CHEOW LAN LAKE – 1 NIGHT, 1.5 DAY EXCURSION
Cheow Lan Lake in Thailand is a beautiful 165sq kilometre lake east of Khao Sok National Park. It was created in 1982 by the flooding of the Ratchaprapha dam.
The National park encompasses limestone cliffs and shimmering waters and allows you to explore the canals, coves and cul-de-sacs along the Cheow Lan Lake shore. Hiking is also a possibility as there are many track and caves you can check out, but you need to go with a registered excursion company or guide.
I read about Cheow Lan Lake in the Lonely Planet and thought that it would be a great place to visit whilst we were in area of Khao Sok National Park.
We arrived in the National Park on the public bus from Phuket. A cheap (300 Baht) and easy four hour bus ride that unfortunately smelt like fresh fish for the entire way. I also vividly remember that if had these ridiculous pink curtains…. they seem to like a lot of pink here in Thailand… haha
Off the bus and into the back of a Jeep to the Jungalows. It wasn’t far to walk but for the convenience of being dropped off outside the door and as it only cost 50 baht each was an offer we could not refuse.
The gentleman that checked us in at the Jungalows was a lovely chap and he helped us with the planning of our excursions after we had dropped our bags in the room… and of course we had to have a couple cheeky beers to discuss.
VALUE & COST
We knew that we definitely wanted to go to Cheow Lan Lake but was unsure if we should do the overnight excursion or try to squeeze a few more trips during our three night stay.
Our host at the Jungalows recommend that we take the overnight excursion, you get more time out on the lake, including a sunset and sunrise safari, all your meals covered and get to stay the night in a floating bamboo bungalow.
The day trip was 1500 baht but the overnight excursion 2500 baht. So, for the extra cost you were getting a lot more for your money.
Scott and I were super keen to stay on the lake when we first discussed it. Sleeping in a floating bamboo hut and waking up to the nature was a winning situation for the pair of us…. so in a flash we were booked and excited for our day and a half excursion and one night stay out on Cheow Lan Lake.
GETTING OUT THERE
We were picked up at 09:00 by a small mini bus. The bus was full by the time we had finished all the pick ups and we headed out towards the Cheow Lan Lake making a really quick pee pit stop along the way.
It took around an hour and a half to get to there. When we arrived, we paid for our park ticket and was told to get into the long boat. Once everyone had their life jackets on we were on our way across the vast Cheow Lan Lake to check in at the bungalows.
The lake was beautiful with limestone cliffs rising out of the water. It was smooth and calm as we quickly zipped across the top the shimmering reflective mirror top. All of us happily taking lots of pictures along the way.
It took about 45 minutes to get across the lake at to the floating bungalows. Checking in was a quick process, we were directed to a cabin and dumped our bags. Then we all excitedly jumped of the jetty and took a brief swim before having lunch.
AND TO OUR SURPRISE
We all sat together on a long table, there was about twenty of us from a variety of places. Who all seemed pleasant and excited to be there. They provided us with a Thai meal which they catered for vegetarians too.
The guide then informed us that we could be in for a surprise. He had said that due to the rainy season they have not been able to take the groups into Nam Tulu cave because the water level had been so high and it was dangerous.
But luckily for us, the water was down and we could make the entire track through the cave. This was great to hear, Scott and I had never done any caving together so we were both excited for this.
We needed sturdy shoes, a dry bag to keep our belongings safe, a headlamp and a swim suite underneath our clothes. We had organised the dry bag and borrowed some old walking shoes from the lovely chap at the Jungalows, so we were all set.
If you do not have shoes or a dry bag you could rent them for 50 baht each at the bar on the floating resort.
We got on the long boat and travelled through some mangroves to the trail entrance and then we all started off down the path.
The path was wet and muddy which caused quite a few of us to slip along the way. Walking shoes were necessary as a few were unfortunate to lose their flip flops in the mud.
There were rivers to walk through and they were quite shallow; the deepest one came up just past our knees. If the rainfall had been heavier I could imagine that they would have been quite deep.
It took us about an hour to reach Nam Tulu cave and the pot-holing experience through the cave was amazing. We regrouped and headed back down the track to the boat where we sailed back to our floating bungalows on Cheow Lan Lake.
Then we took time to cool off in the lake and also wash off all the mud from the walk. Some people took the kayaks that the resort provided and went on a quick paddle around the area.
After our free time we got back on the boat for the night safari. We were out for about an hour looking for monkeys and any other animals that Cheow Lan Lake has to offer.
We spotted a few monkeys in the tree tops; I found difficult to see (as per usual with my poor vision) but got I got there in the end. For me, it was just beautiful to be out on the lake. The reflection of the trees on Cheow Lan Lake was just magical as dusk set in.
The sunset passed and we went back to the bungalows where we ate dinner, had a beer or two and then settled in our hut for the night. There was a communal bathroom with showers and toilets to use but you had to walk across a bridge to get to it. Lights go out at 10pm, so it was a little hard in the dark.
Waking up and opening the door out onto the lake was just spectacular. There was no need for an alarm as the jungle had its own wake up call with the variety of birds and animals chattering away for the start of a new day.
It was 05:30 and we were up, we took a tea or coffee from the restaurant and then we set out on the long boat again for our morning safari. Again, not much wildlife to be seen but Cheow Lan Lake was so pretty with the reflections and it was so peaceful.
We went back; had pancakes for breakfast, chilled out for a bit (I went for yet another swim) and then we checked out at 10am.
LEAVING THE LAKE
Zooming across Cheow Lan Lake for the last time; we stopped at the underwater village that was covered when the dam was flooded. We could not see the village as it was eighty meters underwater but we got to take some shots at the front of the boat. There were saw some Tukans, that we sat and watched for a while….which I could actually see this time!
Thinking that we were all heading back to the port to get the bus back to our hostel we were surprised with another pit stop. We stopped at this quaint little beach that backed onto the jungle. We had some fried rice, Oreos and pineapple that they had bought on the long boat with us…. this made us all very happy 😃
It was great to make the stop and enjoy Cheow Lan Lake for the last time. Sitting down on the wood logs to eat a meal and look at the view was just stunning.
We then left the beach and headed back to the port on the long boat where we took the bus to our hostels.
This trip out on Cheow Lan Lake was amazing. If you like to do something a little different whilst you are on your vacation then I would recommend the overnight excursion to to anyone. Touring and sleeping out on the lake was just wonderful and the fact that we got to hike through the cave was such a great surprise.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Book your trips from Khao Sok National Park as you will be charged more if you organise them in Phuket.
Make sure you take a good pair of walking shoes or organise them at the hostel before you leave….but make sure you pick a good pair!
Take money with you as there are no ATMS or anyway of getting cash on the floating resort. We lent a young couple 500 baht… and we never saw it again.
Check what walking excursions are available as due to the weather some may be closed.
I would advise on a pair of binoculars if you like your wildlife as the animals are little difficult to spot if you don’t have good eyes.