Khao Sok National Park - Changing moods of Cheow Lan Lake

Khao Sok National Park – Changing moods of Cheow Lan Lake

Khao Sok National Park is probably the most underrated destination of Thailand.

I would give you a lot of markers of popularity below, to put up a question to yourself, 

'It must be crowded, right ?'

But, to our surprise, it's not !! 

I took a day trip there, and I was amazed by the majestic place !! 

So, I would love to take you on the journey along with me. 

  • The park is a remnant of a rainforest that is older and more diverse than the Amazon.
  • Khao Sok national park is the largest in South Thailand.
  • It has the best limestone karsts topology than what you see in phi phi or Krabi.
  • Phang Nga Bay is to the west of Khao Sok, like an extension to the park.
  • It is the Thailand's wettest region.
  • Khao Sok National Park has the most scenic lake called Cheow Lan Lake..
  • It is just a couple of hours from Phuket.

Wow! That's a lot to be a beehive for tourists! Isn't it? Let us know about the place now.

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Approaching Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park

I stopped at the Khao Sok National Park before moving to the next island of Thailand, after Ko Tao and Koh Samui.  

I love national parks as they are full of life, greenery, the ability to spot wildlife, birds. So, when I looked at the map and found a big patch of green, it found a place in my itinerary. 

Lomprayah ferry services helped me get from Koh Samui to Khao Sok, and they dropped me at Surat Thani. We took a bus to Phuket, and somewhere in the middle, we got shifted to a minivan, and we were on the way to Khao Sok. 

Unfortunately, I was in the wettest region of Thailand during the monsoon, and as we approached Khao Sok, I could see the clouds getting darker. Not just the clouds, the first sight of limestone cliffs bordering at a distance, forming a majestic line, could be seen. I was thrilled, for this was my first sight of limestone karsts. The place was lush green, that the greenery was spilling onto the roads. The rain started to lash down, and my mind was all on the day tour that I wanted to do tomorrow. 

Rain is a damper, no doubt !!

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A Rainy Day at Khao Sok National Park

If you start from Phuket, regular buses pass through Takua Pa and drop you at Khao Sok. Similarly, from Khao Sok, you get direct buses to Phuket.

Cheow Lan Lake Tour

Cheow Lan lake, also called the Ratchaprapha dam, is an artificial lake formed by the Rajjaprabha dam reservoir. 

Cheow Lan lake is the limelight of the Khao Sok national park, and I booked it for a whole day, the day we decided our itinerary when we came here. 

The tour has a boat tour through the lake, lunch at the floating restaurant, exploration of caves depending on the water level, and returning by the evening. Khao Sok national park and cheow lan lake are famous for their floating bungalows or raft houses in the lake. They look fantastic, by the way. 

I contemplated my decision a lot to choose one such as a stay, but then I had to skip it due to my budget. There was also an overnight tour which lets you stay in the raft houses overnight till the next day. However, with so much rain battering down, we decided not to do that because there will not be much to do on a rainy night.

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Boat tour through Cheow Lan Lake
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The raft houses at Cheow lan lake - Khao Sok

The following day, the sun opened up a little, and I had a hearty breakfast. The owner of my stay gave towels and a waterproof bag to put our stuff in, which we might need when we enter the caves. I looked slightly bewildered and asked her if we require it, and she said the shelter is going to be filled with water because it has rained. And based on the water levels, the tour guide would choose the cave that can be explored. 

The unadventurous and claustrophobic me cringed a little. Nevertheless, the minivan appeared, and we hopped on towards the cheow lan lake. The world seemed bright and little drying up until, just until we reached the pier.. 

Our tour guide was a chirpy old guy who was determined to speak only with funny faces and sign language. The moment we reached the pier to hop into the tail boat (ugh! I wouldn't say I like that boat), it started to pour.. Like lash out.. 

I put on my raincoat or poncho and gingerly got into the tail boat. And thus, we set out on a boat tour of cheow lan lake in the rain..

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First view of Cheow lan lake with cloud clearing up a little

I peeked through my poncho, and the first sight of the tall limestone cliffs came in. The kind of green vegetation is surprising, considering they seem to be just a rock. But, it is so beautiful. I took out my mobile and braved it through the poncho to take a pic in the rain. A part of the half an hour went by with me trying to look against the rain and admire the beauty. 

Rain was then kind enough to stop just for a short while. The boat was veering fast through the lake. I could finally see the karsts; so tall, just like some mystical land.. 

It was beautiful to see how watercolors kept changing from grey to blue to turquoise to green, depending on the sunlight. It was a sight I can never forget. I wish the boat guy drove a little slower so we could soak it all in.

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first view of majestic limestone karsts
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Limestone Karst with water so green in color
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Tail boat passing by a limestone cliff at cheow lan lake

The Karsts cleared up, and we reached a peaceful place of the lake, full of green shrubs and trees around. We stopped at a floating restaurant for lunch. Adjacent to it was basic raft houses, nothing fancy, but they were a pretty sight. These raft houses were such that they were not facing the Karsts, so I was glad I did not spend money staying here. 

Some cooled themselves with a dip in the water, and some decided to go kayaking in the lake. The fish was the main attraction of the lunch, and it was fresh and so delicious. 

After lunch, it was time to explore the caves.

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Cheow Lan Lake view from where we stopped for Lunch
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The yummy fish for lunch
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Tail boats resting at Cheow Lan Lake

Just when we were done with lunch, the rain started to pour again.

We could explore all the caves except one due to waterlogging as said by our tour guide. I get so sloppy when I walk on wet terrains, and I decided to stay due to the muddy terrain. I am claustrophobic, so I chickened out from exploring the cave. I decided to hang around in the restaurant, watching the rain and tail boats coming in and going out. 

But, here is the experience as heard from my friend Preetha and fellow tourists on tour. 

You need to cross a couple of streams with water up to knee level and walk on a sludgy path, fall multiple times, pick yourself up and enter the narrow opening of the cave through which the water is gushing out. With a head torch, you can walk up to a certain level and water up to your chest level, But after a point, you need to swim and move forward if you wish to explore. Come through the same way. By the time you cross the two streams, all the mud and sludge on you will be washed off. Carry a change of clothes because you will get completely wet and you will have to change. 

Opening of the cave at Khao Sok national park.

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Opening of the cave at Khao Sok national park. Picture courtesy my friend Preetha RK. She went into this and came out!!
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Tail boat approaching the restaurant for lunch - Cheow Lan Lake
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Karsts bordering at a distant - Khao Sok

By the evening, we started again on the lake to get back to the pier. The evening was gloomy compared to the day. The thick dark clouds were gathering in the distance. It started to drizzle, and when I looked around, it appeared to be like I am in a gothic landscape. The color of the water was no longer green or blue. It was grey. The Krasts seemed threatening as they looked down on us. The shadows of limestone cliffs at a distance looked like ghosts from the past rising out of the grave and dancing over their grave...

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Cheow Lan Lake with goth look
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Cheow Lan Lake sporting Goth Look - Khao Sok

The downpour was so hard that I could not even look up after that. For a moment, I turned back only to see that the boatman had his face covered with a raincoat as well and was randomly driving the boat like a blindfolded guy. This is called being so confident with doing a thing every day that you can close your eyes and do it! 

Soaked to the skin, I was happy to reach the pier in one piece. The night was damp and cold with no electricity. But it was warm to think about the vast lake that was no ordinary one and that magnificent landscape.

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Book your stay at Khao Sok and explore the park with Klook - Klook 2 night package

Things to do at Khao Sok National Park

Apart from the one-day tour through Cheow Lan Lake, there is much more to do. 

But all these are doable only on the days that are not rainy. 

So, visit Khao Sok sometime between December and May when it doesn't rain much. What else can you do?

  • The next day we wanted to rest and not get soaked anymore. So we opted to canoe down Sok river. A guide canoes and we follow the river. Small rapids here and there, brushing through limestone karsts, not many birds, but greenery along the way. It's a way to spend a lazy day at the park.
  • There are few trek trails in the park that you can explore the park's diversity.
  • The park has many mammals like elephants, tigers, and monkeys that can be spotted if you are lucky.
  • Go tubing down the Sok River. There are little rapids.. but the thrill of just following the river by itself is excellent.
  • Early morning set out looking for birds if you have an interest in birding.
  • Night safari through the park on days that are not raining.
  • We are exploring the caves of Khao Sok. There are three to four caves. Some get filled during the rainy season, and it is risky too.
  • Or check into a riverside or lakeside bungalow and put your feet up and sip some iced coffee.

If you are looking for a quiet beach nearby, there is also Khao Lak which is just 60 km away instead of much crowded Phuket.

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Canoeing down Sok River - Khao Sok National Park
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Canoeing down Sok River

How to reach Khao Sok National Park

Surat Thani is the nearest airport and railway station. From here, finding a minibus or air-conditioned bus should not be a problem. Similarly, from Phuket, you can find buses leaving the park.

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Pin it to your board - Cheow Lan Lake Tour at Khao sok National Park

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32 thoughts on “Khao Sok National Park – Changing moods of Cheow Lan Lake”

  1. I have never heard about this place. Only about the Kohs. Surely you had an amazing experience there. Somehow some of your pictures reminded me of Jurassic Park.

  2. It is the kind of place I like to visit, it looks so natural and completely different from the big city life! When I’m on a boat in the middle of a lake and with a great view I’m the happiest traveler πŸ™‚ – A.

  3. I haven’t thought about visiting Thailand in a while, but this post has me wanting to go! I love nature and this is a forest with so much diversity. I love the little floating cabins too:)

  4. What a hidden gem in Thailand! I’d love to visit Khao Sok National Park one day and see Cheow Lan lake in person. I can only imagine how breathtaking that first glimpse of the karst mountains was.. Hopefully you can check out the caves next time around!

  5. What a beautiful national park. That was quite an experience. My husband and I disagree on what makes a great picture. He says cloudy and I say sun light. I think he wins this time because the photos you have mostly seem to have clouds in them and they are amazing!

  6. Been to Thailand four times and travelled quite a bit of it but I’ve never made it here. It’s on the list for next time! Looks amazing and the chance for caving and tubing is something I’d love to do here. Glad you enjoyed it even with the rain and skipping on the cave! πŸ™‚

  7. I just can’t get over the colors and the limestone cliffs. We’ve been researching Thailand a lot lately and this is the first time Khao Sok came up. Really cool place.

    1. Hi Piyali.. I stayed at Silver Cliff resort in Khao sok. It is not a floating house. It was simple, jungle feel and amazing food. Many resorts are available around Khao sok that have floating houses. you can directly book with them..

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