Khao Sok National Park
This article discusses the tourist village on the western side of the National Park. For information on the lake and and surrounding area visit the Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok page.
Warning: for the budget and independent traveller this park is seen as a tourist trap cause is not visitable without a tour. On your own you can only walk for 3 Km inside the park.
The Royal Forest Department declared Khao Sok as the 22nd national park of Thailand on 22 December 1980.
The park has a total area of 738.74 square kilometres, which covers parts of the Khlong Yee and Khlong Pra Sang forests as well as portions of the Krai Son and the Khao Pung sub-districts in the district of Ban Ta Khun and the Khlong Sok and Panom sub–districts in the province of Surat Thani.
Flora and fauna
A word of warning: buses from Khao Sok (passing on the main route 401) can be unreliable and not show for various reasons. On one particular day in March 2013, only one out of four buses (travelling to Takua Pa) turned up within a four hour period. Air-con minibuses do frequent the route and cost little more than the bus, so be prepared to ditch the bus and use these if there's a need to travel quickly.
From/to Bangkok Nok Air offers flight+minivan services from Bangkok to Khao Sok and Ratchprapa Dam v.v. by flying with Nok Air from Bangkok to Surat Thani and transferred on a minivan to Khao Sok taking approximately 3.5 hours. This can be booked directly from their website.Surat Thani airport is the nearest one but you can also choose Phuket airport. By train: Surat Thani train station is the nearest one. Be careful: the southern line is very busy, advance booking is highly recommended. By night bus: There is only one night bus per day stopping at Khao Sok. In Bangkok, it seems that the only way to book and buy it is to go directly to the southern bus station in Bangkok (booking any other night bus sold by agencies is not recommended). In Khao Sok, it is possible to book and buy it in the local agency or at your hotel (ask for the real VIP bus, direct from Khao Sok to Bangkok).
From/to Phuket or Khao Lak: There is a bus service (approximately one bus per hour; the last one starts from Phuket around 14:00). Transit time is 4 hr from Phuket and 2 hr from Khao Lak (including a 20 min stop in Takua Pa that you may use to visit the local market). Price: about 160 baht from Phuket.
From/to Surat Thani: Air-con public bus from Surat Thani runs every hour starting at 07:00, passing the Surat Thani Train Station (at Phun Phin) 15 min later (so first bus from here is at 07:15). Tickets can be purchased at the Surat Thani Bus Station located at Talat Mai 31 or at a stall on the train station's bus stop. Transit time is around 2 hours. Price is 120 baht. There should also be a minibus service departing every hour from 07:30 to 17:30 but the last one can be cancelled. The public bus is comfortable and more reliable.
From/to Krabi: Several minibus per day. The first from Krabi bus station at 9:30 and it takes approximately 2 hours. From Khao Sok at 08:30, 10:00, 12:00 (Dec 2013). Transit time is 2-3 hr. Price: 300 baht if you book it directly at the bus stop. Make sure to ask the driver before to drop you off at the street in Krabi where you want to go, otherwise the minibus from Khao Sok may not go to Krabi town or Krabi's Talat Kao Bus Station and drop you off at a makeshift "Minibus Station" a few kilometres out of Krabi town from where to get somewhere useful is via one of the taxis waiting there. Alternatively, you can walk out to the road, turn left (downhill), and walk approximately 150m to the main road and catch a 'sorng-taa-ou' (small covered open pick-up with benches at the back) for 20 bath per person at the store on the corner. Also at the corner store: 10 baht for a private car if Matt L is there (look for the pick up outside - he's the surly looking guy). It will take less than 10 minutes to arrive via Th Issara at Th Maharat, between Soi 8 and Soi 6 (sorng taa-ou for Ao Luk, the airport and other places start from Soi 6 and Soi 8 also). From there it is less than 500m to the pier and the start of Chao Fah Road where many guesthouses are located. There is no direct bus from Khao Sok to Krabi (you would have to change at Surat Thani) and so the minibus still is the easiest option.
From/to Ko Lanta & Ko Jum: Minibus + ferry costing 650 baht leaves at 08:30 from Khao Sok and the ferry gets to Ko Lanta at 13:30. The ferry stops on the sea to drop off passengers to long-tail boats heading to Ko Jum. This ferry (which starts at Krabi) only runs during the high season which typically starts between 12th & 14th of November (it varies every year and you should check with your Ko Jum hotel beforehand). During the low season the minibus from Khao Sok will still go to Ko Lanta but will take an alternative route via car ferry which does not go via Ko Jum. There is no ferry or public boat to Ko Jum during the low season and the only way to get there is to charter a private boat.
From/to Chumphon: Minibus to Chumphon costing 500 baht leaves Khao Sok at 09:00 and gets to Chumphon at 14:00.
From/to Trang: Minibus to Trang costing 600 baht leaves Khao Sok at 08:30 and gets to Trang at 14:00.
From/to Ko Samui: Minibus + ferry to Ko Samui costing 500 baht leaves Khao Sok at 09:00 and the ferry gets to Ko Samui at 15:30. During the high season there is also an afternoon minibus + night boat costing 600 baht. The minibus leaves Khao Sok at 15:00 and the night boat arrives at Ko Samui at 06:00 the next day.
From/to Ko Phi Phi: Minibus + ferry to Ko Phi Phi costing 750 baht leaves Khao Sok at 08:30 and gets to Phi Phi at 16:00.
From/to Had Yai: Minibus to Had Yai costing 600 baht runs at 08:30 and gets to Had Yai at 16:00.
From/to Ko Pha-Ngan: Minibus + ferry to Ko Pha-Ngan costing 650 baht leaves Khao Sok at 09:00 and gets to Ko Pha-Ngan at 16:30. During the high season there is also an afternoon minibus + night boat costing 700 baht. The minibus leaves Khao Sok at 15:00 and the night boat arrives at Ko Pha-Ngan at 06:00 the next day.
From/to Satun: Minibus to Satun costing 800 baht runs at 08:30 and gets to Satun at 17:00.
From/to Pakpara: Minibus to Pakpara costing 800 baht runs at 08:30 and gets to Pakpara at 17:30.
From/to Sugaigolok: Minibus to Sugaigolok costing 900 bahts runs at 08:30 and gets to Sugaigolog at 19:00
From/to Penang: Minibus to Penang costing 900 baht runs at 08:30 and gets to Penang at 20:00.
From/to Kuala Lumpur: Minibus to Kuala Lumpur costing 1300 baht runs at 08:30 and gets to Kuala Lumpur at 06:00 the next day.
From/to Singapore: Minibus to Singapore costing 1600 baht runs at 08:30 and gets to Singapore at 11:00 the next day.
300 baht for foreigners (no student price), 40 baht for Thais. If you are told otherwise feel free to go directly to the park entrance and buy a ticket there. Careful when planning your trip cause the entrance is valid only for 24 hours so you have to pay every day you stay in the park.
Many tours will include the park entrance fee, something to take into consideration when choosing a tour.
Walking is the primary mode of transportation, as the road to the park is only 2 km and the farthest one can walk into the park is about 20 km. Mountain bikes can be hired for 200 baht/day (March 2013) from the Minimarket in the centre of the Tourist Village. They can offer a quick and thrilling way of getting round the park (some of the routes can be considered semi-technical for mountain biking).
Cars and motorbikes are not allowed on the park trails (eg: to the waterfalls) so take this into consideration before hiring either.
Rafflesia Flower. To see the Rafflesia flower you have to go when it is in bloom around late-January or early-February. The way to see it is not through the main entrance of the park. Go down to the intersection of the highway and the road to the park. From there, go right to km111 and on your right you will see a wooden ladder. Go up that and when you get to the first fork take a right. From there the little path crosses some streams and such so look hard if you can't find the trail again. This will take you most of the day if you start early (about 09:00), but you could be back in time to go to the temple with all the monkeys. If you find a tour group, just follow them until they get to a flower. The English guy at the restaurant next to the park said, "you don't need a guide but if you go by yourself it's not guaranteed that you will see the flower." Don't forget to buy a ticket before you go.
Tours can include tubing down the river, caving, kayaking, and zipline riding in the forest canopy. Many tours will include drinks, food, and/or basic accommodation. Ask your guide in advance about dietary concerns (vegetarian or "jeh" for example), if lunch is to be provided for you on the tour.
On your own you can basically do only a short 3 Km walk cause for the longer trails a guide is mandatory according to the rules of the park. While it is not really necessary because the trails are very well marked and there are no dangers along the way it's just another way to get money out of visitor's pockets.
There are nine trails starting from the Visitor's Centre:
1. Wing Hin Waterfall - 2.8;km
2. Bang Hua Rat Waterfall - 2.9 ;km
3. Wang Yao pool - 3 km
4. Bang Leab Nam Waterfall - 4.5 km - Accessible only with guide
5. Than Sawan Waterfall - 6 km - Accessible only with guide
6. Tang Nam gorge - 6 km - Accessible only with guide
7. Ton Kloi Waterfall - 7 km - Accessible only with guide
8. San Yang Roi view point - 2 km - Accessible only with guide
9. Sip-ed-Chun Waterfall - 4 km - Accessible only with guide
Be prepared for leeches, which are on the ground and in the trees on all the trails. Do not wear sandals.
Doing any 2-4 day tour in the national park will easily please any traveler. Your guesthouse can easily help set you up. Choosing a tour that involves at least one night in a floating raft house in the national park lake is an unforgettable experience.
Unfortunately some trails into the jungle are not marked well and it is easy to get lost. Try not to go alone.
Khao Sok in 4 Days/3 Nights
Day 1: Leave for the area around Khao Sok National Park headquarters in the morning from Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi, or Surat Thani. Visit the elephant camp and explore nature by canoeing down the Sok River. In the evening, enjoy the sounds of the rainforest.
Day 2: Visit the jungle cave temple. Go hiking in the national park by yourself or by hiring a local guide. The trails inside the park are well marked and there are several waterfalls on the way. From January to February it's possible to find the world's biggest flower, the Rafflesia blossom.
Day 3: Continue to Chiew Lan Lake about 70 km away and depart from the Rajjabrapa Pier. On the way to the raft houses, sail among spectacular rock formations and make a detour for Gulin of Khao Sok, a scenic place on the lake. Check into a simple bamboo raft-house. Paddle a canoe to explore the lake and look for wildlife. Take a bamboo raft to a newly discovered drip stone cave. This tour can also be arranged from your resort. Morning Mist Resort offers a lodging discount when you book an activity.
Day 4: Value your stay in the wilderness. Get up with the sun. Take a canoe or arrange with the boat driver to go for a safari to scan the banks. Morning is the time of day when the animals are most active and if a branch in the canopy flicks from one side to the other, it is often a group of monkeys searching for their first meal of the day. Take a swim in the lake and head back to the pier by longtail boat. Transfer to ongoing destinations can be arranged.
Several places in town have high-speed Internet for 1 or 2 baht/minute. Some have headphones and Skype.
Souvenirs are limited to the gift shop at the park entrance and a few items at convenience stores. Sundries, snack foods, soy milk, and cold drinks can be found in the shops as well.
Most guesthouses have a restaurant. Meals are usually 70-100 baht; cuisines are limited to Thai and European dishes. The standard of hygiene across all establishments is high, however if you are concerned look for places displaying the Clean Food, Good Taste sign. This appellation is bestowed by the government on restaurants that maintain a high standard of cleanliness and food preparation.
All restaurants have fresh fruit and fruit juices or shakes (fruit blended with ice). Convenience stores often sell bananas and other fresh fruit outside their establishments. Depending on the season, you will see in the trees and for sale a variety of fruit, including rambutan, longan, pomelo, mango, mangosteen, a few varieties of banana, papaya, and guava.
There is one main road in Khao Sok where all of the guesthouses and bars are located. They all serve similar cocktails and drinks at similar prices, so just pick the one that has the best atmosphere for you.
There is one main road in Khao Sok where all of the guesthouses are located. They all offer similar style accommodation (mainly bungalows). Price ranges between 200-2,500+ baht. Most have restaurants, bars, Internet, and a travel agency. Even in peak season it shouldn't be difficult to find accommodation.
Cheow Lan Lake
The Cheow Lan Lake (also written Chiew Lan or easily called Khao Sok Lake) is located within the Khao Sok National Park. It is only accessible from the Ratchaprabha Pier which is around 70km away from Khao Sok Town. It is an 165²m artificial lake, created 1982 by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.
Mini Vans operate from Khao Sok Town directly to Cheow Lan Lake, from other destinations you can take a local bus in to the direction of Phuket or Surathani and tell the bus driver to get out in Ban Ta Khun, from there it is only around 15km to the Ratchaprabha Pier.
There are more than 17 different floating raft houses which offer accommodation on the lake. This ranges from simple bamboo and thatch roof accomodation provided by the Thailand Department of National Parks, to luxurious floating wooden cottages. Reservations can be made through tour companies, but it is also possible to hire a long tail boat on arrival.Long tail boat rentals for day tours start from 2400 Baht, overnight stays around 3500 Baht, plus the accommodation cost of the individual raft house which are paid per person per day including meals. Depending on the quality of the bungalow you can pay anzwhere from 1000 baht to 9000 baht per person.
Available Raft houses
Lake Cheow Lan offers the beautiful scenery of limestone cliffs paired with the easy accessible ancient rain forest. The lake invites you to hike in the jungle, explore different caves ( Nam Talu Cave, Coral Cave, Diamond Cave)or enjoy the nature by floating on its edge during a Wild Life Safari. Canoeing can be a good way to explore parts of the lake on your own, don´t forget your fishing rod an the lake will provide your dinner too.
Ratchaprabha Dam and Pier:
Ratchaprabha Dam (meaning the light of the Kingdome)offers nice view points over the lake as well as over the surrounding hill sides. Small shops are available at the Pier and the Dam providing food, drinks and equipment for the lake trip.
Don't go off trail without a local guide or a ranger.
Do not explore the "Namtaloo" or "Through" Cave (a cave with a river running through) if it is raining or if you think it is going to rain. Rain is frequent and can come on fast. Unfortunately people have died as a result of this. If you are with an experienced guide he will not take you if he even suspects a chance of rain.
Walk to the main highway (opposite end is the park entrance). Mini buses on the corner head left to Surat Thani. Across the street and to the right, a giant "Bus Stop" sign serves as a stopping point for buses heading to Phuket. Tickets in advance are not needed. Buses typically come by every hour during the day, but are known to be unreliable.