I think I'm in love with Khao Sok National Park … I uttered, as so many other travelers have stated before me.
But in comparison to other travelers, I wasn't staring at the ocean of Koh Tao, or even gazing up at the Buddhist temple of Wat Arun. Even though these places are absolutely stunning, they're not my favorite area of Thailand.
My favorite part of Thailand is a national park called Khao Sok. The national park is covered by the world's oldest evergreen rainforest and is home to a unique range of fauna and flora.
Because of Khao Sok's geographical position, surrounded by two seas, the rainforest remains lush and abundant even during droughts and throughout all seasons.
I was about to venture into the rainforest now.
However I wasn't going to wander deep into the Thai jungle without knowing what I was doing, so discussed my options with a local friend and decided that a hiring a guide was the way forward. I was glad I did choose a local guide; the trail was complex, sometimes non-existent, and often waterlogged.
Soon the scenery was overwhelming. With dense tropical flora including Buttress Root Trees and Fig Trees, lush fruit growing overhead and a plethora of exotic animals, Khao Sok's rainforest was like nothing I've ever witnessed before. I saw jewel beetles, garishly colorful birds and even a snake "“ which the guide advised to stand back from and wait until it moved away. Very few of Thailand's snakes are actually venomous and my guide advised that the sighting was rare and I was lucky to see it in its natural habitat!
Cascading waterfalls and tropical pools cooled me down when I reached them, and provided a scenic spot for when I wanted to grab my camera and capture the moment.
The hike was 12 kilometers long. I've done much longer hikes, but this one was different in terms of its intensity and lack of a path. It felt like proper trekking, out in the wilderness, and I'm incredibly grateful to Khao Sok National Park for this experience.
I spent the following day chilling around Cheow Larn Lake and hired a canoe for the day. Cheow Larn Lake is possibly the most stunning lake I've ever seen. It's right in the center of the national park and its beauty spans as far as the eye can see. Boating on the lake feels like traveling on a huge sea; but with calm, glistening blue waters and tranquil houses on stilts surrounding the edge. Watching the banks float past while I lay and listened to the natural sounds surrounding me was the ideal way to spend my second day in the national park and recover from the intense trek the day before!
There was one more adventure waiting for me in Khao Sok. I was staying in the area overnight, so was permitted to visit the stalactite caves which are brimming with bats. Exploring these caves was an eerie experience, but was absolutely fascinating and a fantastic way to finish my time in the national park!
Although it's not one of the most visited areas of the magical country of Thailand, I would really recommend that every tourist to the country pay Khao Sok a visit. It's one of my favorite national parks in the world and has given me some experiences I will remember for the rest of my life.
Written by: Antoine Tardif
Antoine is a Canadian traveler on a mission to visit as many places in the world as possible and find the most interesting, overlooked and authentic experiences in each location. He currently lives in the Cayman Islands but spends a great deal of time travelling around all 6 continents.
Follow his adventures on: www.travelinglife.com
Photos by: Antoine Tardif