Monday, January 13, 2014

Wasping from Singapore to Thailand - Part 4: Khao Sok National Park,Tree House, Lake House


Khao Sok National Park - one of my favorite place in the 3 weeks trip. My friend Andy and Sim Eng suggested this place and since it is on the way from Koh Samui to Phuket, we can pay a visit. Andy and Sim Eng spent around 2 and half months riding around Thailand Laos etc. They lent me their maps and shared a lot of information with me, a first time rider entering Thailand.

They showed me photos of the Tree houses they stayed in, the lake and lake houses they visited.

Do you recall when you were a kid, you built little dwellings out of cardboard boxes or mattresses, blankets? In Singapore, most of us do not have a benefit of planting our own trees in our backyard, let alone building a treehouse. If you have the chance to live on a tree house, wouldn't you want to live there?

Living high up on the tree is like reenacting this childhood junglegirl fantasy of mine, but I guess many of you ever thought along that line, right?!

Somewhere on Highway 401 enroute to Khao Sok National Park.
We turned into a small road and ended up in a small provision shop.  Not at the park yet.

Offroad is tempting Ah Weng.
We took highway 401 from Don Sak to Khao Sok National Park. Dark clouds began to draw near as we approach Khao Sok. We hollanded into a rangers station and a provision shop.

Our initial plan was to stay at Khao Sok Nature Resort but we mistook Tree Tops Jungle Safari for that.  (Both are located along the same tiny unpaved road. The former is further inside.) We were informed that the place was fully booked for a tour group, there will be rooms available the next day.

There are many lodging available nearer to the park entrance. We search high and low and rode through many muddy roads in the rain, to find all the tree house lodgings are booked. No choice, we settled for somewhere cheap for that night and will return to the tree house the next day.

Below is where we stayed - Khao Sok River Lodge, 1,500 baht a night for a room.





Night Exploration.
Beware: Crab Crossing


Look out for Pawn's Restaurant. I highly recommend it.

Yellow curry

Egg Mayo on Tomato cups
We made our way to Tree Tops Jungle Safari the next day and book a room for two nights. We were quoted 1,500 baht a night per room until I asked for discount in Thai. The receptionist may have thought I was a Thai and quoted 1,200 baht immediately but I was a bit slow in catching it. Great!

A lot of my friends recommended using Agoda to get good deals for lodging. Andy and Sim Eng advised me that we can always bargain especially during low peak seasons. We checked the price on Agoda, it stated 1,500 baht. We would not have gotten a cheaper deal if we did not bargain directly. However, if you need a peace of mind of having a nice place to stay, do your booking in advance.

When we first got into the rooms, there was a power outrage due to a fallen tree.

Electricity was out. No lights!

Our room.



A little balcony overlooking the foliage.





You can zipline from the second floor of the building and let go into the pool.

These two dogs are inseparable.

The animals really know how to make themselves comfortable here.

We not only have furry friends but also amphibians lurking around the lobby.

There are many activities to do at Khao Sok National Park. The resort or guesthouse will be glad to arrange day or days tours for trekking, kayaking. The first thing we did after settling in was to go tubing along the river.










Rambutan freshly harvested or knocked off from the trees.
It was my birthday and by chance, we had candlelight dinner because electricity was out.

Night time fashion when going out at night - long sleeves and pants, and a light over the head.

On the first night, I woke up to go to the loo and ended up kicking a helmet on the floor next to my bed. The following morning, Ah Weng and Sharon told me they heard lots of noises like banging from next door. Thinking it could be some intruders, Ah Weng placed things on the floor to trip intruders' attempts to come in.

I was too soundly asleep to realise anything. There was a couple staying next to us and we thought it could be them having a 'rough' night. All the guests sat together for breakfast and we overheard our neighbours complaining about some noise as well. If it is not them, then who?

Spending some time watching cartoon with Chek Mee, an adorable Burmese boy.

I simply spent the second day there chilling, listening to Gibbons and insects sing in the morning, enjoying the fresh jungle air and also sorting out my photos and videos, watching cartoons with a Burmese boy called Chek Mee. Our common languages were our eye contacts and our child-like demeanor - the language that I used to interact with my Tamil playmate before we both learnt to speak English.

I made some conversation with the receptionist. We talked about the weather because it had been raining every day since we arrived in Khao Sok. He told me that the rainy season last for 8 months here, from February to September, of which August clocked the highest amount of rainfall.

We asked the receptionist if they can arranged a lake tour and lake house stay. The cost involved the food accommodation, van ride to Cheow Lan Lake, boat ride to lake house and lake tours. The more people there are, the cheaper it get because you will get the share the cost of the rides. Fortunately there were also other travellers making their trip there so the cost was shared. The total cost for 3 of us adds up to slightly more than 6,000 bahts. We bargained to round it down to 6,000 bahts exact, that makes it 2,000 bahts per pax.

During the van ride to Ratchaprapha dam, Ah Weng shared his encounter at the shop. In my earlier post, I mentioned how the locals get things cheaper at touristy places. Ah Weng can easily pass off as a Thai if he does not speak a word. At the shop, he bought 3 packs of cigarettes, a pair of gloves and an ice cream. One pack of cigarettes cost 70 baht, so that itself should have costed 210 baht. So he began to act mute at the cashier asking for the price using hand gesture. Guess how much was he charged? 190 baht!



Overview of Ratchaprapha Dam

Yam and coconut ice cream with nuts topping.















Land Lizard.

The trees that once stood proud and lush, now drowned and forlorn - an epitome of life's impermanence. 

A peek of the Pig-tail Macaque. These are the primates used in agricultural coconut harvesting.

The lake house we stayed in.



Simple abode.

No electricity, no connections, entertainment is back to basic. A game of  draught with cardboard and colored seashells.

Johnny the resident cat.

Another lake resort.










View of the lake from the Fisherman's Village.

Tarzan jungle play if you want.

The naked trees that used to be foliaging before the construction of Ratchaprapha dam drowned them.
The evening at the lake house, Ah Weng had a conversation with our guide M about the monks in Thailand. M was very moved when Ah Weng talked about some of the monks he met. When asked about the amulets he wore, he said he weaved them himself. Next he dragged out a suitcase with rolls of coloured threads, coins and and finished coin pendants.


\
King Rama IX
Who would have expected coins to be transformed to these pendants with meticulous weaving and braiding? Brilliant works!

M showed Ah Weng a cylindrical amulet with a script written by a monk encased inside. It was given to him by a monk and he decided to give it to Ah Weng. From what I learnt from Ah Weng, amulets are not to be kept for long. Giving away amulets is an act of merit.

He also gave Ah Weng a wood carving in the shape of a penis. These amulets in the shape of penis is called Palad Khik in Thailand, commonly worn by men for attracting women, increasing luck and protection. His is made from a scented wood so I was watching the guys bringing the wooden penis to their noses and sniffing away. Weird.

As M weaved and braided those bracelets and necklaces, the guests sat around him and chatted all night. He shared his life story and about his family. M studied law and his families are in politics. Two years ago, his mother and stepfather were shot and killed while they were in the car. It was believed to be politically motivated. He always thought to himself, it could be him. His mind was fraught with questions until his mother appeared in his dream. Then, he began seeking solace in Buddha's teachings

The one of the Dutch guests asked if I am a Buddhist. I would not say I am one but I feel a strong connections with Buddhism. When I first started reading about Buddhism, I realised that I was already practising some of the ethics. For example, one of the the Five Precepts is "Not killing or causing harm to other living beings."Being a vegetarian is one of the decision I made many years ago. And then, "Avoiding false speech". Ok I cannot lie for nuts when others can see me through if I try to bluff them. There was once in my life I lied and I then apologised.

The teaching are simple to understand, sometimes it is simply common sense. (Go read about cause and effect law.) Perhaps, complexity or rather incomplexity of modern life have somewhat derailed us or masked us from this awareness and knowledge.

The other guest began to turn in. It was just 3 of us chatting, M, a Burmese boy and I. I asked M to teach me how to weave and he was glad to teach. Next he took out his belt and ask me to wear it, tying a thread from the buckle to a wooden chair. After selecting threads of my favorite colors, M demonstrated a few times and I tried on my own.

M taught me how to weave those knots, and I gave it a shot.
M monitored my progress, looking impressed.

"You learn fast. I think Asians learn this very fast. When I teach Caucasian, they learn slower."

Not sure if this is really true, but I admit I have a knack for making handicraft.

M asked me to pick a coin, he wants to make a pendant for me. I browse through the box and told him I like the Che Guevara one.

Che Guavara's portrait on a Cuban coin.
He is a popular icon, appearing in T-shirt, bags, badges, you name it, a symbol of rebellion to most youth. M was initially reluctantly to give it to me because it is very special (or maybe he thinks I am just after a popular icon too).

"I think he is like a Buddha." M said.

I reflected on what I read about him and Buddha and what I watched in "The Motorcycle Diaries." I shared with M why they are alike.

Gautama Buddha was from a royal family, next in line to the throne. Che Guevara was from a middle class family, finishing his medical school, on his way to becoming a doctor.

Both left their homes to explore. During their exploration, they witnessed suffering and struggles which invoke a palpable sense of responsibility to do something. Buddha went on to live an ascetic life then, meditated until he reached the awakening. Then, he travelled and spreaded his teachings. Che Guevara later joined in revolutionary armed fight against imperialism across Latin America. After liberating Cuba, he went on to a few more countries to garner and train guerrilla fighter for revolution. His life was cut short when he was captured and killed in Bolivia.  

"Many people do not know what they did was actually to help them." M added. He decided to give me that coin on the account that I do not give it to anybody else.

In the serene night on the lake, M and I chatted until 2am, and at some point, he translated some of the conversation to the Burmese boy. At one point, a distant sound of barking interrupted the conversation.

"Dog?" I asked.

"No, there are no dogs around here. That is the barking deer." M said. 

Just before I head back to my room, M reminded me of the 'Morning Safari Boat Tour' at 7am.

"But I didn't pay for that."

"Never mind. Just join in."

As I walked back to my room, M was still weaving the pendants for the other guests.


When I woke up the next morning, he was still weaving. I was not sure if he even caught a wink of sleep.

M was supposed to bring us for the Safari Tour but told another staff to do it so he could complete the pendants. The other two Dutch guest and I went on to watch Gibbons swinging from branches to branches and singing in their morning play.

Calm waters, absolute serenity in the morning.

A scenic sight that no photographs can justify.

Cloud weaving between the mountains….



A Dutch guest selected the Singapore 50 cent coin for his daughter.

During the one hour boat ride back to the dam, M was still trying to complete my pendant.

He completed the pendant before we bid farewell. 

Beautiful

The staff who made our stay at the Lake House memorable.




Back at the Tree house, I gave the staff a few instant photos as a form of my appreciation. They had been very hospitable constantly checking on their guests to ensure our stay was comfortable.

Not forgetting Chek Mee who watched cartoons with me.
Advice for visit to Khao Sok National Park
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites, mosquito repellents, long pants and sleeves. Risk of malaria is minimal but still take precaution (I was deferred for blood donation because I visited Khao Sok.)
  • Bring a good torch light, especially if you are visiting the lake house, electricity is available only for a limited period of time at night, if you need to find your way to the toilet at night, you don't want to end up swimming in the lake. 

Tree Tops Jungle Safari
123 Moo. 6, Klong Sok, Phanom, Surat Thani 84250, Thailand.

Tel: +66(0) 86 479 3852
Fax: +66(0) 86 479 3856
Mobile: +66 (0) 86 476 7583
Email: info@treetops.co.th
Website: http://treetops.co.th

The below Google Map location is an estimated location. That was the road we took to Tree Tops Jungle Safari, you can't miss it.


View Larger Map

Part 1: Ipoh, Hatyai, Don Sak
Part 2: Beyond the Full Moon Parties, Koh Phangan
Part 5: Phuket & Soi Dog Foundation
Part 6: Top Rope Climbing in Krabi, Satun
Part 7: Wang Kelian, Penang, Malacca

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