Thanks to the new king’s coronation there was a surprise extra public holiday for everyone this Monday. We decided to take advantage of the additional long weekend and have another last minute adventure.
Kevin booked us into a jungle tree house in the Khao Sok national park. We flew to Surat Thani (very) early on Saturday morning. The flight took just over an hour. Then a 2 hour taxi journey into the deepest, darkest jungle. Ok, so maybe not that deep or dark but it is reputedly the oldest rainforest in the world. Get that! This is because Thailand has remained in a similar equatorial position for the last 160 million years. Quite an achievement.
Our accommodation is amazing and the hotel/ resort prides itself on being eco-friendly. Our treehouse is called Gingah which means ‘chameleon’ in Thai. Inside there is no room fridge or air con, just a fan. Fortunately the temperature here has dropped to a merciful 27 degrees and it’s only sweltering rather than sweat drenchingly sweltering!!
This is the first room I’ve ever been in where you get to refill your own bottles with water rather than being given plastic ones. The owner has calculated that they save 10,000 bottles every year this way.
The views from our treehouse are magnificent and with no tv or WiFi we sit listening to nature. The room is open to the environment so we have to sleep under a mosquito net but it all feels very rural & intrepid. As the resident mozzie magnet I do have to report that I was bitten a bit even under the nets.
We booked to do a half day hike through the jungle with a guide. I find myself fascinated by some of the shapes in nature.
And look how enormous the leaves are! It’s like being at the top of the beanstalk in giant land. Kevin is shown here for size!
Thailand has lots of diminutive bananas and this was the first time I have seen them growing with the flower attached.
The Khao Sok national park is like a miniature Halong Bay as the river and lake are surrounded by 600 foot high Karsts. They started as deposits of shell and coral 250 million years ago then they rose up as mountains when the tectonic plates collided 3 million years ago forming the blocks of limestone cliffs that we see today.
Our guide told us fascinating information about which leaves and mushrooms are edible (we did try some) and felt very Bear Grylls chewing away on leaves! Here he is preparing a mushroom which is apparently quite a delicacy in upmarket restaurants.
but NOT these. They are definitely poisonous-avoid at all costs. They do look pretty though.
We hiked for 7km some of it along lovely wide tracks through bamboo groves. This is do-able I thought. Even for someone who not that long ago was recovering from ME. Then he took us off-piste and down barely traversable tracks, clambering over fallen branches and across muddy leaf strewn paths. He carried a small knife and used it machete-like to lop off spiky bits of undergrowth. It made me feel quite intrepid and adventurous! I came over all David Attenborough! I do have to admit to being quite nervous about all the creeping crawling things which might bite, sting or poison me so I kept my eyes glued to the ground at every step. And when we had a pit stop by the river I wasn’t all that keen on sitting on the rocks for too long… just in case!
I really wanted to see the Rafflesia – the world’s largest flower which grows only in this park. The blooms can be up to a meter in diameter and smells like rotten meat to attract insects for pollination. But we were out of luck though as they only bloom between December and March.
Shame, but we can’t have everything and I reckon that we are extremely fortunate to be here experiencing this at all!
Animals which live in Khao Sok include sun bears, tigers and Leopards (which we didn’t see but I’m glad they are here)
Having a Jungle guide meant that he was able to show us things which we would have just strode past. Like the
Long-tailed tree monkey and her baby high up at the top, just visible here between the leaves.
As we walked we disturbed clouds of beautiful little iridescent butterflies but they moved too quickly to photograph. This beauty stayed still just long enough for me to capture. It was enormous, probably about the size of my hand.
Kevin even had a go on a vine swing. Which demonstrates just how strong these creepers are! I think he was channeling his inner Tarzan.
We were given some instructions on how to remove any blood-sucking leeches using your finger nail. Top tip: if you spray them liberally with insect repellent they are not keen on hanging around either. Fortunately we didn’t encounter any.
But the thing which scared me the most was this …
This innocent looking hole in the bank is in fact the home of a female tarantula!!!! Yep, that’s right. One of the very things which I hope NEVER to get up close and personal with EVER! And yet here I was right outside the front door of one!!!! The guide assured me that they are nocturnal but it sure put me on edge for the rest of the hike. I kept my eyes firmly peeled.
I am happy to report that we emerged from the jungle suffering nothing worse than some mosquito bites. Our guide was so helpful that when he saw mine he applied some red ointment which is basically double strength tiger balm + chilli! It wasn’t hot, it was scorching. I no longer felt any itching as all I could feel was a burning sensation. It was drastic but I guess it worked.
Actually after the hike I really fancied a siesta (I am partial to them at my age) but we had booked to go to a craft village. Village was perhaps an overstatement as where we ended up was in a house. For the next 2 hours Kevin and I learned how to make banana sticky rice, mango jam and then we carved our names on bamboo cups.
Once again although we had booked a group activity there was only us there! The mango jam tasted out of this world. And our host turned out to be a Man U fan so they talked football the whole time then he made kevin a special souvenir
This evening there was a thunderstorm which was extremely loud with heavy rain but mercifully that has kept the biting bugs at bay! It is very calming listening to the sounds of the raindrops falling from the canopy high above us. Khao Sok has the highest rainfall in Thailand due to its high mountains. When it rains in Thailand it is heavy but short and sharp. I have to say that this rain is like being back at home (only warmer, of course)
We didn’t see the monkeys who live near-by. We were warned not to have ANY food in our treehouse as they are good at breaking in and messing things up. They are also particularly attracted to toiletries (we kept everything in our bags just in case)
Whilst we couldn’t see them clearly we did see some bats. The local ones are the Lesser False Vampire bats. It must be tough being called a ‘false’ vampire bat but to be the ‘lesser’ of all the false vampire bats must be soul-destroying.
If any of our friends fancy a jungle experience I would recommend Our Jungle House. You can also do overnight trips to sleep on a raft on the lake (in a sort of pod/capsule) which sounded great fun but we didn’t have quite enough time to fit that in.
And then it’s back to Bangkok for a rest on Monday