After two nights in a tree house, we were ready for a change of scenery. On the morning of the 1st of November, we were picked up by Deang and taken over an hour away to Cheow Lan Lake, another part of Khao Sok National forest. Originally we only planned to spend one night at the lake, but in a last minute decision we opted for a package with Limestone Lake Tours that gave us two, and boy are we glad we did! It turns out that Daeng would be our personal guide the entire time we were there. He accompanied us to the lake regaling us with information about Thai history and he and our driver took us in a long tail boat an hour deep into the center of the lake.
Words cannot adequately describe how beautiful Cheow Lan Lake is. This is a lake the was made larger by man when a huge dam was built to control water flow several years ago. It is surround by deep jungle foliage and dotted with gigantic limestone karsts (large limestone rock structures) and small islands as far as the eye can see. The reflection of all of the plant life creates a greenish color to the water that adds to the beauty of the scenery.
There are about nine raft house camps on the lake and we stayed at a privately owned one in the middle. Upon reaching the camp, we were told that we had been upgraded to the better lodging and we were led down the docks to these adorable white houses with a small porch facing out into the lake. Bathrooms were shared and contained rustic westernized toilets and showers that consisted of a barrel of water and a bucket. Meals were served family style with huge portions and several sumptuous main dishes each lunch and dinner. Among the options were green curry, Masaaman curry, a type of river fish caught fresh, fried and served with the head still on, sweet and sour chicken and many others. Each meal was delicious.
As a guide Daeng was knowledgeable, funny and had a passion for conservation that he was eager to share. He took us on guided boat tours, jungle hikes and cave explorations and told us about the larger animals we saw and worked hard to show us all of the small surprised the rainforest has to offer. As a result we saw tarantula holes, snapped a great shot of a scorpion and found the largest and loudest cicada in the world. It was so loud, we honestly thought it was just a planet flying overhead. We saw four kinds of monkeys including the gibbon (or at least its behind as it swung through the trees away from us) and the incredibly cute dusky langur monkey which sits high in the tree chomping on leaves.
The first day with Daeng we hiked through the rainforest and then took a bamboo raft to the well named Coral Cave. Now, this cave doesn't have coral in it, but formations of the stalagmites and stalactites make it look like an underwater coral garden. It was like something from another world and very beautiful, though our favorite moment was a sign posted outside that said "no drunk people in the cave."
The following day Daeng took us to another cave, one that I had stressed out about the evening before. Now why would the adventurous Cat Chiappa be stressed about something like a cave...because it was called Snake Cave and he usually sees several snakes in there. However, he also talked about how you could see thousands of bats and hear them overhead flapping their wings like a windstorm and that sounded too cool to pass up. So, I gritted my teeth, hiked up the long, steep hill, donned my head lamp and entered the mouth of the abyss...of course I held Joe's hand the entire time! As we went deeper we stepped carefully and looked for snakes at every angle (specifically cobras) and smelled the acrid stench of bat guano. We slogged through hundreds of chirping crickets, saw spiders as big as your hand, heard thousands of bats flapping so hard it sounded like a fleet of helicopters,and then encountered...a snake! However, it wasn't a cobra...it was actually a really neat looking bat eating snake sitting high atop the rocks with its stomach full of bats. It has a whitish green color and is not venomous. Deang said he was surprised to see only one, but surmised that the King cobra must have eaten the others. He told us that is the reason why the King cobra can be found in the cave. Turns out it wasn't in the cave though...but instead was the raft camp!
Three hours after we arrived at the rafthouses a three meter King cobra was found hiding under the staff housing lying in wait for tasty rodents. The staff shooed him out and didn't think anything of it...until he was seen again that night. Apparently Deang was the only one who missed it as they didn't wake him up...even though it slithered very close to him. As he told us this story my eyes got big and I resolved to be even more diligent with my frenetic snake checking methods...but he kept insisting that we were staying in the nice houses where the snake wouldn't go. I don't know if I fully believed him, but I appreciated the sentiment. It certainly made me feel better than when we were in Snake Cave and he told us to look on the ground and above our heads as he explained how the snakes could slither up the walls of the cavern! Gotta love the jungle!