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Published: January 20th 2008
Jan 15 and 16 th
Limestone Lake Wonderland
After a nice breakfast at Arts watching the monkeys I had a 1.5 hours drive transfer by mini van to the Chioew Laan Lake Pier with Tara and Colm. Chioew Laan Lake was expanded by the creation of the Rachabrappha Dam in 1982 and much of the wildlife starved or drowned and a lot of the jungle disappeared when the dam filled - that's where my heading comes from and for some other reasons discussed later. This must have been a truly wonderful area before the dam but then again we wouldn't be able to see it from the current amazing viewpoint without all the extra water.
At the pier we met Ou from LLTours and our guide Daeng and then had an incredible one hour longboat ride on the lake passing 250 mtr high limestone karsts (cliffs) over the flat fresh water to the Pleanprai Rafthouse which is a collection of huts connected by a bamboo walkway across the lake. We had stopped a couple of times for pics and our driver made sure we saw the best of the scenery as we cruised alongside the limestone cliffs, a
sight to behold, apparently the tallest of this type in all of Thailand. On the way Daeng told us he would change the itinery to do our tours on the lake to view wildlife etc at what he thought would be the best times.
The water is also 50 mtrs deep at the rafthouse so if you go for a swim wear a life vest - the water is heavy and you could easily drown here - I could not believe the other tourists swimming across to an island, no one could save you here if you sink and it is so relaxing just floating around with the vest on. After arrival at the rafthouse we were shown to our very basic huts which contained a double bed on the plastic covered floor and a mosquito net. The lock to the door was missing which did not matter much as my door promptly fell off and stayed that way till I left - it didn't seem to matter much to be honest.
We had some free time before lunch at 1230 pm so I decided to go for a paddle - Tara and Colm were already out there
and came but with some great pics of some Gibbons swinging between the trees - you could hear the Gibons making their eerie cry in the jungle. we had been given dry bags to keep our valuables dry but some fool hopped in his canoe with his camera around his neck and promptly fell in the water as the canoe capsized. My camera was soaked and luckily Daeng was nearby and he suggested we put the camera in the big barrel of rice in the kitchen to suck out all the moisture. I thought my camera and pics were ruined but the next day my camera came to life and is now as good as new - thanks Daeng - also remember to take out your battery and memory card ASAP before trying to start the camera if it gets wet. Anyway that was the end of my canoe excursion and feeling sorry for myself I sat next to my hut till lunch time.
A visit in this time to the toliet block found large buzzing insects hanging around waiting to bite me on the ass (they missed the target thankfully) so this also added to the adventure. Make
sure you take some wet wipes here too - work that one out for yourself. While we were having lunch the two Danish guys we met at Arts turned up in a longboat - they had arranged a day tour to the rafthouse and laughed when they saw my hut with the door missing and me looking rather fed up after the camera incident. I was starting to think I wish that I had done the same - so be warned this place is beautiful but you are staying in the most basic of conditions - if you need a little bit more luxury stay back at Arts and do a day trip out to the rafthouse for lunch. LLTours are good as they arrange all your transfers and quality guides but you could have contacted Arts and organised any tours in advance or when you arrive there.
After another big Thai lunch, no choice, Daeng just told me to eat what was on my plate which was fine, he's my hero after the rice solution for the soggy camera - we took a longboat out to another spot where we we went for a one hour jungle walk
where Daeng found some huge Tarantula spiders peeking out of their holes in the side of the walkway. We then boarded a bamboo raft for a ride to a limetone cave which had huge limestone stalagnites and stalactites, some nearly joining after millions of year - well worth the trip here just to see this cave (will have some pics when Tara and Colm email me when they get home to Melbourne).
When we returned to the rafthouse I floated around for an hour in the lake watching the sun setting - so relaxing and the water is not cold at all at this time of year. It does bother me a bit when you see 3 toilets submerged in the water near the toilet block and everyone brushing their teeth and washing in the lake - not really sure how pristine this environment is with all the longtail boats and possible effluent even though the water is very deep.
After a great dinner of local fish Tara and Colm went to do some reading in front of their hut - the power generator switches off at 2300 pm so make sure you have a torch in bed
with you or you could end up going for an unexpected swim in the 50 mtr deep water if nature calls during the night. I stayed at the restaurant and chatted with the friendly staff and cook who said she wanted to marry me and the Swedish biker group, one of whom spoke fluent Thai and is married to a lady in Phuket who owns a pub and spa. Off to my hut at 2245 pm and watched some poachers on the other side of the lake spotlighting animals - an illegal activity in the other parks I have been to here but how would you ever catch them? I slept well without the door on my hut which provided a nice breeze in the warm night and woke at 4am, sitting outside my hut in the still of the jungle night watching the silhouete of the limestone cliffs as the sun rose - a special sight and lingers in my memory while everyone else was sleeping.
At 700 am we went on a canoe trip around the lake to spot wildlife - not much around except for some monkeys and a few birds. Those poachers from the night
before must have caught everything or scared the wildlife far into the jungle.
The rest of the morning was free time and Daeng checked to see if my camera was 'done' from the rice barrel - yahhh - "it's alive" - I owe you one Daeng !!! At 1230pm we took a packed lunch and headed to the longboat for the trip back to the pier and a return to civilisation and a hot shower after two days - we were all ready to leave after the wildlife spotting earlier but couldn't go till later to suit our transfers for ongoing travel arrangements.
We stopped at a nice little laggon with it's own "James Bond" type island and had our lunch admiring the scenery - it was another perfect day weather wise. After the pleasant hours trip back to the pier Daeng suggested I go with Tara and Colm on their mini van transfer to Krabi and get off at PhangNa town which they agreed to and saved me a couple of hours travelling time on the local bus. These mini van transfers are they way to go if you can afford them and would save heaps of
time waiting for local buses although I do consider them part of your travel experience here. When they dropped me off after an hours drive from Chioew Laan Lake the bus to Phuket turned up at exactly the same time which was handy on another hot day and I was then on my way for another two hour bus drive with a very bad taste, loud music dvd playing to my next 3 day adventure. Phuket Town and Patong to Rawaii Beaches - I am on my way !!!!
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