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: There are 3 good trails from Khao Sok village. Locals often fool tourists telling them that "On your own you can only walk for 3 Km inside the park. Is not visitable without a tour." Do not believe. All this trails are easily accessible for everyone.
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 Phang Nga: Several public buses from Phang Nga to Takua Pa 60 bath. Air con public bus from Takua Pa to Khao Sok National Park 70 bath. (Free hotel pick up can be arranged) Private minivans straight from Phang Nga to Khao Sok can be arranged as well in the morning.
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.
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: Ranger checkpoint, on the track onwards there is a sign telling you that you can not go further without a guide or face a 1000 THB fine if you do so. If you still want to go further without a guide, you have to go around the ranger station through the woods to cross the small river and find the path close to the Sok river since there are smartass tourists calling the the ranger at the ranger station if you processed there. Once you on the path nobody seems to care that you are by yourself (as in August 2015). Just follow the signs to the waterfalls.
Wang Yao pool - 3 km - Accessible only with guide
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.
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.
All Tour operators are offering more or less the same tour to the lake. For the 2 days/1 night they only differ on the accommondation and group size. These tours cost between 2300 and 3000THB including the park entrance fee of 300THB (which you only have to pay for one day even though you stay two). AC is not really neccessary as it cools down at night. Some tour operators use guides without a license and many do not have a proper insurance. So if you are concerned look for the sign of Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) and ask about insurance. Lek Khao Sok Tours for example seems to cover both and tours are recommendable.
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.
Floating raft houses
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.
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.