Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kata to Chiang Mai Update

For the past few days we’ve been doing a whole lot of traveling. We moved on from Kata to Khao Sok National Park. We stayed at the Khao Sok Rainforest Resort for two nights. It was a really nice place and we were very lucky to find it. We took the bus from Phuket to Khao Sok with no real plan other than to turn up. The bus drops you off about 2km from the main grouping of accommodations that line the road to the park entrance. 2 km is pretty far to haul the luggage that I’m lugging around at the moment. I’m certainly not packed for traveling around Thai public transport.
So we got kicked off the bus on this dusty crossroad. Fortunately another foreign couple was kicked off along with us. They had a place booked, so when a fellow with a flatbed truck came up offering free lifts to the hotels we thought we’d just tag along with them. We chucked our suitcases in the back and jumped in with them.
We stayed in a little cabin with a river in front of us and the rainforest behind. It was a nice little get up. We ate at the hotel, and were very happy with what we got. Which for me was mainly pad thai. Love the stuff.
As for the Khao Sok rainforest itself, we hiked 2 of the 4 trails that were open. Most have been closed due to flooding and conservation efforts. We walked about 10km in total. We saw several lizards, a couple of snakes slithering away into the undergrowth, a BIG beetle Courtney named ‘Bert’ (Bert was fantastic), several butterflies, a tiny frog, LOADS of ridiculously large ants clinging annoyingly to the handrails and a family of monkeys crashing through the bamboo. There were also some leeches. The less said about them the better. I’m just glad we brought salted cashew nuts along with us on the hike. As Courtney said, she loves nature, she just doesn’t like it when nature loves her back.
After the Khao Sok Resort we decided to fandangle our way to Cheow Lan lake. It’s still within the Khao Sok National Park and most people take trips there through their hotels. We decided to not take the easy route. It was a bit of a struggle. Buses go close to the lake but stop 10-15 km from where the boats leave. So we managed to get a taxi. Of course our taxi driver had a friend who had a boat. We were told that his boat, for 2,200 baht, wouldn’t leave until 6pm, which would mean a 7+ hour wait for us. If we wanted to leave there an then it would be 3,000 baht. As the place was rammed full of boats, we decided to try and find out what other options were out there. We didn’t have much luck. So our taxi driver was leaving and we didn’t want to be stuck there so I said to call it quits and not miss our ride out of there. Our taxi driver dropped us off at the bus stop for buses to Surat Thani where we would take a train up to Chiang Mai. At the bus stop, Court, in her wonderful glory, decided that we’d come too far to give up now, so she got us a lift back to the boats and we found a boat and a place to stay for two nights with meals included for about 5,500 baht.
I am so glad Court decided we should give it another shot. We stayed in a little floating huts in the middle of the AMAZING lake. It’s really fantastic and I thoroughly recommend it to everyone. We kayaked, hiked to a cave with beautiful formations. We saw gibbons, great hornbills, rhesus macaques, pig-tailed macaques, dusky langurs, eagles and oodles of geckos. Waking up on a lake to the sound of gibbons hooting is not one I will soon forget.
After our time on the lake we hopped a minibus to Surat Thani from where we caught a 12 hour sleeper train to Bangkok. We pulled into Bangkok at 5:30am after not a great deal of sleep. The train was super comfortable but at every stop food hawkers boarded the train and loudly tried selling food. We then caught another 12 hour train at 8:30am to Chiang Mai. That was a bit of a rougher ride, but it was certainly interesting.
Currently we’re in Chiang Mai, enjoying the slower pace of life that goes on here in the north.

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