January 29 – 31, 2023
Today I was heading out to an overnight stay on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok. I packed up my belongings and headed to the outdoor lobby for breakfast. Scrambled eggs, toast, watermelon and pineapple. At breakfast I met Aurelie, a solo traveler from Brittany, France. She was embarrassed about her English, but we made conversation anyway. We referred to our conversations as playing Pictionary, as she tried to describe forgotten words and I guessed at them. She noted how the Germans spoke great English.
I told her about when I was in Paris, and I was proud to be able to have one full engagement in French. Bonjour! Pan au chocolat, sil vous plait. Merci beaucoup! She liked that.
We also talked about how hard it has been to find conditioner. Every bottle just says “shampoo”. She had an aha moment realizing this problem exists in France as well. There it is called “apres shampoo”, which literally means “after shampoo”.
Around 9am, the Thai woman who runs Smiley Dome Camp attempted to read everyone’s western names to sort us into four vans. I think Erin came out something like Aree.
We stopped at a 7 Eleven on the way so everyone could pick up some sunscreen, waterproof bags, snacks, etc. I’m not sure why as 15 minutes later we arrived at the pier with shops and stands selling the same stuff. I picked up what has become one of my favorite snacks, a 3 pack of Oreos, for 6 baht.
Cheow Lan Lake
We all paid a 20 baht foreigner fee, then 200 baht entry fee into Khao Sok National Park. From there we were loaded into long boats and rode across the lake, taking in the scenery along the way. The lake is lined with limestone cliffs that are covered in trees and other greenery. It made the loud and sometimes wet ride worth it.
We rode for about an hour before reaching the Guilin of Thailand rocks. We snapped a few photos then went perpendicular across the lake to the floating bungalows. There’s about 30 bungalows altogether. When we got to the boathouses, Aurelie and I went kayaking on the lake. We were a little unlucky with the weather for our two days there. It was cloudy and a little windy, making the lake a bit more challenging.
Later in the evening, we could take a wildlife safari via boat. It was a little underwhelming. Some saw a monkey very far away. If they didn’t say it was a monkey I would’ve thought it was a coconut, if I even saw it at all. Later we watched great hornbills fly amongst the trees. That was the evening wildlife safari.
I saw more wildlife on my 5 minute walk when I arrived…
Morning Safari and Cave Hike
The next morning we woke early for another wildlife safari at sunrise. The clouds muted what I imagine is a beautiful sunrise otherwise. We again saw no wildlife other than a couple of birds. I think they should call them cruises instead of wildlife safaris.
After the safari, we had breakfast, then an optional hike to a cave. I wasn’t interested in the cave, where water could be over our heads in depth, but I went for the hike. While waiting for everyone to pass through the cave, I talked with two women from England and Netherlands.
On the hike back to the boat, I met Harry and Nial from England. They’re here on a rock climbing trip, and are also heading south after Khao Sok. I asked them how the cave was and they were indifferent. I told them an elephant walked by while we were waiting. Harry bought it hook, line, sinker 😂 Harry just got his PhD in Physics with a thesis on liquid crystals (the LC of LCDs). I may run into them in Railay Beach or the surrounding islands.
Once on the boat back, I met Nellecke from the Netherlands. She’s on a solo trip here, and also heading to New Zealand next! She’ll be stationed near Taupo, which we’ll pass through in our third week there. We exchanged contact info.
Back at the pier, I said my goodbyes to everyone. I was the only person staying in Khao Sok another night.
Hiking Khao Sok National Park
The next day I decided to take walk some of the nearby trails inside the park. I paid the 300 baht entrance fee, then headed left toward Ton Kloi waterfall. The trail was very easy, about 10 feet wide in most places. I reached a ranger station about 2km in, where I was told to sign in and arrange for a guide for the rest of the trail.
Seeing no reason for a guide, I headed down the trail alone. I approached a group ahead of me who also didn’t have a guide. We all agreed we didn’t need a guide, and decided to hike together as a group. Four Danish girls (two sets of two) and a man from Germany.
We made it another 1.5km before a guide stopped us and told us we must go back and get a guide. Seeing it as fruitless to try to proceed without one and not wanting to pay 1200 baht per person, we went back and decided to try to hide a different trail. We hiked about two thirds of the trail to the Sip Et Chan waterfall before it got pretty challenging and we decided to turn back and get a late lunch.
The Germans, Danish and Dutch speak very good English. And they talked about how bad the French spoke English. The Danish girls gave me tips on where to go when I eventually visit Denmark. The Danish girls mentioned nearly everyone takes a 2-3 year gap year after high school. They work to fund their travels while they sort out what they want to do with their professional lives. So they work for a few months, then travel for a few months, repeat. Armin is a train conductor in Germany and he gets 57 days off a year!
There are tons of young travelers here. At least 50% (including the Danish girls) are about 20 years old. They go together and alone, making their way around the world, picking up valuable life lessons along the way.
I think traveling is a great education, one that can’t be learned another way. Experience is the greatest teacher. I also love hearing how other countries are not completely obsessed with work culture. The US has many lessons to learn from others.
We parted ways and wished each other well. I anticipate I may see Armin again as we will both be in Railay Beach about the same time.
In the evening I met another solo traveler from France. She gave me great suggestions about where to go in southern Thailand, which is precisely the advice I needed. I leave for Railay Beach tomorrow and I currently have no plans afterwards, so I need to sort out my next steps. She recommended Phang Nga bay, Ko Yoa Noi, and Koh Panyi. She also warned me it has been raining a lot in the south. I’ve been pretty fortunate so far with only 1 rainy day, and I’m certain I will see more rain going forward.
It’s been fun, Khao Sok!