Surat Thani province, South of Thailand. Around three hours away from Krabi’s beaches, in the greenheart of Khao Sok National Park.
We woke up in our Rock & Tree House resort with cheeky macaques rolling an empty can of Coke on our terrace and trying to break in the room for some morning loot. We were tired from last night’s jungle trek, trying to spot nocturnal animals, and barely making a clean escape after being attacked by the village’s stray dogs pack, but we still hopped out of bed excitedly. Our Cheow Lan Lake experience was finally happening…after so many travel blog dreams.
We reached CheoLan (Ratchaprapha) Pier in less than one hour from our Khao Sok National Park base, and soon we were piled up on a longtail boat on our way to Panvaree Resort, our floating bungalows stay on the lake.
Speeding through the pristinely clean waters the landscape quickly turned surrealy beautiful: an endless succesion of limestone cliffs, exposed geological layering of colorful minerals alternating with patches of vibrant green vegetation. The area of Khao Sok National Park is known for having the most ancient rainforest in the world! We were all quiet on the boat, mouths agape, caught up in that inner joy that comes from witnessing nature’s beauty.
After a 30 minutes boat ride- enough for us to soak up on the incredible surroundings- we arrived at our stay for the night: a neat row of floating bungalows, with our own private deck to chill on and attempt epic jumps in the lake! The meals in the common dining area were simple but somehow expensive- Thai omelette, green curry and stir-fried vegetables- everything is brought to the resort by boat so it significantly impacts the overall costs of your stay. Although when booking you need to consider that the activities around the lake are also included- overall it’s a priceless experience!
The afternoon has a scheduled sunset tour with the rest of the resort visitors- but we got ‘lost’ with time while busy swimming and splashing around, taking hundreds of ‘burst’ pictures while jumping in the craziest positions and listening to music- which always makes everything better! So we decided to go for our own makeshift canoe tour instead.
This proved to be one of the best ideas ever, as it gave us an intoxicating sense of freedom. We stopped time and looped around it while shifting states of mind like crystal colors in a prism: one moment we’re giddy and happy cracking jokes, the other we turn pensive and quiet, each of us drifting somewhere. The lake and the wild sunset were playing with us in the most subtle way.
Weird enough I spot what looks like a bar-restaurant perched on one of the more accessible-looking cliffs. A local man was chopping driftwood in the shallow water by the shore and another one seemed to be getting busy around this makeshift bar in the middle of nowhere. We waved- they waved back enthusiastically. Although my friend lamented it looks creepy, like a scene from The Hills Have Eyes movie, I was thirsty (for a drink and some new pictures opportunities!) so we rowed ashore. The water had turned milky from the soft dissolving soil and our toes were sinking in the mud, which made for the funniest feeling. We had a warm Coke on the wooden-plank improvised terrace (that seemed ready to crumble at any given moment!) and enjoyed one of the most mesmerizing sunsets ever. Just us in the randomly-found place, happy with ourselves, happy with the world.
The light was dimming fast. Enraptured by the views we hardly considered to go back in good timing- we talked to our hosts, we stretched on the planks following the changing colors, deeper into a dusky violet palette. Soon enough the night was wrapping around us like a coccon, making us dread the rowing back to our resort. We just felt lazy, sleepy and in no rush to do anything else but breathe and listen to the nature sounds around us.
By that point our resort had set a ‘rescue mission’ for the lost souls on the lake: on our slow way back, rowing under the moonlight, we came across the longtail boats equipped with bright searching lights, like we were runaways from Alcatraz. Caught in their glare we squinted and apologized- had no idea they would be on alert for the missing troublemakers. Guess we really lost the sense of time.
Dripping water from our muddy swimsuits we clambered towards our bungalow, passing through the common dining area under the silent (and heavy!) looks of the other tourists having their meal.
We had our dinner later almost cold, but it didn’t matter- everyone else had gone to sleep so the place felt entirely ours. Just us and the soft whispering lake under the stars. The Milky Way, a shimmering ribbon, pouring like a river of white light through the dark galaxies, and reaching us somewhere: lying down on the pier, eyes lost in the night sky, the soft lapping of the water against the boats.
At some point the electricity generator stopped humming, the Internet stopped working, and we were left with nothing but the violet shapes of the cliffs against the horizon, a landscape so mysterious and wild that for moments on end we also fell silent. It could have been one of those nights that last forever, where we would talk and stir memories, doze off for a while, cool off with a drink and still no sunrise in sight.
Sleeping in the lake bungalows was a really beautiful and unique experience- we all shared dreams of exploring underwater, gliding effortlessly through the lake vegetation with the fascinating world underneath, giant red-shimmery carp swimming all around us till dawn.
Drowsily we went for a morning tour around the lake, taking pictures of the sunrise amidst the rising fog. We had a simple warm breakfast upon our return and went for a morning swim – a fresh feeling of pure inexplicable joy that somehow reminded us of childhood summers.