After spending almost 6 weeks in Indonesia, we were ready. Ready for a change of scenery, a different cuisine and a new adventure.
From Medan, we caught the 5am flight to Bangkok, then the 9am flight to Surat Thani. After arriving in Surat Thani, we began our search for a ride to Khao Sok National Park. From prior research we knew we had 2 choices:
Option 1: Book a trip to your accommodation with one of the transport stands at Surat Thani. This should cost you about 400 THB. They will load you on a bus and send you into Surat Thani. From Surat Thani, you will change to another bus which will drive you to Khao Sok making multiple stops along the way.
Option 2: Hire a shared taxi to take you directly to your accommodation in Khao Sok.
Naturally we were drawn to option 2. However, finding this taxi proved to be harder than we thought. Everyone wanted to sell us the pricier and more time consuming option. That was until we came across 3 fellow travelers who were also on the hunt for the elusive nonstop shared taxi.
We collaborated and our new friends somehow haggled a deal with some random guy. The deal was for him to drive the 5 of us and our bags all they way to Khao Sok in his air conditioned Toyota Camry for only 350 Baht per person. Handshakes were initiated and before we knew it our journey had begun.
Now, do you remember our previous story in Bukit Lawang? It was about tourist towns colluding on prices and how it made us vomit a bit in our mouths. Well after that trip we decided we would not buy into the collusion again! We wouldn’t do it. Under any circumstance. We were seasoned, clever travelers who learn from experience. Right?
Well here we are, we’ve arrived in Khao Sok, now at our bungalow. We sit down in the main area, gather our thoughts and try to figure out what we will do in this town for the next few days. Until, here it comes, the magical binder filled with tours marked at exorbitant prices. Holy macaroni! Day trips into the national park starting at 1500 Baht (50USD) per person.
We make eye contact and have that unspoken conversation of ‘not again, this can’t be happening!’
This of course leads to a million google searches. We found that we absolutely can do the national park on our own.
Land option: Enter the land entrance to the national park and take any of the hiking routes.
Water option: Rent a motorbike and take an hour ride to the water entrance of the national park. From there, haggle a price for a longboat and pay the national park fee of 350 THB.
So naturally the water option on our own was the choice we were going to make. Until a couple things happened.
First, the snake oil salesman came by (bungalow manager). He asked us what we were going to do. We told him about our idea to go on our own. He told us boats could be haggled for maybe 2000 baht for 2 people. A motorbike would cost 300 baht for the day and with the entrance fee of the park (350 baht) we wouldn’t really save very much money. And by those numbers, he was correct. We would have averaged 1450 per person when we could just do a tour for 1500. Later, I will tell you why you should never buy from a snake oil salesman.
The second thing that happened. One of our new friends with whom we carpooled to Khao Sok sent us a message. He was going to do the tour and wanted us to join his group.
So here we go. We caved in. We said yes, we will support the town collusion and join his tour group.
The next day, we woke up early and went to our friends accommodation for a breakfast which was included in the tour price. Before we left, we received 2 towels and head lamps which smelt like a 15 year olds unwashed gym garments combined with feces. Then we headed out in a mini bus carrying a total of 11 people. We drove to the pier and soon realized the national park fee was not included in our initial payment. Damn it! We paid our fee and boarded the longboat.
The boat ride was beautiful! It reminded us of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. Beautiful karst mountains protruding out of the emerald lake. Just stunning. After an hour and a half ride we arrived at a small area which reminded me of a young boys summer camp. There was an area for us to swim or kayak. And a floating restaurant. Tourists being ushered in and out in large quantities. We had about 45 minutes to swim and cool off while we waited for a table to open up for us. The water was warm but a nice relief from the oppressive heat. Now onto the lunch. Let’s just say it was less than impressive.
Afterwards we boarded another long boat headed for a hike to a cave. Only at this moment did we find out we would be wading in and out of water. This would have been useful information prior to the tour as we both had water shoes back at the bungalow.
Well, here we were, we had arrived at the start of the hike only to have about 20 more people join our group of 11. Hiking with over 30 people is never fun. Single file, never feeling like you can take it all in. We entered the cave with the smell of rotting flesh emanating from our never washed head lamps. People in front, beside, behind. Too many damn people. You have to think as well, this hike would be an amazingly scary, exciting adventure for a group of 2-4 people. But now that thrill is lost. For the destination vacationers, what can I say, they loved it! For us, well… maybe we are pretentious backpackers. Tours just aren’t for us. We like the challenge, the thrill, the adventure of it all. Tours play it safe.
Now, at the beginning I told you to never buy from a snake oil salesman. Here’s why. When we returned to Khao Sok town we met our other 2 carpool friends. They decided to rent a motorbike, head to the pier and ask around for longboat prices. They were quoted 200-300 baht per person! They also said the boat guys were pretty eager to make a deal. Just to remind you, our bungalow man said we would pay 1000 baht per person. Oh man, to think of the money we could have saved.
Have we learned this time? Will we fall for another tour? God, lets hope not.
Besides the tour of Khao Sok we found this great little swimming hole next to the Arts Riverview Lodge. We met some cool dogs who also enjoyed swimming.
We also found a sweet outdoor bar called Jumanji. It had such a chill reggae vibe we couldn’t help but spend a couple happy hours there. Their margaritas tasted pretty damn good and their jungle special cocktail will definitely put some hair on your back.
On our last day we explored Khao Sok on motorbike and ended up at the beautiful Cliff and River Jungle Resort. We got the dry curry fried pork spare ribs and squid salad. Both were delicious. If you are looking for a meal with a view head here. You won’t be disappointed.
On our fourth day, we caught a mini bus down to Krabi to begin our island hopping adventure.
Check out our online store which carries all of our favorite items from our travels. Find trendy rattan, straw & bamboo bags, home decor, reusable kitchenware and cute boho kids items at RRATTAN.