After a week lying on the sandy beaches of Koh Phangan, we are all beached out and ready for adventure. So we headed back to mainland Thailand and to the striking limestone cliffs and jungles of Khao Sok National Park. Arriving in the dark and rain, we briefly missed our warm, sandy bungalows but soon we grabbed some dinner and booked ourselves on to a two-day guided trip to Cheow Lan Lake, starting 8am the very next morning.
Cheow Lan is a man-made lake which is used to produce hydro-electricity. Damning the Klong Saeng river created the 165sqkm lake and more than 100 islands. The limestone cliffs jut out from the still water, dwarfing the long tail boats fishing for dinner or ferrying tourists.
After an hour or so gliding across the blue-green water we arrived at our accommodation. The bungalows were arranged on a long floating raft just off one of the islands. It was a really rugged and robust system of connected logs, planks and tree trunks complete with a large eating area for communal meals with our fellow travellers.
Best of all, right outside the huts was the deep, cool water which we wasted no time taking a dip in. Some well placed logs and ropes allowed for plenty of fun jumping and/or relaxing. After some lunch we hopped back onto the long tail boat and were whisked to a nearby island where we hiked through the jungle to Nam Ta Lu cave, a former communist hideout.
After hiking back we were ready for another dip to cool off and were then spoilt with a ton of freshly cooked food. Full of fish, chicken and curry and after dark had fallen we clambered back into the boat for a bit of nature spotting on the lake.
In the rainy season, you're less likely to catch the animals down by the lake as the water level is much higher. We did see a few Hornbills and an amazing Owl. Mostly just being out in the pitch black floating silently on the water was rather eery and very special. Back in our huts, we fell asleep to the sounds of the jungle orchestra and in the morning we substituted coffee for slipping straight into the warm water of the lake (we definitely had coffee straight after that though, and a breakfast of eggs - for Matt - and banana pancake - for Ruth).
After a paddle about in some kayaks and yet more swimming our guide took us on a short trek through the forest. I (Ruth) ran most of the way to avoid being eaten eaten alive by termites (Exaggerating? Me? Never!). A quick lunch and a last swim before heading back in a long tail boat - happy and exhausted.