During our last trip to Thailand end December 2017, we made a stop at Khao Sok. Getting there wasn’t the most convenient, but we were very glad we included Khao Sok in our trip.
Khao Sok is a pretty secluded jungle reserve to the north of Krabi / Phuket, and south of Bangkok. It has this big national park, and the great Ratchaprapha dam (famous for floating villas on the Cheow Lan lake).
Getting in & out
We flew in Thailand arriving in Krabi from Kuala Lumpur, and stayed in Krabi for a few nights before heading to Khao Sok. We got our Krabi hotel receptionist to arrange for us the bus from our Krabi to Khao Sok.
We paid about 350 baht, which included hotel pick up in a mini van, before they transit us in this private operated bus terminal. From there, we were transferred to a bigger (tour) bus, of which we traveled for about 3 hours before arriving Khao Sok. The bus was decent, clean, well air conditioned, and quite comfortable.
There are other options getting to Khao Sok, e.g. from Phuket or Surat Thani (which has an international airport IATA: URT).
Tip: I understand internet guides like Wikitravel or Lonely planet don’t give much assurance on this transportation topic. Me too, was a bit uneasy when we were planning for this leg of our trip. But, don’t worry much. We learned to just deal with the hotel staff. Yes, they will likely charge some premium (<30%). But, the final price will still come up pretty reasonable.
On our last day, we left Khao Sok to Surat Thai international airport (catching our next flight to Bangkok). Again, we had the hotel advised us on the bus schedule leaving Khao Sok. Unfortunately, Arts Riverview Lodge staff cannot help us to book bus tickets in advance, due to a lot of no-shows at the bus station.
The minibus seats about 10 people only. Hence, you may want to go to the bus station and buy your tickets in advance. The minibus departs from Khao Sok every hour. The travel from Khao Sok to Surat Thani international airport is about 2 hours.
Where to stay
Accommodations in Khao Sok are limited. Make sure to pre-book all your lodging arrangements before you depart.
We did 3 nights stay in Khao Sok, and we checked ourselves in to a nice secluded treetop villa (tree house) at the Arts Riverview Lodge. We paid 1500 baht (45 USD) per night, which is cheaper than budget hotels in Kuala Lumpur Sentral!
Tip: We booked directly with the hotel (link above) and there were still rooms available, when Booking.com showed there was none. The treetop villas (tree houses) are quite high in demand, so you may want to book it as early as possible.
The hotel staff was super friendly, and gave their 100% to make sure our stay was perfect. The room was simple but practical. There is no air conditioned, but it is cooling. We really enjoyed our stay there.
Tip: Make sure you latch ALL your doors and windows at night. Monkeys will come by in the early morning (feeding time we were told), jumping from roof to roof, attempting to open the windows, in search for food. We were a bit shocked at first, but we got used to it. Yes, they came every morning! But again, it is part of the jungle experience. Just be more vigilant and you’ll be safe and unharmed like us.
Location wise, Arts Riverview Lodge is about 800 m from “town”. I call it “town” but in actuality, it is just 2 rows of shops. Your only option is to walk between the hotel and town. The hotel provides pick up and transfer to bus station to assist with your luggages.
What to do
Arts Riverview Lodge is situated next to the Sok river, which you can swim or canoe. From the restaurant, you get a nice panorama view of limestone cliffs and running river streams at the bottom. It is the perfect view for all morning breakfast, provided by the hotel.
We did the Night Safari tour, and it is one Night Safari that is totally different from the ones that I have done before. We had a private guide to ourselves, and were provided head lamps. The tour basically comprises of trekking in the national park after dark. I felt a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, trekking in the dark, just the three of us. But, after awhile, you’ll get a hang of it. We trekked for a good 3 hours, and sighted quite some animals, e.g. different species of spiders, some weird looking insects, frogs, wild porcupine, monkey and even a cobra!
We also did the Rafflesia hunting tour. This tour usually starts in the morning around 0900 hrs. We had another guide, and together with another couple, hiked a mountain, accompanied by monkeys, in search for Rafflesia (biggest flower in the world). Sightings are rare, because after blooming, it dies in about 2 to 3 days. So, there’s no guarantee you get to see one at full bloom, but you can find buds if not dying blooms.
My highlight of this trip is of course Cheow Lan lake. We took the full day tour. There are options to include a caving activity. But, we chose not to, so to allow for more time with the beautiful lake.
The tour includes transfer from Khao Sok to the Rajjaprabha pier, boat transfer to the floating villa, lunch and also kayaking.
Because we didn’t sign up for the caving activity, we took our time at the floating villa – swimming, kayaking, and even some catching up on my reading.
Tip: We didn’t stay overnight on the floating villa. I personally don’t think it is necessary, as there’s really not that much to do, and food option is limited. You may consider, but be warned, there’s no electricity after 1800 hrs.
What to eat
There are just a handful of restaurants in town. Interestingly, there are quite a few, if not most of them, sell pizzas which were just average. Don’t bother ordering. Instead, you should try the local Thai dishes, e.g. tom yum, curry, pad thai etc.
There is one particular restaurant worth mentioning, since we patronised it at least 3 times during our stay in Khao Sok! Bamboo Bistro serves the best Thai dishes in Khao Sok at very reasonable price. And the owner is super friendly. He was also the person who organised all of our day tours.