the park as anytime we saw garbage floating we would stop and get it out of the water.  The food was delicious and the overall experience was great.  Plus we saw gibbons, one of the species of monkeys out here that we haven’t seen yet.

That night we met up with the British couple for dinner along with Clogs.  I almost stepped on the slowest moving snake in the world but jumped last moment and didn’t touch it.  Guess I should pay attention.  Clogs took a picture and it turns out it wasn’t dangerous anyways.

We had invited the Russians as well but they didn’t show up.  A good night with beers and inappropriate jokes, you would think we’d been friends for years.

We’ve decided to go north to Pruchuap Khiri Khan along with Clogs because there is a cave she read about that is supposed to be one of the top 10 things to see before you die!  Let’s hope it delivers.

The Brits are heading south which is a shame because they are great company too.  Their next stop is Krabi and Koh Phi Phi.  We wish them safe travels and good times.

Hope you enjoyed learning about how penises are bigger than airplanes.  It’s going to be hard to top these last few days.

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