Asiadventure: Cheow Larn Lake and the Floating Rainforest Camp

Our second day at Elephant Hills started with decent weather (which is to say it wasn’t raining).  We got back into the jungle bus and unzippered all the windows while we trundled off to a local market.  After all the markets we saw in Bangkok and Amphawa, this one was no big deal but I think for most of the other people in our group it was the first Thai market they’d visited.

I got a red milk tea though, and there was a table where a lady was cutting up jackfruit.  She let me have a single piece for ฿5.  So what the heck is jackfruit?  It actually looks very much like a durian – green and spiky – except much larger.  While it looks like durian, it tastes completely different.  The meat inside has a little crunch and as far as flavor it was like a bizarre combination of pineapple, banana, and cilantro.  That’s what it tasted like to me, at least.  I wished I had gotten more, it was so good.

Cheow Larn Lake

After the market we drove a while to Cheow Larn Lake (also spelled Cheow Lan).  This lake is completely breathtaking, with similar landscapes to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.  Vertical islands of spiky sandstone look like they shot out of the water.  In truth, the lake used to be a deep valley amongst dramatic mountains where many people lived.  Every rainy season, the valley would flood and the locals would have to evacuate.

In 1982, the Thai king decided it would be beneficial to relocate the people and build a dam.  This flooded the valley and created the lake as it is today.  The dam, called Rajjaprabha, means “light of the kingdom” because it provided electricity for the area’s people for the first time.

I wish I could show you how beautiful it truly is, but the weather had other plans for us.  We got to the lookout point just in time to watch the monsoon roll in and cover the islands.  (I’m putting a few photos below so you can see the progression for yourself.)  Even with the storm taking over, it was still gorgeous.

Then we drove down the road to the edge of the lake where the rain finally began and I hastily bought an ugly crinkly poncho.  Because we were going out on the lake!  In a monsoon!  The longtail boat provided exactly zero protection against the rain, and our ponchos were little better.  The raindrops were so big and fast that they stung as we sped through the lake.  Everyone in the boat had their heads tucked down into their knees to protect their faces.

It was at least half an hour to get where we were going… and we didn’t even really know where we were going.  Finally the rain let up and we were able to watch as a row of tents came into view.  They were the same tents we had at the jungle camp, except these were on a floating platform, and most had a yellow kayak tethered in front.  Seemed like a pretty great place to stay to me.

This camp is the Elephant Hills’ Rainforest Camp.  I believe there were only 10 tents, but I was a little jealous of the people staying there.  We were only there for the day to enjoy the lake.

Jumping into the lake was like jumping into a bathtub.  I don’t understand why the water was so warm, but it was amazing.  It was also completely disconcerting because of how deep the water was.  Even though the camp wasn’t very far from the shore, the water off the platform was about 90 feet deep.  This is because the islands in the lake used to be the tops of those near-vertical mountains, so the water drops at a very sharp rate.  The deepest parts of the lake are up to 330 feet below the surface.  If that doesn’t give you the heebie jeebies, then there’s probably something wrong with you and you should be evaluated.

We spent a while swimming around, deliberately not thinking about the dark water underneath us and the God-knows-what that lives there.  Then we took a kayak out and tried to spot some monkeys on the islands.  While we didn’t get to see any, we sure could hear them.  It felt like they were teasing us.

Luckily when we got back, some monkeys had been sighted on the land behind the camp.  Can you spot them in the picture below?  They’re grey.  This was the only time I wished I’d brought my long lens.

We stayed at the Rainforest Camp for the afternoon and then headed back to Elephant Hills.  Thankfully the rain let up on the way back and we actually got to enjoy the ride this time.

In my next entry we explore a labyrinth of mangroves, visit a Krabi area beach, and I catch a very fast crab.

❤ Feynor

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