Of the thousands of visitors who stay in Khao Lak each year, very few of them are aware that they are not actually staying in Khao Lak. They are in fact staying in a small village close to Khao Lak. I would say over half of them never even set foot on Khao Lak. For those of us in the know Khao Lak is not a town, sure there is a village named Khao Lak and in recent years most of the other surrounding villages have also become known as Khao Lak, but Khao Lak itself is actually a mountain. A large jungle covered mountain that separates the sea from the land.
Lak mountain got its name (translated as “Main Mountain”) due to the fact that it was higher than all the surrounding mountains, this coupled with the fact that it was located at the mouth of Thaplamu Harbor, made it the main landmark for sailors and traders looking for a safe haven. There has been a trading route all the way along the Khao Lak coastline since about the 14th century. The main trading centers in this area were in Takuapa (Then known as Takola) in the north, and Phuket in the south. Khao Lak was conveniently located in the middle so therefore became a popular stopping point, and a point where local people would come down to buy and trade their goods. These days however Lak Mountain is just a twisty road before a tourist town, with a shrine and a small national park center. Then we came along
The story begins with me and Chris sitting on our long-tail boat fishing at the mouth of the Thaplamu River, looking up at this mountain. It was the low season, but the weather was good and it had been a slow couple of weeks so we were getting itchy feet. We were bored and wanted to go exploring again. As we sat there feeding the fish, how fish manage to get the bait off the hook without getting caught I will never know, the conversation turned to our surroundings.
Chris, who was in the middle of trying to un-hook his fishing line from an unseen submerged rock that wasn’t going to give in without a fight, said to me without even looking round,
“We should go check them out tomorrow. Might be fun. Do your waterfall trek as a warm up and then head up to the top of Khao Lak and check out the view.”
It was at that point that his fishing line finally gave in and Chris was sent rolling backwards into the boat.
“We could do a Khao Lak Jungle Safari.”
So, it was decided. We would meet at 07:00 the next morning to begin our ascent! We also decided we were going to film the trek as we went. Let it never be said we were not impulsive.
The following morning, we met outside Chris’s house and headed up towards the waterfall trek. It was still cool and misty as we left the car. As soon as we started walking, we were faced with a river we had to cross. But we were unfazed, us being experienced adventurers and all, we simply paddled in. Then began to wade. Then started to swim. Before wading again to the opposite bank, 50 meters down river of where we started.
“It wasn’t that deep last time I was here,” I said to Chris as we squeezed water out of our shirts. “It must have rained last night.” And with that we hacked out way through the brambles and back to the path we were following. The trek was beautiful. The path we were on followed the valley between two mountains. It rose so gently that it hardly felt as if we were climbing at all. As we walked, we chatted and filmed wild orchids and birds as we imagined we were David Attenborough in a newly discovered jungle. The river bubbled alongside us and everything was calm and peaceful, until a wild pig sprinted out of the tall grass right next to us and almost sent us both flying as it shot off again into the undergrowth.
Other than that, the trek was almost completely uneventful, so much so that when we arrived at the waterfall, we were feeling very relaxed and confident. The waterfall was steep. A wide cascade of white water thundering down onto the rocks below. With only the smallest of shallow pools at the bottom before the water was again thrown off another cliff to continue its journey down river. As we stood admiring the view, we noticed that the path seemed to continue on the other side, and it was accessible by a single plank of wood, no more than 10cm wide, wedged between the rocks directly in front of the cascade. We looked at each other and shrugged before clambering over the rocks towards the ‘bridge’. The noise of the water was so loud it would have been pointless to chat about it. We then wobbled out way carefully, one by one, over the plank of wood, which bounced with every step and felt as if it could snap at any moment.
Once we got to the other side we didn’t even look back as we began to clamber up the muddy bank, using the trees to pull ourselves up. What we discovered at the top made all the mud worth it. A beautiful cool and shallow pool with a sandy bottom, fed by yet another waterfall. Perfect for bathing and rinsing off the mud. We cleaned ourselves up a bit and sat on a rock to watch the water. We sat there for several minutes before I turned to Chris and said,