Khao Sok (Dec 27-30): A Slice of Paradise

My trip to Khao Sok wasn’t horrible… I had been nervous about making the bus on time, as I read that there would only be one bus per day from Krabi to Khao Sok, which was at 11:30am. My original plan was to fly to Krabi from Bangkok the night of December 26, spend the night in Krabi, and take the bus to Khao Sok on the 27th. I found my flight on Skyscanner (as I always do) but I booked the tickets through an agency called Travelgenio, which is a TERRIBLE agency – I would avoid it at all costs (you can see that it has many negative reviews). Anyway, the airline had cancelled my flight on the 26th so the agency changed my flight to 5:30am on the 27th. I hate morning flights and I also knew that I’d be cutting it close to catch the bus at 11:30, plus I had already booked my accommodation in Krabi the night of the 26th. Therefore, I emailed and asked if I could still get a flight on the 26th (this was back at the beginning of November). They wrote back two weeks later and gave me two options on the 26th. I immediately wrote back and chose one option, but said I could do the other option as well (I just wanted to get a flight on the 26th). They wrote back a week later and said that they’ve seen my confirmation and would send me the new itinerary shortly. Then the next day, they wrote and said the airline would only allow 5:30am on the 26th or 5:30am on the 27th. I immediately wrote back and said I’d prefer the option on the 26th. Another week later, they wrote back and said that they’ve seen my confirmation and would send me a new itinerary. Then a week after that, they said that the airline would only allow December 27th at 5:30am, which was the original flight! It took nearly a month and a half to arrive to this conclusion, so I wasn’t too impressed. I finally agreed with the flight change and the next day (December 12), they said they’ve seen my confirmation and would send me a new itinerary shortly. However, five days before my flight, I still hadn’t received confirmation so I emailed them. No reply… The day before my flight, I STILL hadn’t received anything so I emailed them again. I was so angry that I wrote a review on Trustpilot about how horrible the company was, and I got a reply within a few hours. They told me to send an email to their advanced support department about my booking, so I did, and they FINALLY sent me my itinerary. The person who I had been emailing since November wrote me TEN HOURS AFTER my flight with a reservation confirmation and electronic ticket… absolutely terrible service. Again, avoid at all costs! Anyway, I wanted to be sure I had a spot on the plane since I wasn’t able to check-in online so I got to the Bangkok airport at 10pm, kept myself occupied until 3:30am, and went to check-in. I gave the travel agent my passport and she kept asking me questions and then was taking an awfully long time to check me in. She asked if I could wait a minute, took a screenshot of her computer, and got up to show her phone to someone at the back. That’s when panic started to set in – I wasn’t sure if I’d be getting onto that plane. After about 5-10 minutes, she came back and thankfully printed out my boarding pass. I went through security, didn’t even bother trying to sleep, and boarded the plane.

The flight was only an hour and ten minutes so I arrived in Krabi at 7am. I went to the information desk to ask about getting to Khao Sok, but he basically only suggested taking a taxi, which I’m sure would have cost at least 2000 baht. His only other suggestion was to go to the Krabi bus station and see if there was a bus there. My ticket to the bus station was 80 baht ($3.49) and when I got on the bus, the bus driver asked where I was going so I told him. Then when we arrived at the bus station and I was about to get off, he asked “Khao Sok?” I nodded and he yelled over to someone at the station who walked me to the correct till to buy my ticket. It was 7:30 when I got to the station and she said the bus wouldn’t be until 10am. I paid 250 baht for my ticket ($10.91) and went to the only restaurant there to get some food. I got fried rice with chicken but upon taking a bite of a big chunk of chicken, I noticed it was still raw on the inside so I quickly spat it out and pushed all the chicken to the side. I went to the bathroom right before having to leave, had to pay 3 baht to use the toilet, and then realised I’d be forced to use my first squat toilet on this trip (also, there’s never any toilet paper so luckily I came prepared when I bought a 6-pack of tissues!). Finally at 10, I got on the bus, which was actually a 13-passenger van. It was just me and another girl until she got off after about two hours. Khao Sok is only 100km away from Krabi and the schedule makes it look like you arrive an hour later but the driver went along the length of the coast so it ended up taking four hours total. After the girl got off, I got the van to myself for an hour, and then we picked up a mom with her two boys and all got off at Khao Sok. The taxi driver asked where I was staying and dropped me off right at Smiley Bungalows, so I gave him a tip. The place was completely deserted when I arrived but eventually the daughter showed up and showed me to my room. The bungalows were like treehouses, and I got a room with a queen-sized bed and my own bathroom; it was so nice! I had a much-needed shower and even though I was exhausted, I walked around town until 5 and then had dinner at a place called Lab Roi-Et, where I had Pad Thai and a Thai coffee. My night at Smiley Bungalow was only 300 baht ($13), which was amazing!

I had booked a 2-day/1-night tour to go to Smiley Lakehouse the next day so I had to get up and ready for breakfast at 8am the next morning. I had breakfast with a couple from the Netherlands (both teachers) and a girl from Hawaii (also a teacher). Everyone who I’ve met up until this point and on this tour is only in Asia for 2 or 3 weeks for the Christmas holidays, and many were couples (one was on their honeymoon!). There were about 25 people on our tour, so it was a good amount of people. We left Smiley Bungalows in two 13-passenger vans and drove towards the pier at about 9:30am. After an hour, we stopped in a small town to pick up food for 20 minutes and then drove another 20 minutes to the pier. We then got on two longtail boats and drove for another hour across Chiao Lan lake to Smiley Lakehouse. The boat ride there was absolutely gorgeous, and the scenery was like nothing I’ve seen before.

I was absolutely amazed and couldn’t believe I was in a place that was so beautiful! We arrived at the Lakehouse around 12:30, were told our room numbers to settle in, and were served lunch at 1. We each got our own room with our own bathroom, and each room came with two queen-sized mattresses, plus our door opened right up onto the lake – it was amazing!

The thing I loved about this tour was that it was 2500 baht plus a 300 baht national park entry fee ($122.16) per person no matter what – they didn’t charge a single supplement fee to make up for the fact that there was only one person in a 2+ person room (which solo travellers like myself often get cheated with). The tour also included five meals – two breakfasts, two lunches, and one supper. After lunch, we were given free time until 5pm. There was only one other solo traveller on this trip, so her and I took a kayak out for a couple hours. However, with neither of us having much experience with kayaks, we continued just spinning around in circles. Once we got far enough, we gave up and just sat on the kayak in the middle of the lake.

We still had an hour of free time when we got back, so I decided to go for a swim. The company said that we had to wear life jackets if we went swimming or kayaking because there was a 20-35 metre drop from our deck but since I had enough experience swimming, and other people weren’t wearing life jackets, I decided not to either. However, AFTER our free time was finished, the tour guide said that there were cobras in the lake and one time, someone was swimming and was either bitten or pulled down by a cobra and drowned. I likely wouldn’t have went into the lake knowing this information so I’m glad they told us this after the fact. At 5pm, we went on a night safari, but only saw one monkey in the far distance. However, we got a nice view of the sunset!

We got back around 7pm, had dinner, and then I visited with two girls from South Africa who were also teachers (one is teaching in Thailand, which started giving me ideas of moving to Thailand to teach). We had to be ready for 6:40am the next morning, so we didn’t stay up too late.

On Saturday morning, we met at 6:40 to go on a morning safari. It was so foggy, it felt like we were in a scene from Jurassic Park. We were waiting for dinosaurs to jump out at any given moment! This time, we were a bit more successful in finding monkeys.

We went back at 8am to have breakfast and then we were given half an hour to pack up all of our stuff before our cave trek. We got in the boat to make our way to the Nam Taloo hiking trail and were warned that we’d be going through water up to our shoulders, so I decided to rent some shoes (for 50 baht – $2), as I didn’t want to ruin my new ones.

We hiked for quite awhile – walking through lots of mud and some streams and then we finally made it to the cave entrance. Apparently, leeches are abundant throughout the park, so we had to keep doing “leech checks” every once in awhile.

We basically spent the entire time in the cave walking through water, and having to scale some of the walls – I felt like Spider-Man! We each had a head lamp, but many times, it was still too dark to see where you were stepping in the water.

Along the hiking trail and in the cave, the guides pointed out numerous plants, spiders, and centipedes that were poisonous, so that was comforting… After about 45 minutes, we made it to the bat cave, where we just saw a couple of bats. Then, we had to turn around and make our way back. I had never done anything like it before and it was such a fun experience; I had a great time!

We got back to the Lakehouse at about 1pm, had a quick lunch, changed clothes, and then we had to travel back to Khao Sok.

Again, we had to take a one-hour boat ride, and then drove back to the bungalows. We got back just before 5pm so I showered, went out for dinner, and bought my bus ticket for the next day, and went to bed. Khao Sok is one of those places that still hasn’t caught on in popularity, which adds to its charm. It’s an absolute gem of a place – I was so sad to leave! Until next time…

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