After leaving Krabi and all the luxuries it afforded us we headed to Khao Sok National Park, an awesome jungle, spanning across 738q miles. We thought Ko Phi Phi was paradise, but it was nothing compared to this place! After the usual ropey bus ride across Thailand to Khao Sok we arrived to be greeted by a man called Tawee, who owned a family run set of bungalows in the nearby jungle. 'Family run' really is the only way you can describe it - Tawee as head of the family collected and smooth talked customers, his wife cooked and cleaned and their children were waiters and waitresses. You couldn't help but be taken in by its quaintness and warm friendliness and after seeing the bungalows themselves we were sold. The bungalows, high on stilts, were surrounded by huge trees and mountains towering over them, which accompanied with the constant chatter of the birds and wildlife around us made us feel like a couple of Mowgli's! Cracking stuff.
Whilst eating our green and red curries that evening, we decided that we would go on a 2 day jungle trek in the heart of Khao Sok. Tawee, who gave us free lifts wherever we wanted to go, got us up at 8.30am the following morning to go and meet our jungle guide, who, quite brilliantly, went by the name of Beer. We were joined by a group of four Belgians for the trek who, like every other backpacker we have met, were laid back and easy to get along with. Even the journey to the jungle was interesting - firstly the usual open top van took us through windy roads around the steep mountains and awesome trees, driving around the odd elephant being guided along the road and then our long tail boat sailed us through the absolutely incredible Khao Sok lake, with Beer pointing out monkeys and exotic birds along the way. We tried and tried to take photos that did the sights justice but it couldn't really be done - we reckon you should just go and see for yourself, it's the only way! The boat eventually arrived at our accommodation for the night which, as the video we uploaded will testify, was absolutely bloody awesome. We couldn't believe it when we were approaching the rafthouses, the only time we had seen these before was on Google...to actually be there was unbelievable. This, we decided, was probably heaven on earth. We creaked along the walkways made of bamboo to our hut, taking in every drop of the clear turquoise water surrounding us. It took about 30 seconds before we were bombing into the water from our backdoor, good times.
After a platter of Thai fried rice and curry for lunch we hopped back into the boat for a first taste of jungle trekking. We trekked for about 3 hours, crossing steep, dusty terrains and small waterfalls always surrounded by the trees reaching into the sky with their vines and leaves doing their best to make us feel like George of the Jungle wading our way through the forest. Having seen a very long snake, several exotic birds, spiders and various other insects we waded back through the jungle and back door a little piece of paradise for the night. Here we ate a meal, which still at the time of writing, is the best food we have tasted in Asia. We were presented with an absolute feast - a platter consisting of two large grilled fish, both caught in the jungle's lake, sweet and sour chicken, black bean beef and vegetables and as much massuman curry and rice as we could eat. 1 hour later and we were well and truly stuffed. After a few random games and attempts to pick up a bottle using only your mouth whilst standing on one leg we went to sleep in the rafthouse, a truly brilliant 24 hours were over.
In true jungle style we were woken by the sounds of gibbons the following morning for an early 7am start to see the morning mist rising in the jungle's lake. After, we ate our breakfast and headed out for a second trek which we were told would involve caves and a visit to the jungle's 'viewpoint'. The cave trekking was brilliant, with the total disregard for health and safety making it all the more awesome! Having looked at the various bats and spiders living in the caves, we were "guided" out by Beer who took us through the deep waters in the caves in pitch black, with only a few torches we brought along helping us to see what we were climbing/jumping into! After much 'should I really by doing this?!' we made our way out of the caves and got our energy levels back up for the long climb up to the jungle's viewpoint. It was pretty tiring but totally worth it when we got up there, literally breathtaking views as the photos (which we are trying to put up but the Cambodian internet we are currently using is rubbish) will show you - it was just a shame the battery on the camera ran out as we were trying to take a few more! We climbed back down and clambered back to the boat for some much needed food back at the rafthouses.
The platter of food was again sublime and we did our best to polish off every plate before heading to our rafthouse to chill out before we went to bed. Sitting on the edge of our rafthouse with our legs dangling in the crazily warm water we took in just how awesome the surroundings were once again. A genuinely unforgettable place. After a final few hours chilling out with Tawee back at our bungalow the next day we prepared to get our bus and boat to Ko Phangan for the Full Moon Party for an altogether different experience! A blog on this and our time in Ko Tao afterwards will follow soon.... Bye for now, Mark & James