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  • Writer's pictureAcacia Gabriel

How to Spend a Night on the Lake in Khao Sok (As a Budget Backpacker)

Updated: May 9

Khao Sok is a hidden gem in South Thailand's Surat Thani province. It is a stunning national park that is home to hundreds of animal species including bears, leopards, and wild elephants. If you're lucky, you can see them wandering around on a safari or boat trip.


Spending the night on these bungalows allows you to truly soak in the park's natural beauty. Thailand is home to many beautiful sights, but this one was hands-down my favorite. This massive lake is surrounded by limestone cliffs and dense rainforest, making you feel like you've been transported to another planet.


Spending the night in the park is tranquil, exciting, gorgeous, yet surprisingly affordable. The tour (including transportation from Khao Sok town, accommodation, three meals, and a trek), was less than $70. Here's how we did it.


Bungalows for budget backpackers in in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand.

How to Book Khao Sok

1. Book a hostel in Khao Sok town. 

I would recommend booking this hostel further out in advance than other places in Thailand, especially during peak season (November through February). I stayed at Boom Hostel and really liked it, but I’ve also heard good things about Chillax. Depending on how long you intend to stay in Khao Sok, you don’t need much from your first hostel. It’s more of a launching point for the guided part of the trip. 


2. Book your tour 

After you book, the hostel will email you about the tour options, including the overnight trips. Coral Cave is better known, but we did Nam Talu Cave which is known for being more adventurous. If you opt for Nam Talu Cave (which I loved!), make sure that it is dry season. The cave is a bit more dangerous after heavy periods of rain.


Boom Hostel offered other tour options as well including a night safari or the elephant sanctuary, but we only wanted to do the overnight trip. I debated doing the elephant tour, but I hesitated because I wasn't sure if it was ethical. However, Elephant Hills has been marked as ethical by Responsible Travel, making it a good place to visit if you would like to see these gentle giants!


Note: If you are a solo traveler, just know that the accommodations on the tour are made for two people. This means that if you book your tour alone, you will still have to share a bed with another person on your tour. I would recommend booking with a new travel buddy, but, if you're doing it solo, just look for a friend in the hostel the night before. There are still plenty of solo travelers on the trip, so don't let this prevent you from doing it!


3. Spend the first night in Khao Sok Town

I was surprised by how lively the town itself was. We thought we were about to get dropped off in the middle of the woods, but there were plenty of shops, restaurants, and even a nightclub. If you forgot anything from the packing list, you can buy it in the town the night before or enjoy some surprisingly reasonably priced Thai food. 


We had an early night and packed our day packs with just the essentials. In the morning, we locked our stuff up at the hostel and headed off.  



Bungalows for budget backpackers in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand.

What to Pack for Khao Sok

  • Swim suit

  • Towel 

  • Sunscreen 

  • Mosquito repellent *** 

  • Camera and batteries 

  • Waterproof bag 

  • Flashlight / headlamp (our hostel provided them, but so did the tour) 

  • Change of clothes 

  • Water shoes -- you can also rent some from the tour


Optional:

  • Speaker - I enjoyed having my speaker so I could play music on the lake during our free time

  • Snacks - There will also be an opportunity to stop and buy some

  • Refillable water bottle - they provide bottles, but I like to avoid using plastic as much has possible


Boat safari of Khao Sok National Park in Thailand. For budget backpackers

What to Expect from the Nam Lod Cave Tour 

The tour picked us up pretty early in the morning and promptly made a quick stop for snacks and coffee. We loaded up on our favorites from 7/11, and -- if you're a caffeine addict like me -- I would buy an extra canned coffee. They only offer instant coffee at the campsite. You can also pick up some Changs if you’re willing to eventually drink them warm. 


Once we got to the park, we stopped at the port. This is where we met our tour guide, went over the rough schedule for the day, and it is also your opportunity to remind your tour guide if you will need vegetarian meals. Afterwards, we paid the environmental and park fees. These are not included in the price of the tour, but I think it's less than $10. 


Then, we took a longboat to our bungalows. I was immediately in awe of the park. I have never seen anything like it. The lake is massive and surrounded by massive limestone cliffs and dense rainforest.


Fun fact: Cheow Larn Lake is manmade. In the 1980's, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand dammed the river to create hydroelectric power for South Thailand. Five villages were evacuated to accommodate this change and they still lie on the floor of the lake. 


After stopping to take photos and buying ice cream from a Spiderman in a boat, we arrived at our bungalows. It was first come first serve, and they were slightly different shapes and sizes. So it was a bit of a rush to find the best one. Ours was far from the comfiest -- there were some sketchy planks of wood we had to navigate each time we went in or out -- but we had the best view from our little window. Honestly, none of them seem particularly comfy, so I would bear that in mind.


As I mentioned earlier, these accommodations are designed for two people. This means that if you are a solo traveler, you will have to share a bungalow (and potentially a bed) with another person on the tour. Plenty of people do the trip solo so I wouldn’t worry too much, but it’s worth noting if you are a solo female traveler. 


Nam Talu Cave trek in Khao Sok National Park, Thailand. For budget backpackers.

After a dip in the lake and some lunch, we headed off for our trek to Nam Talu Cave. It was way more intense than I expected. While I thought it was totally worth it, I would not recommend it if you have an intense fear of spiders, the dark, tight spaces, or snakes. 


I was fine doing the hike in my Tevas, but you can also rent water shoes from the tour for a few bucks. I would also recommend bringing bug spray and water. If you don’t have a dry bag, there will be a spot to leave your stuff before you enter the cave. 


The first part of the trek takes you through the rainforest, and it’s decently strenuous. However, the real fun starts once you enter the cave. It’s pitch black, so we had to wear head lamps to see what was going on. My headlamp -- of course -- didn’t work, so a new friend had to stay close to me to give me light. 


There are impressive, sparkling stalactites on the inside, as well as about a million spiders. I lived in Australia for a year, and this was the most spiders I have ever seen. Their eyes have evolved to sparkle in order to camouflage them among the rocks. They aren’t poisonous or dangerous, but it’s still bone-chilling to move your headlamp around and realize you are surrounded by more spiders than you can count. 


Our tour guide decided to inform us about halfway through the hike that there also might be snakes in the water. I was a bit confused about what was going on, but I kept hearing the words King Cobra. Apparently these snakes are not poisonous or too dangerous, but you do have to be aware of them as you hike. We saw one sleeping in the walls of the cave. They're as scared of the tourists as you are of them, so they're unlikely to bother you.


As you hike through the cave, there are some points where the water gets so deep that you have to swim to get through. There are also some pretty tight spaces where you need a rope to pull yourself through. It’s pretty strenuous. 


We got out of the cave exhilarated and exhausted. I know I’m not really selling it, but this hike was actually one of my favorite things I did in Thailand. It was so cool. 


After the trek, we headed back to the bungalows for another quick swim before our evening safari. In proper backpacker fashion, we brought some Changs along for the ride. We didn’t see many animals, so it was more like a peaceful sunset boat ride around the lake. The entire park was lit up by a golden haze, making the limestone cliffs even more impressive and beautiful. 


We had dinner when we got back and then were left up to our own devices for the night. It felt like summer camp in the best way. There is absolute no cell service, so everyone sat around dining tables talking and playing card games with new friends.


We went to the edge of the campsite (away from the light) to enjoy some stargazing, which I highly recommend. In the middle of a national park on a lake, it was some of the best stargazing I’ve seen in Asia. 



In the morning we had to wake up early for a quick morning safari where we -- once again -- didn’t see many animals. However, the water was so still and beautiful. It was like glass. After that, we had breakfast and went swimming and kayaking.


Around 11am we said goodbye to our little bungalows and started making our way back to Khao Sok town to move onto the next adventure. 

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