Spending the night on Cheow Lan lake: not primitive at all

(This article is also available in Dutch)

Primitive. Every time I came across those words when I read about the “2 days 1 night” excursion on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park. I wanted it so badly, but I was still a tiny bit afraid of it.

I won’t beat around the bush, I often have to pee at night. Sometimes twice. And that shared bathroom, what if it’s at the end of the row of floating bungalows? And what beasts-or worse, insects-would I encounter at night? Or cockroaches? You see, I am no longer a backpacking 20-something. Basic and adventurous is allowed, but don’t overdo it, it’s vacation. If that shared bathroom is really necessary, fine, but I’m sure there are affordable alternatives.

This article is written in the form of a travel diary. All practical information, such as how to book this 2 days 1 night Khao Sok tour, can be found in this article that I have completely devoted to the practical side of this tour.

The ‘2 days 1 night tour’ on Lake Cheow Lan

In Khao Sok sleeping on the water, I wanted it per se, but I didn’t see those primitive bungalows right away. I had seen that there are also luxury floating bungalows. But those immediately come with some drawbacks. You have to arrange your own transportation, the price is also very high and often no excursions are included. You may have also seen them passing by, accommodations such as 500 Rai Floating Resort, Panvaree The Greenery and Panvaree Resort. Beautiful places, but ultimately far beyond the budget I had anticipated.

 

Khao Sok Jungle Huts Resort

After a lot of emailing and a long search, I found out that Khao Sok Jungle Huts Resort also offers floating bungalows with private bathrooms. For 2,800 baht, that’s 300 baht per person more than the normal tour. So that’s €16 extra for the two of us in total. A no-brainer if you don’t like shared toilets. We booked the night before and the night after the 2 days 1 night tour at Khao Sok Jungle Huts Resort and arranged the tour with them through Booking’s chat. I did this in advance, but this can also be done on the spot.

At check-in, the nice lady at the front desk emphasized again that I had made a good choice, and, we even got the night safari tonight for free. That night safari was something I would normally never book myself, but since we got it anyway, I wanted to give it a try, I was also in an adventurous mood. And I have to admit, it was a lot of fun! We saw frogs, spiders, as well as snakes and monkeys.

As we had breakfast the next morning, we spoke to two Dutch people who had just done the tour. “Nice,” was the verdict, “but very primitive.” A floating bungalow that could not be locked, a – not so clean – shared bathroom, constantly dragging all your stuff with you (because no lock on the room) and then having to swim in a cave – with your passport and everything unattended in front of the cave. Again, we got a little scared, but, we did book a private bathroom. Get this right.

Day 1 of the ‘2 days 1 night Cheow Lan Lake’ excursion

Off to the lake!

We left our backpacks at the hotel. In a room that would be locked. We also left our passports there, in our backpacks; we only took a copy with us. However, we did put AirTags in the backpacks, that way it feels just a little bit safer.

The hotel gave us water shoes. We brought our own water shoes, but the ones from the hotel had much more relief on the sole. We also took a waterproof bag (20-liter ocean pack), some money, head lamps, sunscreen, insect repellent, a set of clothes, shoes and swimwear. The hotel also gave us a smaller, extra waterproof bag.

After a short drive, we stop at a shopping street where we are given half an hour to buy something. Water is provided during the excursion, food too, so we don’t really understand what we are doing here. Anyway, just to be safe, we buy some nibbles, extra water and a can of soda.

Once at the parking lot of Cheow Lan Lake, we are divided into groups. We end up with some people from other vans. Sometimes you don’t understand how they do it, but somehow in Thailand it always works out. We leave with our new group, onto the boat. We sailed for a good hour on the water with beautiful views. They also get more and more beautiful. The water is blue and around us we see jungle and limestone rocks.

Not primitive, but cut off from the world

Then we see floating bungalows in the distance, would these be our bungalows? No, they look way too luxurious, those are those expensive bungalows. Huh, right, we’re sailing there! You won’t get that grin off my face for a while.

We dock and our guide “Rookie Rookie” begins to narrate. “No signal. No GPS. No wi-fi. Nothing. Welcome to the jungle“. We all get a key. -Woohoo, we have a lock!

The advantage of expecting the worst is that everything can be very much better than expected. So that is the case here. When I opened the room, I let out a cry of joy.

This looks beautiful! Yeah, okay, it’s just mattresses on the floor. But they are mattresses that are quite fine (we have really had much worse in Thailand), they are nicely made and there is even space left in the room. We have a separate toilet and a separate shower. A private balcony with two chairs and a lounger. A fan and bottles of water. And a see-through hatch. Oh, and a kayak! Exactly what I was longing for. Not primitive, but cut off from the world.

See photos of the floating bungalow here, click on the photo to see the next one:

Lunch & free time at the floating bungalow

We get to join them for lunch right away. A delicious Thai meal awaits us, water and coffee included. Soft drinks are payable separately.

After lunch, we both dove straight into the water. So nice and warm! Unfortunately, though it is mandatory to have life jackets on, I’m sure that has its reasons.

We find the benefit of the life jacket and just float in the water for a while. Most people grab their kayaks and go exploring.

Once back in the floating bungalow I open my iPhone, very automatically I go to Instagram. No internet. Oh, how wonderful dees. That iPhone only opens to take a video. I lay back and relax on our lounger on the cute little terrace of the floating bungalow. What tranquility here.

Jungle trekking

By now we have seen that we are a total of 2 groups at the floating bungalow resort. But it doesn’t feel crowded at all.

We get ready to leave for the jungle trek. By boat, after a few minutes, we dock at a stretch of jungle. Before we left, we asked the guide if we should wear good shoes, there’s really no need, Rookie Rookie said.

Then it turned out that we had to climb up a (nearly dry) waterfall. The family with two children – the oldest not yet 9 years old I think, gave up immediately and returned. It was quite scrambling, helping each other and pulling up, my good shoes came in handy here.

The guide did make some fun of it, performing a whole Lion King ritual and providing a funny jungle experience. Of course, the Tarzan swing could not be missed. The trek itself was not that special. It was kind of fun to trek through the jungle like that and do some scrambling. Had there been two of us doing this, one of us would have given up long ago. Curious about the images? Check out the video at the bottom!

The evening safari

After the jungle trekking, everyone crawls back into their floating bungalow. We immediately jump into our kayak. We kayaked to a patch of jungle and just stayed there quietly. We are the only ones on the water it seems.

Then the jungle comes alive a bit. We see hornbills flying from tree to tree, again and again. Monkeys swinging through the trees and all kinds of sounds that make you realize you are in front of the rainforest. What. Is. The. Nature. Still. Wonderful. Too bad we don’t have a good camera with us and at the same time fine. Because we just watch and we enjoy.

The sun is almost down so we decide to go back. When we dock, we see a boat leaving. People wave at us and we realize it is our group. Oops, we missed something exactly. Still, sometimes it would be helpful to get a schedule on paper instead of having to understand the – sorry – poor English. But apparently we were the only ones who hadn’t understood this, our bad.

Except for three working Thai, we are the only ones at the “resort. We both take a Chang for 80 baht (€2.20) each and enjoy the beautiful sunset. What silence and what a luxury to experience this together like this. This is great.

Evening at the floating bungalows

Dinner is prepared and the boat with our group returns. We sit down with the people we talked to during the jungle trek. I ask about the evening safari; they saw a few monkeys.

Somehow I am relieved. As it turns out, we actually saw more in our kayak. My fomo disappears and I enjoy the food. There really is a huge amount of food and damn, how delicious this is. Meanwhile, a beautiful, traditional dance begins.

The picture is perfect, we are in an idyllic place in Thailand and it can’t get any better.

After dinner we’ll have a nice after-dinner drink, we think. But everyone leaves for their floating bungalow after dinner. We then drink just a few more Chang’s together and decide to drink the last one on our own balcony. There we enjoy the starry sky even more. Because wow, it’s been from Mexico since we saw so many stars. Magnificent, as they say so nicely in Belgium.

Time to sleep as the morning safari begins early.

Sleeping on the water

That sleep turns out not to be so evident. The realization dawns that you are on a floating bungalow. So that feels like a boat. Even though the weather is not bad, the water seems to be quite choppy and then there is that boat that is constantly tapping against the bungalow. Fortunately, I am prepared with earplugs, but a sleeping pill would have been even better. Denis and I alternate. Denis is awake for hours and falls asleep by the time I wake up.

I wake up around 3:30. I’m confused for a moment, are we still in the floating bungalow? I open the curtain and see the countless stars. Yes, I’m still on the lake. The water became murky. No movement, no sound. The adrenaline starts again, super irritating, I’m tired, but I don’t want to miss the sunrise. Just before I want to get up, around sunrise, I fall asleep again for a while.

Day 2 of the ‘2 days 1 night Cheow Lan Lake’ excursion

The morning safari

At 6:45 I take some quick photos and videos with my iPhone and then we are ready for the morning safari. With sleepy faces, we sailed along the jungle, looking for animals.

I wonder why that noisy motor of the longtail boat is still on. In pictures, those boats look nice, but pff, what a pocketing noise. Not only here, all over Thailand you can hear those engines so loud.

If I were an animal and had a whole rainforest, I would go far from those noisy motorboats. Eventually they seem to get it and the engine goes off for a while.

We see some monkeys and that was it. I am disappointed for a moment, because I know you can see elephants here, and then I realize how incredibly beautiful the view is. Because the water is so still, you have almost perfect reflections. I realize how beautiful it is that I can be here. How beautiful the rainforest is and I don’t want to leave here!!!!

Once back at the floating bungalows, we get another good breakfast and are asked to pack everything up.

We do and say goodbye to our beautiful floating bungalow. This excursion that would be “primitive” in my mind for so long was so incredibly nice. I could easily have slept there a few more nights.

Next time I would go for the “3 days 2 nights tour” anyway, no question.

The cave in

We board the boat and sail toward the pier. For a moment we thought this was the end, but fortunately it is not.

We stop, get out and turn out to be at a cave. We carried our own head lamps, but there was no need, the guide handed out much better lamps. It was fun to go through the cave, but personally I liked the outside much better. The limestone rocks here are beautiful and the water is so nice and still.

By the way, in the cave we did not have to swim, and in terms of shoes, water shoes or sandals are ideal. There were lots of bats, which was kind of cool to see up close. So this turns out to be a different cave than the group that did the cheaper tour. We heard many horror stories about that later. In the cave we visited, you didn’t even get up to your ankles in the water.

If you still prefer not to go into the cave, you can just wait outside with the beautiful view – which I secretly would have preferred, because damn, I love this place.

Before we get back in the boat, I ask Rookie Rookie about the pink bumps on a branch. Snake eggs.

The famous limestone cliffs of Cheow Lan Lake

Then we stop at a familiar stretch. Known from the photos. The pointed limestone, narrow rocks in the water. I have to be very honest, in those pictures they are much prettier. This has everything to do with the fact that the famous photos were taken at a good hour, during golden hour. With this harsh daylight and the many boats stopping here, it is a lot less idyllic. But nice to see and the rocks are certainly very beautiful.

The view point

We sailed back to the pier where we were met by minivans. It is not quite the end. Before they take us to the hotel, we go to the viewpoint. We get a tray of food with Thai rice with vegetables, Oreo cookies and water. After the picnic, we get time to hike to the view point.

Here you have a nice view of the reservoir and dam. Then you really see that it is more artificial. The rainforest is said to be as much as 160 million years old, but the lake is still fairly new. I don’t have photos of this, unfortunately, but the video below has footage of the viewpoint.

 

Back to Jungle Huts Resort

That was it. We will be taken by minibus back to our accommodation, Khao Sok Jungle Huts Resort.

We had all kinds of active plans, but we are both zen. Despite a fairly bad night, we were mentally completely unwinded by this blissful experience in nature.

We decide to have a massage at one of the massage parlors in the village. That turned out to be one of the better massages we have had in Thailand (location).

After the massage, we drank some more Chang’s in the cozy cafes and went to bed early. Tomorrow we will take the first minivan to Koh Phangan.

About my experience with this tour

Voila, this was my experience on Khao Sok Lake. I thought it was one of the best highlights of our trip in Thailand. It was wonderful to be in nature like this and I really recommend this to everyone.

In the meantime, I talked to more people who did this tour, and it turned out there really was a lot of difference in the bungalows. Also from (young) people I know well and who I know can sleep in a tent on a mountain, but really labeled this as “very primitive. Apparently that 300 baht we paid extra per person was really worth it, because wow, what a wonderful experience this was!

If you have the time, definitely consider the “3 days 2 nights tour,” because the only thing I would have liked is more time to relax and kayak at the bungalows. By the way, Jungle Huts also offers that tour.

 

Would you also like to book this excursion?

To book the exact same tour with the same, more luxurious bungalows do the following:

  1. Book the night before your excursion at Khao Sok Jungle Huts Resort. You will then stay in the village of Khao Sok, Khlong Sok.
  2. Make a reservation for the 2 days 1 night excursion on the lake with Jungle Huts Resort through Booking.com’s chat and mention that you want the floating bungalows with private bathroom. Optionally, you can also arrange it only at check-in.

Want to read more about the practical side of this field trip? We’ve written out the most frequently asked questions here for you.

This is the first time I am doing such a comprehensive blog of an excursion, in the form of a travel diary. Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments!

Watch the Cheow Lan Lake video!

Of course, we captured 95% of the 2 days 1 night tour on film and put it into a video. We take you virtually, so this is the place you can go too!