24 April 2015
SENSORY OVERLOAD AT KHAO SOK
24 April 2015
While our two day trip to Cheow Lan Lake was definitely the highlight of our stay in Khao Sok National Park, there was plenty more to love about the place during our five-night stay.
We’d booked into “Our Jungle House”, an eco-resort based in a dramatic setting within the jungle, and overlooked by a huge limestone cliff. Our room was one of their mid-range garden bungalows, although the resort is renowned for its pricier selection of tree-houses.
Its main advantage over the other resorts in Khlong Sok village is that you can get the real jungle experience by being immersed within it rather than on the edge of it. In truth, our bungalow was fairly open to the elements, with large gaps between the wooden slats in the walls on all sides. If anything smaller than a monkey wanted to get into our room it pretty much had free reign. And our open air bathroom was a particular challenge when faced with the prospect of a middle-of-the-night toilet trip.
But we needn’t have worried. Apart from the odd gecko and a sinister looking beetle that was hiding in our mosquito net when we arrived, our room was pretty much animal free.
Outside was a different story altogether. The calls of various insects ensured that there was a constant din during the day, which only increased in volume during the evening and into the night as the frogs and geckos joined in. And, in the distance, we could hear the cries of macaques and gibbons.
As it happens we were awoken very early into our first morning at around 7:00 am by a clattering noise coming from our bathroom. The noise then moved to the roof, until we heard loud cracks on the floor outside our window. We then both turned to look towards our front door and saw a pair of eyes looking straight back at us through the gaps in the wooden slats. A large longtail macaque had made its way down from the jungle canopy to search for food and had been eating nuts on our roof and throwing the shells onto our bathroom floor!
On another morning we arose to the sound and sight of a group of macaques high up in the canopy squabbling with each other and swinging amongst the trees.
And it was these types of encounters, and the feeling of being truly immersed within the jungle, that made “Our Jungle House” that little bit special.
What was not so special, though, was the behaviour of some of our human neighbours. Our bungalow was loosely adjoined to a treehouse by a kind of rope and wooden slatted bridge. And because of the open nature of the bungalows, we weren’t particularly soundproofed from each other. You can probably guess where I’m going with this but let’s just say that we would have preferred a family of macaques to have thrown a party next door rather than have to listen to The American Sex Machine and his hilarious gibbon impersonations at 1:30 in the morning.
My patience finally snapped when his equally loud girlfriend screamed that there was a beetle in her bed and TASM responded with a really helpful “What?! What?! What?!” Happily, my well thought out, but frantic response of “Will you just shut the **** up!” seemed to do the trick.
And so, after two sleep-deprived nights out of three, we decided to reluctantly cut our losses and move to the Palmview Resort, next door – which is run by a dear old lady who refers to herself in the third person as “Mama”. She actually looks like a Thai version of Granny from the Beverley Hillbillies….only she’s a lot more cheerful. And she clearly loves jasmine as we enjoyed regular wafts of it as we walked around the grounds.
The village itself is fairly low key with a smattering of guest houses, resorts, restaurants, and bars. At one end of the village is the entrance to the National Park, which leads to a couple of marked trails through the jungle. We spent a lovely morning walking our way along one the trails for about 3.5km, through what seemed like boulevards of thick bamboo stretching in all directions.
The sounds of the jungle would change the deeper we went, as various insects seemed to take it in turns to crank up the volume.
At the end of the section of trail, we were walking on we stopped at a visitor centre-cum-bar and were immediately befriended by a young gibbon, who it turned out was being hand-reared by one of the rangers following the fatal shooting of its mother. A little cutie to be sure.
Of course, a national park visit in Thailand wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory meeting with a family of macaques. And, although there weren’t exactly lots of animals on show we still managed to pick up some decent photographs of some of the wildlife we did see.
While on the subject of national parks in Thailand, it’s common practice for foreigners (or “farang” as we’re known) to be charged a 300 baht (£6) entrance fee to each one of them, whereas Thais will pay just 40 baht. It’s not something I would complain about necessarily. If tourists can be asked to pay their way to preserve the beauty of these parks then that’s fine by me.
It’s just funny how brazenly open the signs make it clear that we as foreigners are the ones that should be paying. Just imagine the uproar and indignation if such a sign was displayed in the west!
And, finally, on to a recurring theme in these posts – the constantly incredible food that’s being served up. And Khao Sok has a restaurant up there with any of the best we’ve been to so far.
Pawn’s is run by three local sisters who produced the most consistently flavoursome Thai meals imaginable. And with their liberal use of fresh herbs and spices, it was impossible to ignore the gorgeous smells that were literally begging you to walk in.
Now, after a bit of research, we’d discovered that if you want to enjoy Thai food with the proper amount of spice (as opposed to the scaled down version for western palettes) then you need to let your waiter know that you’d like it served phet-phet. So, on the first of our three visits there we had a phenomenal phet-phet Phad Kreung Gaeng (a dry spicy chicken curry), an incredible hot/sour/fragrant phet-phet Gaeng Som (a soupy prawn and green papaya curry), and a wonderfully fragrant Phad Makua Yao (stir-fried Thai aubergine with chilli, garlic and herbs). Seriously good food for 350 baht (£7) plus drinks. And straight into the top three meals of our Big Trip.
Make sure you pay them a visit if you’re in town. And don’t forget to ask for your food to be cooked phet-phet.
Combined with our two day trip to Cheow Lan Lake, Khao Sok National Park really has been a highlight of the past five weeks for us. Our senses have been overloaded with the sights, sounds, and smells of the jungle. We’re extremely sad to be leaving it behind but also pleased to have left it with such great memories intact.
Apart from those involving a loud-mouthed gibbon impersonator.
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Hi, we’re Ian and Nicky, an English couple on a voyage of discovery around the world, and this blog is designed to reflect what we see, think and do. Actually, we’d like to think it also provides information, entertainment and inspiration for other “mature” travellers, too. So please feel free to pour yourself a glass of something suitably chilled and take a look around.