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Khao Sok Jungle vs Floating advice needed

  • mikefly

    Joined Travelfish
    19th May, 2013
    Posts: 19

    Hi,

    I need some help with advice at Khao Sok.

    Reading the reviews on trip advisor etc, it is difficult to tell which hotels/b&bs etc. are inside the park, and which are nearby.

    I assume you eat, tour etc. with whichever place it is you stay at - is this correct?

    When comparing the 'floating' rooms with the jungle rooms - which makes for a more remarkable experience? Both look nice.
    We are travelling with our baby, so convenience and comfort must play a role. Note that we have been camping with the baby and had no issues with tenting, so some degree of roughing it is okay. We will have our own portacrib, and are staying for 2 nights in November - in between visits to Krabi and Khao Lak.

    I don't mind specific recommendations, but ultimately, I am more interested in opinions on floating vs. jungle and where I can get a good overview of which hotels to choose from.

    Thanks for any advice,

    Mike

    #1 Posted: 28/9/2013 - 18:22

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  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 540
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    Do the lake tour. The lake is absolutely beautiful, sleeping on a rafthouse is likely a lot more comfortable then the camping that some operators offer.

    I went with smiley bungalows and they did a pretty good job. Do your research before you pick a place to stay, some of the companies use poorer quality rafthouses with shared bathrooms. Smiley has their own rafthouses each of which has its own bathroom, you will probably be asked to stay with someone if travelling solo though(with some persuasion might be able to get your own if they aren't full if that is an issue). Their rafthouses are in a nice little area and they had good food and guides. There might be some others as good or better then Smiley but they are the only ones I had experience with, their brick houses at the park are really nice and reasonably priced as well.

    #2 Posted: 28/9/2013 - 19:19

  • DLuek

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    19th June, 2008
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 871
    Total reviews: 14

    First, check out these pages if you haven't yet:

    http://www.travelfish.org/location/thailand/southern_thailand/surat_thani/khao_sok_national_park


    http://www.travelfish.org/blogs/thailand/2012/05/17/how-to-do-khao-sok-national-park-independently/


    it is difficult to tell which hotels/b&bs etc. are inside the park, and which are nearby.

    Khao Sok is huge, but most accommodation / tour offices / traveler oriented restaurants are found near the visitor center at the far western side of the park. There are some basic national park bungalows near the visitor center, though most choose to stay in one of the guesthouses, some of which are listed in the Travelfish guide (first link). These are not actually inside the park -- they're along the roads leading to it, within walking distance of the front gates (a couple are actually across the parking lot from the visitor center). Most of the trails start near the visitor center at this western end. You can hike on your own or arrange guided treks.

    Then, there's Chiew Lan Lake. It stretches almost the whole 50 km length of the park and has many inlets, but the piers are located on the opposite side of the park from where the visitor center is. It's a long way (50 km), and it feels like a completely different destination. There's very little tourist infrastructure on the east side (other than the piers); no guesthouses other than floating ones. This is why most people arrange a lake cruise and rafthouse stay through a tour company based at or near the guesthouses on the western end. It's not necessary (see 2nd link) to go through tour companies, though it would be impossible to do it independently without renting your own wheels.

    Some companies offer private rafthouses, such as Smiley as mentioned by Geer1. But most who stay in rafthouses stay in the park provided ones. They're available in a few locations - see first link for more details. These can be booked through the dnp.go.th website, but most people have tour companies arrange them.

    I assume you eat, tour etc. with whichever place it is you stay at - is this correct?


    You can tour with the place you stay, but you don't have to. Some small guesthouses don't offer tour services (well, they offer them but they'll stick with you with a totally separate company and earn a commission). Others offer their own tours. There are also tour companies that don't run any accommodation. It's easy once you get there -- just choose a place to stay and then walk around the 2 km road that leads from the main road to the visitor center, shopping around for tours / rafthouse options as you wander.

    which makes for a more remarkable experience?

    Rafthouse. But the national park provided ones are very basic.

    As Geer1 said, don't miss a boat ride on the lake, even if you don't stay in a rafthouse. It was one of my favorite experiences in 2.5 years in Thailand.

    #3 Posted: 29/9/2013 - 08:29

  • mikefly

    Joined Travelfish
    19th May, 2013
    Posts: 19

    Hi,
    Thanks for the replies.
    Here's my takeaway - most of the raft houses are government run.
    From the description here it seems like these would not be suitable for us given that we have a 10 month old.

    Smileys has raft houses as part of a 1-2 day tour. These look/seem like they are a little more comfortable than the gov't version.
    However, the tours that include a raft house stay sound like they'll be too intense for the baby (who needs a morning and afternoon nap) --Is there a way to take a lake tour, whereby one of us (me) could continue on the tour for the day, and leave the ladies somewhere beautiful and quiet to relax in the afternoon? Sleeping on the lake just seems like it will be magnificent.

    As an aside, it's not clear to me if these areas are close together, or on opposite ends of the park - or perhaps not even close by.
    It's all a little confusing... Ban Ta Khan, Surat Thani, Khao Sok National Park, Phanom.

    MT

    #4 Posted: 30/9/2013 - 22:25

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 540
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    I am pretty sure your wife and baby could stay back at the rafthouses while you go on the trek if that is what you would like to do. The trek itself isn't that bad at all, maybe 20-30 minutes walk through the jungle till you get to the cave and I believe you can opt to not go into the cave and just wait for the others.

    The lake is very beautiful and the trekking honestly is only a small part of the tour. No need to worry about where you are going etc, they pick you up at their bungalows in front of the park(I would recommend staying with them overnight as that is easiest) and they will bring you back to the bungalows after the tour. They will also pick you up at bus stop and drop you off there as well as it is a bit of a ways to walk.

    One thing I just noticed is that you say you are only staying 2 nights, if you plan on staying in the rafthouses you might need 3 nights depending on where you are going next(night before tour, night on tour and then night before catching bus in the morning). I don't know that they run this tour everyday so you will need to check availability as well. I would contact Smiley with any questions and go from there.

    #5 Posted: 30/9/2013 - 23:35

  • DLuek

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    19th June, 2008
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 871
    Total reviews: 14

    it's not clear to me if these areas are close together, or on opposite ends of the park - or perhaps not even close by.

    Here's what I wrote in my initial response (and it basically says the same thing in the orientation section of the main Travelfish Khao Sok page):

    "the piers are located on the opposite side of the park from where the visitor center is. It's a long way (50 km), and it feels like a completely different destination."

    So, no, not close by at all. Here's a map.

    If I were you, I'd just go to the area around park headquarters on the western side, tell some different tour operators your situation and see what they can offer. Or take Geer1's advice and give Smiley a try. Sounds like Geer1 had a good experience with them.

    #6 Posted: 1/10/2013 - 09:10

  • DLuek

    TF writer
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    Location Thailand
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    By the way, Khao Sok is not located between Krabi and Khao Lak . You'll pass Khao Lak on the way to Khao Sok from Krabi, and then would need to back track for around 1.5 hours to get back to Khao Lak. I assume you'll do this by tourist minibus. Otherwise you'd have to change buses in Takua Pa.

    #7 Posted: 1/10/2013 - 09:15

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 540
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    DLeuk, there is a minibus between Krabi and Khao Sok which I believe takes 401, 4118, 4 down to Krabi or vice versa to Khao Sok. This route does not pass by Khao Lak. I could be wrong as I have not taken it but I thought that was the direction it went. It would be easy to do a loop this way starting at either Krabi or Phuket and working around to the other.

    #8 Posted: 1/10/2013 - 10:51

  • jasinorbit

    Joined Travelfish
    4th December, 2009
    Posts: 37
    Total reviews: 2

    HI,

    I have not yet been (will be there this Friday!) But a couple of things that might help you from my planning.

    Timing - As mentioned above, Most tours that do an overnight lake stay start early and end late, meaning a three night total stay is more suitable than two.

    Tours - We are not using this group (budget reasons), however they were helpful with my emails and they seemed able to adjust the tour to suit out times, so may be a good option for you to work around the baby and have a flexible budget? http://www.limestonelaketours.com/

    We are using my Jungle House for accommodation and tours so I can advise later how it went.

    Hope that helps,

    #9 Posted: 2/10/2013 - 06:25

  • jasinorbit

    Joined Travelfish
    4th December, 2009
    Posts: 37
    Total reviews: 2

    Hi Mike,

    Sounds like your plan will be fine. A private transfer will be easy to organise and save you heaps of time and hassle. Some of the tours finish mid afternoon so Im sure you can make that work.
    Its basically price v convienance. For a price, you could do even do private tour and make it work to the schedule you want.

    have a good trip!

    #10 Posted: 2/10/2013 - 20:17

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  • mikefly

    Joined Travelfish
    19th May, 2013
    Posts: 19

    Jasin - have a great trip - I look forward to hearing about it! Limestone does seem pretty expensive.
    Did you see 500 rai? A fortune, but beautiful.

    DL - thanks for the map, this is helpful. Given that Bah Ta Khun is so much closer to the raft houses, is it possible to start a tour there, and finish on the west side of the park?

    According to wikitravel, there's a minibus leaving from Krabi at 11am that takes 2-3 hours to Khao Lak . Geer1 - I think this is the bus you're talking about.

    Would this plan work? I would look to find a 2 day tour leaving at the appropriate time.
    Given that we are travelling with a baby, and everything aside from this is planned out, my goal is to plan this too!

    day 1 - arrive KL around 2pm.
    check into hotel, deal with baby, maybe go for quick hike.

    day 2 - next morning, start 2 day tour with short, more chill version for baby and mamma (this does seem feasible from what I've read)
    overnight in raft house

    day 3 - finish tour - get back to entrance around 6pm (or so)
    the kicker - can we hire private transport (or take the minibus) to get us from Khao Sok to Khao Lak at 6pm-ish?
    edit - I've found a few references to BOSS taxi for private transfers.
    Alternatively, what time is the last public transit out, so we can try to end a tour early.

    (I don't want to mess with our pre-existing hotel reservations in order to stay a third night.)

    Hopefully I'm not hyping KS too much, but this seems like the type of place I would have visited pre-baby.. so I'm really looking forward to it.

    Mike

    #11 Posted: 2/10/2013 - 20:28

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 540
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    Contact Smiley's or whoever you are thinking of taking the tour with. They should be able to confirm bus/cab availability to get to Khao Lak the evening after tour as well as confirm if they are offering the tour the day you are planning(I don't know that they run the lake tours every day).

    Other then that I think the plan would work, especially since you are willing to pay for a taxi if needed.

    #12 Posted: 2/10/2013 - 21:56

  • DLuek

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
    19th June, 2008
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 871
    Total reviews: 14

    Given that Bah Ta Khun is so much closer to the raft houses, is it possible to start a tour there, and finish on the west side of the park?

    Most tours start on the west side as that's where most tour operators have offices. There may be exceptions (Smiley perhaps). In any case, it wouldn't make sense to go to Ban Ta Khun first unless your tour company tells you to do so, or you have your own car. There's basically no tourist services in Ban Ta Khun. It's really just where you go left to reach the lake piers.

    I can confirm the minibus direct from Krabi to Khao Lak , though travel agents in Krabi told me last May that it departs at 11:30.
    The same minibus also goes onwards to Khao Sok. (I think you may have mixed up Khao Lak and Khao Sok in your last post but not sure?). If for some reason you miss the minibus you could always take a regular bus to Takua Pa (via Phang Nga) and switch to a Surat Thani bound bus from there, which would drop you at Khao Sok (western end). So you'll definitely be able to get there one way or another.

    I'm pretty sure (not positive) you'll still be able to catch a Takua Pa bound regular bus from Khao Sok after 6:00 PM, though that would be cutting it close. As Geer1 says, contact tour company / guesthouse at Khao Sok and ask. Private taxi from Khao Sok to Khao Lak will be expensive but I'm sure the tour operators will be happy to arrange it. If you manage to get a regular bus to Takua Pa that late in the day, you'll definitely be able to hire a songthaew or perhaps still catch a regular bus to Khao Lak.

    #13 Posted: 2/10/2013 - 22:34

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 540
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    I actually believe the last Phuket bound bus(you don't switch buses in Takua Pa to head south) passes by Khao Sok before you get back from the tour. If not it is a very close connection, but Smiley's or someone should be able to confirm. I know I ended up staying the night and catching the bus in the morning although I wasn't in a hurry to leave either.

    A private car to Khao Lak should probably cost around $40-50(1200-1500 baht), Smiley's or someone should be able to help more, just make sure you barter with them to get a decent price. If you book everything with them, car, tour, bungalow they should give you some sort of discount(maybe free first night accommodation or something like that).

    I really thought the Krabi-Khao Sok minibus was direct(that is what people told me that had taken it) but maybe it depends on the amount of people on board etc(no point driving past Khao Lak if already full). Either way it doesn't matter that much, since it isn't that much farther.

    #14 Posted: 3/10/2013 - 11:31

  • DLuek

    TF writer
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    Location Thailand
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    you don't switch buses in Takua Pa to head south

    That depends on which bus you take. If it's one of the Surat to Takua Pa buses that pass Khao Sok hourly, you would have to change in Takua Pa.

    #15 Posted: 3/10/2013 - 22:40

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 540
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    I can't find a specific schedule but I am pretty sure that the majority of those hourly buses from Surat Thani continue down to Phuket. There might be the odd one that doesn't but it would be the exception not the norm.

    #16 Posted: 4/10/2013 - 01:45

  • jasinorbit

    Joined Travelfish
    4th December, 2009
    Posts: 37
    Total reviews: 2

    HI,

    Just wanted to report back since this forum helped with my planning.

    We got a private car transport from Phuket airport to Khao Sok. (due to flight arrival timing and being a group pf us it was affordable) Organised via pre-booked accomodation. Think it was about 3300 baht. Totally worth it in my option for the convienance and time saved after a long flight.

    We had a three night trip. Day one - arrive midday, relax, check out Khao Sok. Day two lake tour overnight on rafts, Day three - finish lake tour late afternoon, stay overnight Khao sok again. Depart morning of Day four.

    Stayed in "my Jungle House" - fantastic and highly recommend it. (Stayed first and third nights here with lake tour in the middle) Staff were great, it is further away from the main Khao Sok street but walkable distance. The surroundings and huts are fantastic. (Note cold water, no air con for those who need those things) . Organised all tours and transport with them, very happy.

    Lake Tour - Organised via accomodation above. Trip was amazing - highly recommened people to the overnight trip and say on the raft huts. Our guide was one of the best I have had (Aof - pronunouced Op?) It was two big days but had free time as well as organised ativities. Lots of wildlife. If you are in the area, find the time for the overnight trip.

    There are many raft house operations on the lake. The one we stayed at what I belive is one of the government run ones (9 of them?). Shared bathrooom on land up a hill. Basic small hut with a mattress on the floor and a mozzie net. Would not ideally recommend with a baby (couple of falls on slippery wooden uneven walkways) - so you may want to be more specific with your choice. Also the Jungle walk we did was not suitable with a child (lotsof walking up (while in) the river, over rocks, river crossings etc.

    Basically for most people, any lake tour will be fine. If you have any small children or injurys etc - be more specific with the choices available

    Feel free to contact me direct for more info if needed.

    #17 Posted: 23/10/2013 - 18:41

  • somtam2000

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    @jasinorbit - thanks a lot for the report back -- cheers!

    #18 Posted: 23/10/2013 - 19:37

  • mikefly

    Joined Travelfish
    19th May, 2013
    Posts: 19

    Hi everyone,

    Perhaps foolishly, I waited to book Khao Sok until I was sure the baby was doing well in Thailand - which is now the case!

    Smiley's is fully booked, and I have not heard back (by email) from 500 rai or Our Jungle House.
    Smiley's has said there's a new project - Hi5.. does this mean anything to anyone?

    I'm just over a week out from our planned dates. Any further suggestions on relatively nice and definitely safe accommodation for my family?

    Thanks,

    MT

    #19 Posted: 19/11/2013 - 07:37

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Rather risky taking a baby to a park like that.

    #20 Posted: 19/11/2013 - 09:30

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