Khao Sok National Park
The train arrived in Surat Thani about 2 hours late at 8:30, which in fact is a much sensible time to arrive anyway. Unfortunately the staff on the train had got everyone up at 6:00, which would have been the time to get up if the train was on time. Surely they must have known that it was running late. I avoided all the touts trying to steer punters to Koh Samui (mainly because I wasn't going there) and got a local bus heading for Takua Pa. The ticket collector spoke good enough English to understand that I wanted to go to Khao Sok National Park (ticket was 55 Baht) and made sure that I got off when we got there. The bus stop is about 2km from the National Park but there was another set of locals waiting to take tourists to their guesthouses. I chose one very much at random (although it was mentioned in the Lonely Planet) and was taken to the Bamboo House guest house . The place looked OK so I took one of their tree houses (150 Baht per night) above the river.
The treehouse that I stayed in. You can see it if you look hard
I had seen a program about Khao Sok on television before I left and knew that the best place to visit was a lake some distance from the visitor's centre (where I was staying). However since it was the off season and there were very few people in the park (I was the only person staying at my guesthouse either night that I was there, and the others weren't much better) I was unable to arrange a trip out there at any sort of reasonable cost. I went for a walk up one of the rivers and saw some nice big ferns. I also got attacked by a number of leeches which are very good at crawling up you.
I booked a jungle trek (400 Baht) through my guesthouse. I was a little disappointed that this merely followed the main path up the river, which is a walk I could have done by myself. However the guide was quite knowledgeable and pointed out things that I would otherwise had missed like an ants' nest built out of leaves. After a couple of hours it started raining very hard. The only thing to do was to get wet and hope that it stopped eventually, which it did. We had lunch at an entrance to a canyon above which was another waterfall, which you had to swim to. Unfortunately the river was flowing very fast due to the rain and I am not a very strong swimmer and therefore I failed to make it to the waterfall. I did get to see it though.
After returning to the visitor's centre I went on another walk around a nature trail which was clearly marked on the park's maps. The first problem that I hit was crossing the river which was quite high covering the stepping stones that were supposed to be there. I got across but then found that the path was in rather a poor state of repair on the other side.
The nature trail had a few problems
Krabi and Area
I had decided that it was time to leave, so went back to the main road. Caught the bus to Takua Pa (25 Baht) and changed there from a bus to Krabi (40 Baht) where surprise, surprise the bus was met by touts steering you towards their island/hotel or whatever. I got a songthaew into town to change some money and then onto the wharf to find a boat to Raileh Beach. There were a couple of people waiting, but since the boat will not go until it is full it was a little while before we could head off. The locals have decided that the going rate for the trip is now 70 Baht for foreigners and I suppose that this will keep going up until they price themselves out of the market.
The boat docked at East Raileh since the sea was said to be to rough to go round the headland, so I walked across to West Raileh (which I had heard was the nicer beach) and after checking out a few sets of bungalows chose the Raileh Bay Bungalows (450 Baht per night, but much nicer than the other places that I had stayed in in Thailand). Inconveniently the price had doubled the night before since it was now the high season. The walk from East Raileh to West Raileh is quite short so there would have been no problem staying on the other side.
I explored the beach for a while, played some volleyball and after a drink had some dinner and then some more beer (which costs twice as much here than anywhere else that I visited in Thailand)
West Raileh Beach
I booked a trip to visit some of the local islands and do some snorkelling today (350 Baht). The first island was Ko Poda where we stopped for a couple of hours. We had been told that you could snorkel here but everything that I found was no good, so presumably I wasn't looking in the right place
Beach on Koh Poda
We then went to a set of small islands for some much better snorkelling. There were plenty of small brightly coloured fish - no sharks though
Fish after some bread had been thrown into the water
Then to Chicken Island for some more snorkelling
Chicken Island. The pinnacle on the right is supposed to look like a chicken
and a bit more beach time for lunch and relaxing. Finally back to Raileh beach where I again showed off my volleyball skills.
A day of exploring the Raileh Beach / Phra Nang area. First I clambered up the one of the karsts and then down a very muddy slippery path inside it to a hidden lagoon which was gorgeous.
Inside the lagoon
Me in the lagoon
I then climbed back out (easier said than done) and failed to find the viewpoint which is supposed to be on top of the cliff.
Continued on to Phra Nang Beach for some sunbathing and swimming
In the afternoon I went to visit the Inner Princess Cave at the far end of East Raileh Beach. This has been 'done up' for tourists but still beautiful. The park ranger said that there was a path across the peninsula to West Raileh which I followed. The walk was rather longer than he implied since it took about 40 minutes but did include passing through a rubber plantation
Raileh Beach is famous in the climbing world for its cliff climbing and since I didnít think that I leave without giving it a go, I booked a 1/2 day climbing course with Krabi Climbing (500 Baht). I was the only person on the course today, which made it quite hard work - no rests. After getting kited out and given some minimal instruction we headed off to the ABC cliffs. The guide climbed each route before me so that I had a top while I was climbing. A very enjoyable morning but I was very tired and my hands cut at the end of it. Therefore I spent the afternoon lying down on my bed and on West Raileh beach.
The weather was looking so good today. Therefore I went for to try and find a cave that I had been told about between Phra Nang and West Raileh beaches. After a couple of false starts I found the cave. I had warned that it was necessary to walk in the dark so I had my torch with me, but my route didn't seem to match what I had been told. I came out in a large cave above West Raileh beach
On the way back I saw some bamboo ladders which I had been told about. Therefore I followed them and came upon another window in the cliff wall - this much easier to get to than the first one
When I got back out of the cave it was raining fairly hard, so I sheltered in a smaller cave until it stopped and then went back to the bungalows to retrieve my bag so that I could get a boat back to Krabi. After refusing pay more than one fare, about 4 boats left at once with one person on each, it appeared that they wanted to be back in Krabi to pick more people up. Once in Krabi I found a new place to stay, S.R. Guesthouse (120 Baht a night) and went out to book a kayaking trip for the next day. I chose to go with Eco canoeing and because I happened to find their own office (as opposed to a booking agent) I only paid 900 Baht which is between 300 and 600 baht less than the travels agents were selling the same/very similar trips for.
The kayaking trip was to Ao Talen that is near Ao Nang. I was driven to a side channel of the estuary where I found that I was the only guest and would be accompanied by 2 guides and 2 boatman. A boat took us to the main estuary and we then started kayaking through an area of mangrove swamps, canyons and highsided lagoons - very nice.
Inside a cave in the mangrove swamp
We also found a large gang of monekys
We returned to the beach on the main estuary where the kayaking had started for lunch during which it started raining. We then headed back for the starting point and thence to Krabi
I was up early to catch a mini bus first to Hat Yai and onwards to Penang in Malaysia
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