Khao Sok is bordering one of two entrances into the national park. Think pythons, gibbons, and leeches kind of wilderness. Now we were in the true jungle.
We stayed in a bungalow that came equipped with its own frog to nab all of the bugs…score! We were told there was a ceremony going on at the monkey temple down the street so we decided to check it out. No monkeys were seen, but we did meet some nice locals that ushered us into the festival, almost involuntarily, and they gave us a strange, slimy white (fruit?) dish that was sweet and not unpleasant. We communicated via gestures and figured out the festival was honoring Buddha, we think.
We wandered on at this point and found a series of rickety stairs and ladder combination that led up the shear cliff of a mountain. We had to see what was at the top. After seven different levels, we climbed up to the mouth of a cave, and as the sun was setting at this point, bats were chattering and flying around the opening. It was a great find. Two feral dogs escorted us back to our bungalows as we wandered back through the jungle.
The next day we decided to trek into the jungle on the Tan Sawan waterfall hike. The first few km were along a service road. Then, it was jungle trail for the rest of the trek. We were weaving around a trail that loosely followed the river. Up and down we went for miles. Every so often, there was a beach access point or waterfall that we could hike to from the main trail. There was some gorgeous landscape to see. On one such beach, I was eating lunch and noticed blood coming through my pant leg. Crap, what was that from? I lifted my pants up and two fat leeches were happily sucking away at me. I yelled at Grant to come over and pry it off me while simultaneously trying to flick off another one that was cruising up my shoe. I thought leeches lived in water, what the hell was this? My California creature knowledge didn't cover this possibility. We got them off, did a quick body check, and got the hell out of there. Later, we decided to tuck our pants into our socks to ward off any others. Good luck to the tourists we saw with sandals and shorts on.
The views were worth the 10 or so leech bites we gathered. We heard birds and insects chattering away the whole time we were there. At one point we came across a flock of hornbills that were noisily following one another. It was an awesome hike. At the end of the day Grants phone read 14 miles total, and all our clothes were soaked in sweat. On top of all of this, and probably the most important part (Grant typing now), we found a Packer fan! What a spectacular day!
The following day we were off to the other entrance of the Khao Sok national park at Chiao Lan reservoir.
We woke up early and headed out to Chiao Lan. The long tail ride from the main pier out to our floating bungalow was amazing. Sheer faces of limestone and sandstone shot out of the reservoir at random. We drove by many islands made of rock and dense jungle vegetation.
The area was dammed in the 1980s and is now referred to as the largest ecological disaster in Thailand's history. The reservoir filled up with 6 months. Because it filled up so quickly, a large number of animals were displaced or trapped on islands. A conservationist attempted to save the trapped animals, but the combination of stress and limited resources in the relocation areas caused the majority to die. He ended up killing himself due to the failure of this project.
Regardless, it was a beautiful area. About 20 minutes into our boat ride it started POURING. We were soaked within a minute or so. I looked back at our longboat driver who was under a protective canopy and he laughed and waved at our situation. “Good luck!” he yelled. Another crew member walked up and collected all our valuables to put into a dry bag he had on hand. “No rain until today!” he said while laughing. I'm glad someone was amused. Soaking wet and cold (the first time in two weeks!) we arrived at our bungalows. The lake water was warmer than the air at this point so we hung our clothes, changed into bathing suits and hopped in the water.
After, we did a short jungle trek with multiple river crossings (up to my neck!). Our guide Guy (or “chicken”, as some tourists call him) was a very pleasant Thai man who did this trek daily. He knew all about the surrounding land and stopped a few times to scope out noises only he could hear. We were led to a cave that was incredible. There we saw spiders as big as our hands and tons of bats. My favorite memory of the giant cave spider was watching one prance away after we knocked the stick he was on. It was out of a cartoon, and any fear I had at the time slipped away.
We then cruised back to our bungalow for some beer drinking and lake floating for the rest of the evening.
The next day we explored for gibbons and dusky langurs (a type of monkey with a long tail). The trick to spotting them is to look for abnormal branch rustling amongst the trees. We ended up seeing many of both species.
After all of this, it was time to depart. The long tail boat ride out was gorgeous, and dry thankfully. We made it back to our bus, and when we were back in town celebrated the trip with two large coconut shakes.
Danielle and Grant
PS : We posted a link to our Dropbox folder with all the higher quality photos on Facebook. The photos are added in culsters and tagged with a dated folder. Feel free to go through these if you'd like to see better photos.