Thailand: Khao Sok National Park

Thailand'National Park makes a challenging jungle adventure for those who prefer to travel off the beaten s Khao Sok path.

Tired of glitzy resorts and over-hyped nature treks more tailored to tourists than adventurers? Look no further than Khao Sok, a jungle situated on the Thai/ Malay peninsula that showcases thick vegetation and close to 300 animal species. As you approach the entrance, awesome geological formations called karsts (limestone conglomerations) loom to welcome you to this humid yet lush green world of shrieking monkeys and treehouse lodgings.

The truly hardy swear by the daylong hike into the jungle near Cheow Lan Lake, a manmade body of water that you cross on a pleasant boat ride to Tone Teuy Creek. After wading through the creek, the going gets tougher, as you cross a leech-infested trail; the best way to fend off the bloodsuckers is to keep moving, as they gravitate to warm, still bodies. Once past their nastiness, however, you have the opportunity to see tigers, elephants, and pythons in their natural habitat. For many, though, the highlight of the day is swimming through Namtaloo Cave's deep and rocky waters to come out at the other side of the trail.

Just about anyone could use some rest and relaxation after a stay in the jungle, and the perfect spot to unwind is the Amanpuri Resort in Phuket, about two and a half hours from Khao Sok. This elegant hotel offers all the amenities that treehouses do not: hardwood floors, large teak beds, and modern bathtubs for washing away jungle grime. The staff even provides guests with their very own gazebos for dining on scrumptious Thai cuisine and gazing out over palm trees. After a few days at Khao Sok, a glitzy resort doesn't look so clich├ęd after all.

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