A November 2001 trip
to Suratthani by lcampbell
Quote: This journal covers the third week of our one month trip to Thailand with a company called Intrepid Small Group Adventures. We spent the third week in Khao Sok National Park. For weeks 1, 2, and 4, see my journals about Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi, Krabi, and Bangkok.
Due to the seclusion of the areas that we visited, there was a lot of down time between short activities. Bring a book or two – relax and enjoy!
The longtail boat ride was an experience in itself. A large portion of Khao Sok National Park is made up of Chiaw Lan Lake, which is actually a reservoir formed when a hydroelectric dam was built in 1982. The lake is 165 square kilometers, and the entire park is 739. About 100 islands were created when the dam was built. The area is dominated by limestone cliffs and mountains that average 300-600 meters. The highest is 960 meters. They say the rainforest here is some of best remaining and is older than the Amazon. It was quite a sight – majestic masses of limestone reaching up out of deep clear water. Some of the limestone walls were totally vertical, which meant they didn’t have any vegetation and shimmered white in the sunlight. We only saw two other boats on the entire trip, and as I mentioned, the scenery was unreal. Then we saw Ton Toey floating rafthouses…. I thought our boat was dropping us off in paradise!
The rafthouses consist of about 12 small floating bamboo huts. To reach our huts, we had to walk on a floating walkway that was a little precarious. The huts were ten feet on each side and had mattresses on the floor and mosquito netting. Each rafthut had a second door (opposite of the door that went to the floating walkway) that went out to a small veranda facing the water. We could dive into the deep water from our own veranda and swim to our heart’s content. The water was so warm, it was almost like bathwater. It was crystal clear and maybe 100 feet deep. There were also two floating buildings where the operators lived and the food was cooked. The whole floating operation was connected with ropes to the shore. The land was at a steep grade going up into the jungle. The only buildings were the bathrooms and showers, and we had to go up a steep stairway to reach them. The bathrooms were quite modern which surprised me a bit, happily.
We stayed for two nights, and only had to share our paradise with a couple other people. Meals were included and were delicious. We were taken on an evening boat ride to look for wildlife – we saw monkeys and hornbills. And we went on a hike to Namtaloo cave. We otherwise filled out time swimming, reading, napping, and all out relaxing. There were little canoes to rent, and of course someone had brought a deck of cards.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 9, 2002
Ton Tuey floating rafthouses
Khao Sok National Park
We stayed in these fantastic bungalows that were very rustic and raised on stilts. Ours was located quite far back off the road. We had to walk on a trail to get to it. It was surrounded by jungle and was so quiet and peaceful. The insides of the cabins themselves were quite dark, but we had a great deck off the back to make up for it. We had single beds, and a very cold shower, and that was it. It was the location and atmosphere that was so wonderful.
The reception area and restaurant/bar of the lodge is located on Art’s River. The eating area is a deck with a great view of the river and the limestone cliffs on the opposite bank. There is a swimming hole down below the restaurant. At approximately 5pm each night, a group of monkeys comes in from the jungle to sit on the limestone cliffs across from the lodge. The monkeys play and swim. They are fed a little bit (very little) by lodge employee’s throwing bananas across the river, but apparently these monkeys were coming to this location long before there was a lodge. I am very anti-feeding the wildlife, so I’m not sure how I feel about this situation. Our trip leader said that there is an overpopulation of monkeys in the area, so the park does feed them a bit. They tried to stop feeding them altogether, but some monkeys died. So for now their choice is to give supplemental food. I guess Thailand has different Park philosophies than ours (did I mention that I’m a park ranger? Maybe that’s why I struggle with this issue so much.)
The food at Art’s was very good. Their drink specialty is Jungle Juice. I don’t know what is in it, but it takes a really long time to make. The lodge is professionally run, and the service is excellent.
Art’s Riverview Jungle Lodge
P.O. Box 28
Attraction | "Hike to (and through) Namtaloo Cave"
There was a river running through the cave (hence the name) which we followed for a while, and then had to hike in for a while. We saw very large toads, the biggest spider I’ve ever seen, fish, crabs, and bats. Farther into the cave the passages got much more narrow and we had to swim in some areas that were over our heads (makes it hard to hold on to the flashlight). There were also a couple spots where we had to sort of rock climb down. There was one small waterfall in the cave that was quite cool to see.
After emerging from the cave, with our heartrates slightly elevated from our adventure, we hiked back to the boat and went back to Ton Toey rafthouses for more relaxation. The best part of being that far from any sort of civilization was the freedom to fully kick back. During the other parts of our trip, we did have quite a bit of free time, but I always felt like I should be out doing something or else I might be "missing" something. Relaxing at the rafthouses is the reason we are here, so there is nothing to "miss." Also, I wish I had brought a tape recorder to record the jungle noises at night – I have never heard anything like it.
Hike to Namtaloo Cave
Khao Sok National Park
There is a visitor center at the entrance that is very interesting. There were displays discussing the natural features and history of the park. There was also information about other national parks in the province. Just outside the visitor center are the trails. There were signs up for many destinations, but our guide said that we would hike to a waterfall about two miles away.
The hike was on a nicely maintained trail through the jungle. We saw some other hikers, but not very many. There was one precarious log crossing over a fairly deep drainage, but we all made it over without incident. Then we reached the turnoff for the falls. The falls themselves we not very impressive, as we were visiting during the dry season. The guide said they are quite nice when the water is flowing at full force. But we did really enjoy the swimming hole. It was a hot day, and the water a clear and cool. The sun was peaking in and out of the clouds. When the sun came out, the water glowed greenish blue and the sunlight sparkled off the ripples in the water. We cooled off and had fun before hiking back to Art’s for a fabulous meal.
If we had more time in the area, I would have liked to explore some of the other trails. I think you could spend quite a while in the area just hiking and relaxing at Art’s.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 9, 2002
Hike to Swimming Hole
Khao Sok National Park
Our starting point was the lodge (which was on the river), so we all hopped on a tube and started floating. The water was a little low, so occassionally our guide would yell "Up Your Bum!" It was so hilarious! We figured out that they meant we should lift up our behinds so we wouldn’t hit them on the river rocks, but we still cracked up every time we heard "Up Your Bum! Up Your Bum!"
We ended our tubing trip also in the middle of nowhere. We waited for a little while for our ride and headed back. They dropped us off at a bridge over the river that was above Art’s (maybe a 20 minute walk from Art’s) and we tubed back to the lodge.
Attraction | "A walk in solitude…. Or was it?"
I followed the trail and made it to the cave, which was a disappointment. I peeked around for a minute, and then decided that the hike was more enjoyable than the cave, so why not just keep hiking? The trail continued, but first I had to climb over some down trees. It was obvious that very few people venture past the cave. The trail was narrow and secluded. I didn’t see anyone, but I heard voices. I wandered off trail for a little while to find the owners of the voices, but I never did. I also saw what looked like a plantation of some sort, but I couldn’t identify the trees.
The trail ended at what seemed to be a temple. I stopped on the trail about 200 feet from it. For some reason, I didn’t feel like I should go any farther. I know that temples in Thailand are open for anyone to visit, so I told myself just to go over there. I took five steps forward, and then felt an overwhelming urge to back up. Very strange. I told myself that I just didn’t want to disturb any monks who may be there. And maybe I wasn’t supposed to be on this part of the trail anyway. I hiked back the way I came. It took about half the way back before I stopped feeling uncomfortable.
It was the next day that I heard "the story". Not wanting to scare anyone, our trip leader hadn’t shared it earlier. But since we were leaving, he thought he could tell us. It seems that in the 1960s there was a cholera outbreak in the Phuket area and over 600 people died. Since the bodies were tainted with cholera, they had to be sent away to be cremated. The bodies were sent to the Khao Sok area and were cremated in a kiln a couple hundred meters from Art’s (I had walked right past the kiln on my hike). The ashes were scattered around the area, and the temple I saw was built to honor the dead. There are hundreds of spirits living in the area, and there have been many ghost sightings. Some guides refuse to come to the area because of it.
Khao Sok National Park
Surat Thani- Takuapa Road
Port Angeles, Washington