Thailand Fling - 13... A Birthday to Remember!
Khao Sok National Park, Thailand – February 2023
Arriving in the Khao Sok National Park – allegedly the “oldest rainforest area in the world” – I thought it would be a cinch to arrange a special day for “nature lover” Ian to enjoy on his birthday. Clambering for several hours in 90% humidity, uphill through dense jungle to view some rare flowers, apparently wasn’t it!
The Rafflesia (named after Sir Stamford Raffles when he discovered the species in Indonesia) is often called the corpse flower, as in full bloom it gives off the scent rotting meat – as did we after our sweaty hike! It is the largest individual flower in the world however, is pollinated by flies and beetles attracted to the scent, only grows in SE Asian rainforests and then only between December and February – so we couldn’t miss it, really, could we?? Our efforts were rewarded by the sight of several of the strange alien like flowers in different stages of growth, and they were (Ian begs to differ) quite impressive!
Our comfy poolside cabin proved a welcome retreat from the jungle and our tranquil base near the centre of the park was a change from the bustle of Khao Lak. We even found a nice little bar showing the football – a draw against Chelsea – a win being rarer than the sightings of clouded leopards and wild elephants that we’d been hoping for!
Most of the organised tours included a day at the stunning Chiaw Lan Lake, an hour away from the park’s HQ. We decided to take the leisurely overnight option as the idea of staying in a floating lake house sounded quite appealing. In reality, we were distracted slightly from the very uncomfortable, and again, very crowded, boat journey to our cabin by the spectacular scenery. Formed in 1982 by the creation of a huge dam, huge limestone outcrops along with tree skeletons protruded from the water all surrounded by ancient rainforest. The accommodation was rather basic, but the en-suite lake made up for it and I took a refreshing dip before dinner.
The evening (and very early morning) boat safaris offered scant sightings of wildlife (a few shapes at the top of trees which were purported to be gibbons, and a couple of bored water buffalo) but I enjoyed soaking in the scenery in the differing lights. Ian was still suffering from our jungle trek, so opted out of the cave trip on the following day.
I must admit to feeling some trepidation, when it was explained that the Nam Thalu cave we would be visiting could be quite treacherous, especially in changeable weather. Like the cave that the young Thai football team were trapped in a few years ago, these karstic caves can become easily flooded after a heavy rainfall in the wet season, and had had a few fatalities in recent years. Although technically the “dry season”, we were advised that water levels in the cave could fluctuate and that we could expect to swim part of the way through.
Added to the fact that the caves were home to thousands of bats, several species of spiders and occasionally King Cobras, I wondered what I had let myself in for, and felt glad that Ian had declined to go. Managing to keep up with the mainly young group of intrepid explorers, I felt quite proud that I succeded in completing the trek in one soggy piece – and actually quite enjoyed the thrill – the stalagmites and tites were colossal! I know – I am quite mad…
We had one night to recover back on dry land before setting off for our next destination on the East Coast.
Next stop: Tourist Central and a nice reunion.