In terms of an epic Khao Sok jungle hike, our recent trek to the ‘Chiang Ruun’ bamboo ranks among the best! The hike featured dense jungle with unique karst geography and flora, along with some truly bizarre insect sightings. Additionally, we saw the ‘Chiang Ruun’ bamboo, growing on a mountain ridge high atop a limestone karst mountain.
‘Chiang Ruun’ (ไผ่เฉียงรุน) is a member of the Dendrocalamus family. It is the largest species of bamboo in Thailand, and grows in only a few places throughout the south. One of the sites for this natural wonder is Klong Phanom National Park, just up the road from Khao Sok. Compared to Khao Sok, Khlong Phanom is tiny, with 90% of the park’s area occupied by steep limestone karts. Due to this fact, the park is virtually unknown and almost never visited. As a result, Khlong Phanom has maintained much of its natural diversity.
Khao Sok jungle hike: the climb begins
Our Khao Sok jungle hike to the ‘Chiang Ruun’ bamboo began in the back of a 4×4 pickup truck. At first, the road was level, with potholes and well maintained palm oil and rubber plantations on either side. Then, as we continued higher into the mountains, however, the road grew steeper. Potholes turned into ravines, and plantations grew increasingly wild. Finally, these gave way to healthy rainforest.
At this point, the road ended in dense jungle. Massive tropical hardwoods were everywhere and liana vines stretched from tree to tree. The air was thick, and full with the sounds of birds and insects.
Even though our trail was under water due to the heavy monsoon rain, we were able to find a path skirting the base of the cliff. As we made our way around, we took in the unique ecosystem of the low-level karst cliffs: strange flowers, grasses and trees sprouted from tiny cracks in the rock. Massive trees clung to the cliff face as well, their roots like melted cheese dripping to the ground. Moss and lichens covered nearly every surface.
Chiang Ruun Bamboo
Soon we gained the ridge, and the tops of the ‘Chiang Ruun’ bamboo became just visible over nearby trees. Next, we descended to a small shelf below, and found ourselves at the goal of our Khao Sok jungle hike. Finally we were in the ‘Chiang Ruun’ grove! There were about six separate thickets of the massive bamboo within sight of each other.
Our guide estimated each grove to be over 100 years old. The massive trunks soared upwards. Whereas other bamboo tends to lean, these trunks were arrow straight, and aiming for blue sky. All around were ‘Naw:’ the new shoots. Similarly, these were gigantic, some taller than a man. We marveled at the age and size of the bamboo, which took two of us to wrap our hands around. Simply being among those ancient plants, high on a mountain ridge, was amazing!
The descent was much easier than we expected. After a little sliding, and a lot of stopping to look at jungle seeds, we reached flat ground. There, we decided that we were hot and sweaty enough to take the flooded path. This turned out to be a great move!
Walking through the flooded forest was a unique Khao Sok jungle hike experience. The water reflected the trees and cliff face like a mirror. Here and there sunbeams came poking through the canopy, lancing into crystal clear water like lasers. The water was full of tadpoles: thousands of them from dozens of different species. As the water deepened to waist and then chest level, we could feel the tadpoles brushing our hands and arms. Finally, when the water got too deep to walk, we swam through massive clouds of these creatures.
Reaching the truck that would slip and slide down the mountain to deliver us safely to our destination, we were all smiles. It was a true Khao Sok jungle hike: healthy rainforest, a mildly challenging hike, and a list of unique and wonderful experiences. We can’t wait to share it with any of our guests interested in seeing this hidden Khao Sok gem.
Coming to Khao Sok for the excellent hiking opportunities?
Be sure to read about our Top 3 Khao Sok hikes!
Looking for something even more intense?
Read up on our epic deep-jungle camping trip to the abandoned Chon tin min!
You can find the full activities list and suggested itineraries on Riverside Cottages website.
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