Peach: The islands were beautiful and chilled out and it would have been easy to stay for another week or so, but it was probably time to move on. From Koh Phangan we made the journey to Khao Sok, to go see the National Park. After our ferry to the mainland we took a minibus to a little village at the west of Khao Sok (Khlong Sok) which is where we met a backpacker called Ben from the north of UK.
We stayed in Coco Hostel in a dorm room but there was a room divider with glass doors that didn’t quite shut so it was almost like staying in a twin room but with about the same level of soundproofing as a tent. Our first evening, while we were trying to decide what to do the next day a bunch of guys (soaking wet and cuddling towels) jumped off the back of a pickup truck and started telling us how much fun tubing is. Tubing is basically where you sit in a giant inflatable ring and float down a river. It didn’t take much to convince us and we decided to forego the hike that we were looking at and go tubing the next morning instead.
Northern Ben and his dorm mate, French Sophie, joined us for tubing and there was also a last minute joiner-upper called Pete. We piled into the pickup truck which took us to the start of our tubing adventure where we stripped down to our swimwear and made sure we didn’t have anything of any value whatsoever on us, as we had been warned that we would probably lose it. Pete kept his glasses on so he could see while tubing but was warned about twenty times to be careful and not lose them. The art of tubing really lies in getting sat comfortably in the tube, after jumping in it without tipping yourself over or racing down the river at an uncontrollable speed. Jethro did an enthusiastic running jump onto the tube and tipped himself upside down instantly while I gracefully ‘bounced’ myself in the tube nice and gently. Ben was a bit wild and powered off for a moment before bringing his tube under control and Sophie seemed to manage ok too. Pete tried to copy Jethro and did an enthusiastic dive into the tube, knocking his glasses off, and into the depths of the river, in the process. Careless Pete (as he shall now be known) stayed behind to look for his big round glasses in the river with our guide while the rest of us, further downstream, grabbed onto low hanging tree branches to hold ourselves still while we waited for him and our guide. It wasn’t long before our guide joined us – but Careless Pete remained at the starting point hopelessly looking for his specs in the river.
Jethro: Our guide guy was oblivious to our terror whilst he regaled us with stories about how the forests’ King Cobras always dangle from above and strike to the head. We met a little monkey who obviously wanted to jump into the tubes with us and he almost did it too. Apparently on hot days they like to swing from the trees and dive into the water.
Peach: A while later, after floating down the river, through a few rapids and seeing a monkey and a highly poisonous snake wrapped around a tree branch (apparently they don’t go in the water but I lifted my feet out of the water for the remainder of the journey) we were guided towards a muddy/sandy bank where we ‘landed’ and scrambled up towards the pickup truck which had driven down to meet. The guide was concerned about Careless Pete, it appeared he had also lost his brain with his glasses and had decided to go tubing down the river on his own with no idea of where to get off.
Jethro: In the afternoon we led an expedition to the lake. Sat-nav and music blaring, the 4 of us made the 1hr drive to ratjmatachachachihichich[sic] dam [Peach: also known as Ratchaprapa Dam]. Ben had an accident last time he scootered, so started very slow, but ended up speeding up and leading the way (despite not knowing the way – we had a system where we’d honk the horn and flair our arms at any turnings). We dragged the pace down, as we were 2 to a bike and super safety conscious (don’t worry mum!), and Sophie seemed happy to trundle along behind us.
When we got to the lake it was worth the drive, you come up the nice national park road and all of a sudden you’re on top of a dam overlooking the water. Communist “hail glorious leader” type music was blaring from a (very pretty) park headquarters with viewpoint above us.
We didn’t follow the lake all the way around as even if there was a road it would have taken a good 6+ hours. The lake goes deep into the dense impenetrable jungle of the national park, as far west as our hostel (and that, the clever readers will remember, was an hour away on good roads). Its cool that the park forestland here is natural, but it does mean you could only see it properly on a multi-day trek with a guide.
We took the (now worried) team off road and around through some local huts to find a gorgeous little bank, away from everything. It was too hot for Northern Ben, so he went back to the bikes early instead of swimming etc… and we all headed off soon after. Got some food and while me and peach were planning a sunset spot to sit, drink and watch, the others decided to go home. Not everyone can handle the awesomeness of a Peach & Jethro bumble aboot!
We ate Banh Bao (favourites of mine: dumpling bready things stuffed with anything – you normally have to lucky dip) and went exploring a nearby village and forested area outside the park. This was proper “Look: white people.. quick! Shout hello and wave at them!” territory. While scooting around tracks amongst a rubber sap tapping forest a family were very confused why we were there and tried to help us back to the lake. We got back to the lake just in time for sunset, and on the way back to the hostel saw the forest filled with hundreds and hundreds of fireflies. Turns out fireflies are hard to photograph! So you’ll have to take our word for it that it was beautiful and enchanting.
There wasn’t much else noteworthy to do here, although I could have explored the lake again. We heard/saw that recent big storms had cleared out the monsoon season wetness from the west coast, and so the next stops were ones we had thought we wouldn’t be able to do, Thailand’s Andaman coast!