Escaping the Hustle & Bustle of Patong Beach

Map of Thailand - Khao Sok National ParkIt was three years ago to the day that I headed off on my third overseas adventure; this time to Thailand. Still quite new to the concept of a whole other world out there waiting to be explored, I struggled to label myself a tourist or a traveler. Apart from Australia, this would only be the third country I’d mark with my footprints. I was 22 at the time and still into crazy parties and boozy nights out so it only seemed fitting to hit up Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a wild time. In between the shopping, sun, beaches, boys and booze though, there is only so much ‘Bangla Boxing Stadium, tonight, tonight!’, ‘Ping pong show?’ and ‘Tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk tuk…’ one person can handle. I’m sure these are all familiar phrases for any one who has ever walked down Thaweewong Road (Beach Road) in Phuket. Come to think of it, we heard the ‘Bangla Boxing Stadium, tonight, tonight’ van go down the street so often, we started chanting it ourselves every time we’d see them and they’d wave and cheer at us, one even jumped down to give us all hugs – How’s that for hypnotic marketing!

After a few too many days of tourist-infested streets, I was feeling the urge to escape it all and find a less tourist-spoiled area where I could obtain a little peace and start to shake off the label of tourist and connect with my inner traveler. We decided to head up north on a day trip to Khao Sok National Park in the Surat Thani province of Thailand

Khao Sok is part of the largest and oldest area of evergreen rainforest in Southern Thailand and the world. The park extends into parts of the Khlong Yee and Khlong Pra Sang forests as well as portions of the Krai Son and the Khao Pung sub-districts. The Sok River Valley cuts through the jungle and spectacular views of limestone mountains and cliffs can be viewed shooting straight up into the misty sky. This very river was once part of an ancient trade route that linked China and India. This was later put to a stop as the Sok River began to run brown with sediment runoff as a result of the soil erosion.

Khao Sok National Park Welcome Sign

Our day began with what we thought would be a peaceful canoe ride down Sok River. We had a local guide paddle our canoe along the river banks, stopping every now and again to admire the exotic tropical vegetation and limestone cliffs that seemed to frame us in, no matter which way we looked. It was almost as though we were prisoners trapped within the mountains of Khao Sok; hell, if this was a prison, then give me a lifetime sentence! A calm, relaxed feeling engulfed my body – this was a feeling I hadn’t experienced yet amongst all the crazed hustle and bustle back at Patong Beach. This right here was nature at its finest…

Well, at least until our guide decided it would be hilarious to place our canoe under a hanging tree branch that contained a HUGE green and yellow snake. I guess this was his idea of fun. I couldn’t help but wonder how many other helpless girls he had pulled this stunt on. To further add to his entertainment, he grabbed the paddle and started smacking away at the tree branch!?! I panicked. I screamed; much higher pitched than normal – possibly at an even higher decibel than Justin Bieber going through puberty. This dude was insane – I had no option but to put my hands into the river and start paddling as fast as I could with them. This idea was a major fail.

Canoeing down Sok River - Khao Sok, Thailand

Our guide may have been crazy, but he was an expert when it came time to spotting wildlife amongst the thick scrub and trees. We saw many different species of frogs, snakes and even monkeys. I was amazed to learn that Khao Sok National Park is home to:

  • 48 species of mammals
  • 311 species of birds
  • 38 species of bats
  • An unknown number of reptiles
  • And so many species of insects that it would be impossible to even try and count

Animal encounters at Khao Sok National Park

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Siam Safari Elephant Camp. There was an English-speaking educator there that gave us quite a bit of information about elephants and the conservation projects they have in place at the elephant camp. Through out my short-lived life, I’d hand fed kangaroos, been groped by a frisky koala, held a baby alligator and bottle fed a tiger cub, but I had never in my life jumped on an elephants back and gone for a ride – nor had I ever imagined I would!

Our little elephant guide spoke extremely limited English, but he was so tiny and cute. Despite the language barrier, he communicated with us by pointing, making noises and using the few English words he knew to educate us while we rode our elephant through the jungle. Sitting on the elephant was such an odd feeling. My friend was on the left and I was on the right and with each step the elephant took, my friend would be down, and I’d be up, then with the next step, she’d be up and I’d be down… oddly amusing.

Although so large in size, I was surprised with how silently our elephant trekked through the jungle. If a branch or a small tree stood in its path, it would simply knock it over and create its own path which I had quite the giggle at.  This experience was incredible and I’d definitely do it again given the opportunity.

Elephant trekking - Khao Sok National Park, Thailand

If you are in the Phuket area and wanting to escape the craziness of it all for the day, I can’t recommend a day trip to Khao Sok National Park enough. Seriously, go – you wont regret it!

Have you ever been to Khao Sok?