Exploring the natural wonders of Phang Nga
PHUKET: Linawaty Ko, Director of Marketing Communications at Le Méridien Khao Lak Beach and Spa Resort, just to the north of the little town of Khao Lak, sits back and relaxes in the resort’s big lobby.
Monday 7 May 2012, 01:21PM
The hotel is more than 95 per cent full, and has been like that most of the high season, filled with guests from Europe, especially from Scandinavia and Germany, who have always preferred the less crowded and more natural coastline of Phang Nga province to the crowded shores of Phuket.
However, tomorrow being Saturday, and hence Ms Ko’s day off, she will drive the 80 odd kilometres to Phuket to shop and maybe take in a movie.
She says there will be a sharp drop in occupancy next month, as usual every year as the low season arrives. But right now business is good. Out on the long empty beach, darkly dramatic thunder clouds move in slowly from far out to sea to drench everything soon with torrential downpour.
But from the balcony of our well-appointed room, all is well with the world.
The resort’s breakfast has to be eaten to be believed. It’s safe to say that in the huge spread being enjoyed by guests, there is everything one could possibly want for the most important meal of the day.
After checking out, we drive from the jungle-covered mountain in the Khao Lak National Park in Phang Nga province, some 70 kilometres north (via the historical port town of Takua Pa) then east (on Route 401 towards Surat Thani) to the jungle-covered peaks of Khao Sok National Park.
The picturesque and deserted road winds through thick vegetation of all shades of green. Rubber, oil palms and native trees cover the rolling hills and sizeable mountains along the way.
The attractive little village on the road to the Khao Sok National Park gates has small restaurants and bars sitting by the gently-flowing Klong Sok, which slips under a bridge on the road.
For our lodging that night, we chose one of the comfortable, bright-green-painted cabins of the Khao Sok River Lodge (B1,500 with air-con, but not including breakfast). Through its dark balcony under the canopy of bamboo, comes the sound of the river gurgling all night.
Strolling about a kilometre along the river following the sign to “Monkeys’ swimming hole”, we discover Art’s Riverview Lodge, and its 20 or so solid brick and timber Thai-style houses perched on posts at tree level, all blending into the jungle (B1,500 a house without hot water or air-con).
The very natural cabins peer through the vegetation at a natural swimming pool by the side of a cliff, where troops of macaque monkeys swing through jungle vines to come down for a dip.
The vast rainforest park is spectacular, even when only seen from its boundary. It covers 738 sq km of sheer limestone outcrops and caves, and six beautiful waterfalls, plus the huge Rajaphrapa Dam.
It’s a trekkers’ paradise and home to the indigenous tapir, hornbills and the weirdest – and largest – flower in the world, Rafflesia kerri (named after Sir Stamford Raffles himself) that grows up to 90 cm in diameter, and exudes the smell of dead animals to attract the flies that pollinate it.