Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok National Park, Ratchaprapha Dam and Cheow Lan Lake
by Alan Hunter
A self-drive day trip to these destinations makes for a long but very rewarding day, especially to do justice to both, but – having researched what is on offer and decided just how long you want to stay – here are some simple directions on how to get there.
Go north from Khao Lak keeping to highway 4 all the way through Takua Pa New Town (left at the intersection in the centre). Once out of Takua Pa, highway 4 goes to the left through to Ranong (and eventually Bangkok) so take the right fork on to highway 401 which will take you straight to the entrance to the Khao Sok National Park on the left at the KM109 marker.
This road is bordered by most of the accommodation, local restaurants, bars, shops and tour shops.You enter the National Park right at the end where at the gate house you will have to pay the National Park Entrance Fee. Park just inside, have a look around the Visitor Centre and get copies of maps for the treks from that point.You can book tours here or engage a guide although booking in advance is recommended.There is a restaurant next door.There is also an entrance to the restaurant of an adjacent resort overlooking the river where, as well as dining or just having a drink, you can book tours, typically a canoe trip on the river and/or an elephant trek.
Go back up the highway and turn right back onto highway 401 to return to Khao Lak or for a short detour, turn left and a few hundred metres on your left there is the entrance to an abandoned temple. Go down here and park up to view the remains of the temple and the hoard of wild monkeys of all ages jumping and clambering about and coming up to you to take peanuts that you have thoughtfully brought
with you.To this point from Khao Lak is about 75 minutes.
To Ratchaprapha Dam & Cheow Lan Lake
Continue another hour along highway 401 past the junction where highway 415 joins the 401 on the right and you reach the small town of Ban Ta Khun with slip roads either side of the highway. Follow the sign for Ratchaprapha Dam on the left. Drive down until you reach a gatehouse where you will be asked where you are going. Just tell them the Visitor Centre or the lake and they will direct you up the road to the right. Follow this and the signs for the Visitor Centre that will take you (Camera At The Ready!!!) down and across the dam itself.
On the other side of the dam drive into theVisitor Centre and park up near the far end. Go through the beautifully- maintained garden area and enjoy your first fantastic views of the amazing Cheow Lan Lake. It is only here that you fully appreciate the scale of what was Thailand’s biggest civil engineering eco project.
There are some snack bars, shops and eating areas here. If you want to go down to the pier for a closer look at the Lake, go left over the dam and follow the road down.
At the pier there are some restaurants and shops and the Booking Centre where you can book a longtail boat trip (or where you will depart from if you come on a tour). These trips range in duration from 1 hour to 5 or more depending on what you want to do and see in the time available.Take the reverse route back to highway 401 to return to Khao Lak.