Ever hopped into a random Thai guy’s pickup truck first thing in the morning? Oddly enough, it wasn’t my first time. And when travelling to more obscure places, sometimes a little creativity is needed in transit.
The buses from Phun Phin seemed to have a bit of a wobbly schedule and I wanted to get there soon. A restaurant manager pointed me to a group of cars next to Surat Thani Train Station, where I had been offered a ride for 1000 baht the night before.
This time, I struck a deal with a pickup driver for the hour drive. So, for 200 baht, I threw my backpack into the back end of a pickup, hopped in the passenger seat, and we were off.
Not that I had any idea of what to expect once I got to Khao Sok. Would I find a town? An entrance to a well-developed park? A dirt road leading back into the woods? No idea.
This was another word of mouth recommendation I had received, this time from Sarah of my old ATI group. Granted, I had seen her pictures from her trip on Facebook. Floating bungalows in lakes surrounded by a tropical mountain valley. A wild elephant coming out of the forest right next to her. These were probably just her highlights, but it was enough to convince me to take a look.
It wasn’t until about a half hour into the ride that it started to get interesting. Suddenly out of the random road construction and small towns came the kind of mountains I hadn’t seen since I was cruising around Phuket. Sheer peaks enshrouded by tropical greenery covered the horizon. Closer to their base than to the sky was a layer of mists giving them a surreal floating look.
That surreality was slightly broken, however, when we began passing a number of smokestacks spewing out clouds of what appeared to be the same substance that blanketed the feet of these mountains. The overwhelming presence of the mists could obviously not have all been from these smokestacks, but it still couldn’t have helped.
Soon enough, the driver took a right down a short road and made it known this was where I needed to be. I grabbed my bag, paid him, and began down the road on foot. Crossing the small bridge over a delightfully rocky stream, I came to a small village of colorful restaurants and tour companies and restaurant-tour companies. A road sign at a nearby corner pointed the way to the various lodging options.
Still, there was no sign of the park.
I continued down the road I was on a few hundred more meters and finally saw it. However, I didn’t intend on hiking the mountain-jungle park in the hottest time of year with my fully-loaded travel bag. I needed a room first.
I first tried the place right next to the park, Tree Tops River Huts. They offered me a room for 400 per night. That was cheaper than Sarah had paid and cheaper than anything Lonely Planet seemed to say for the area.
The room was nice enough too. It had its own balcony overlooking the stream, a heated shower, and an exceptionally comfortable bed.
And it was on stilts.