January 2017 – While sitting in our fifth wheel trailer in Arizona and planning our Thailand adventure, I wanted to find the most exotic and beautiful landscape possible and to stay in some truly unique lodgings.
We found just that at the Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park.
Cheow Lan Lake — also spelled Chiewlarn Lake and Chieow Lan Lake — is the jewel of Khao Sok National Park in the southern jungles of Thailand. It was created in 1982 when the Ratchaprapha dam was built on the Klong Saeng River to supply electricity to the southern half of the country. No one knew at the time just how exquisite the scenery on this lake would soon become.
Now it is a little known gem that offers sublime beauty without the crowds of tourists that are found in other parts of Thailand.
The best way to see the lake is to get out onto it in a longtail boat, and when we arrived, lots of longtail boats were waiting to take people on day trips and to deliver them to unique overnight accommodations at floating raft houses scattered in little coves around the lake’s extensive shores.
We had arranged for a three day and two night stay at the Greenery Panvaree Resort floating raft house, the finest and most deluxe floating raft house on the lake.
Before heading out on the boat, we needed to purchase a ticket to enter Khao Sok National Park, since we would be staying within the boundaries of the National Park. It was 300 Thai Baht per person, or a little less than $10 US. The ticket was very pretty!
In no time, we boarded the longtail boat that was bound for the Greenery Panvaree floating raft house. We were joined by an extended Thai family of parents and grown kids (who all live abroad) with their significant others enjoying a family reunion vacation together.
The magic of this lake is not only the extremely clear green water but the towering limestone mountains that encircle it. As we rode along on the water, we were mesmerized by the views in all directions.
Longtail boats were skimming across the water both near and far.
The ride was about 30 minutes from the pier out to the Greenery Panvaree floating raft houses. When we turned a corner and saw the row of little bungalows perched on the water, a collective “Ahhh!” went up from all of us on the boat.
These charming little villas are nestled into a cove backed by enormous cliffs, and they looked utterly inviting and romantic.
There are two groups of raft houses on either side Greenery Panvaree’s small and private cove.
The Family Zone is made up of five raft houses with nine rooms that are designed for families along with a main raft house with a common kitchen and restaurant building where meals are prepared and served.
The Greenery Zone, where we were going to stay, is made up of four rooms on two floors designed for couples. They are all located in one building that has a breezeway hall on the first floor. The Greenery Zone also has a main raft building with a kitchen on the first floor and a lovely restaurant with a view on the second floor.
As we slipped by the Family Zone, we saw a collection of kayaks in a wonderful rainbow of colors tied up out in front of their restaurant building.
As our longtail boat slowed down, a couple paddled by us in a kayak. What fun!
When we arrived at the Greenery Zone, which is about 100 yards from the Family Zone, anchored to the bottom of the lake with its own mooring system, we stepped off our longtail boat at the dock in front of the main building and were greeted with a delicious and cold fruit juice “welcome drink” that was dark red and incredibly sweet and tasty.
As we sipped this ambrosia with our fellow guests and gaped at the views around us, our bags were whisked away to our room.
We hung out on the front dock of the Greenery Zone for a while, chatting with the staff and each other, soaking in this very unique spot.
The clear emerald water was warm, and the air was blisteringly hot and humid in the sun. One of the great things about staying here is not only enjoying the gorgeous setting but being able to jump in the water from anywhere, including right outside your own room!
The main dock by our restaurant raft house had both colorful kayaks for guests to use and big round floating couches and a swing set too.
We weren’t ready to swim just yet, so we made our way to our floating raft house room. When we looked down into the water we were floored that it was teeming with fish!!
The raft houses are linked together with floating walkways, and we were as excited as little kids as we strolled around this very cool and very unique kind of accommodations.
We spotted our longtail boat tied up to the raft house where the staff stay.
For those who don’t want to walk, another great way to get around is by kayak!
We were absolutely smitten with the charm and beauty of this very cool spot.
As we approached our room, we entered an open air hallway, or breezeway, that had a fun waterfront view in each direction.
When we got to our room, we just stopped and stared!
The glass doors opened right onto the water with a small walkway, and a set of stairs led right into the water for easy access to go swimming right from our room!
Across the little cove, we could see the sweet floating raft houses of the Family Zone backed by towering limestone pinnacles.
Our raft house was two stories high and had four rooms in it, two on each floor. Our curiosity got the better of us, and when we noticed that two of the rooms were still unoccupied, we snuck in for a look.
In the early evening, dinner was served in the dining room on the second floor of the main raft house. Staying at this resort is a very intimate experience, and dinner was served family style. The Thai family staying in the Greenery Zone with us was seated nearby at the next table, and they showed us how to eat some of the more exotic foods.
When we noticed a very yummy looking dark red drink being delivered to their table, I asked for one too. It is called Blue Pea Lime Juice. But it isn’t made from blue peas! It is actually made from a flower, and it is such a wonderfully refreshing drink I had it with every meal after that!
After dinner we wandered around the docks of this unique floating hotel in dusk’s magical light.
During the day, every so often the docks would move ever so slightly if a longtail boat went by on the lake and made a big wake or if the wind came up and rippled the water into waves. But as night fell the lake was still and the lights of the raft houses cast a warm light.
Cheow Lan Lake is in Khao Sok National Park, and the Thai government prohibits any building construction along the lake’s edge.
There had been people living on the river before the lake was built, and the government gave them new tracts of land located about 10 kilometers away so they could move and build new homes and lives.
The people who owned land that eventually got buried by water were given permits to build bamboo raft houses since all construction on land was prohibited.
Twelve raft house permits were granted on Cheow Lan Lake, which is about 15 miles long and several miles wide, and the grantees built twelve very simple and truly rustic floating hotels around the shores of the lake. Some were so rustic, lacking electricity and other amenities, some upscale international tourists were a bit unhappy with the accommodations.
As tourism expanded, the government gave out four more permits for prospective raft house developers to purchase, but they required them to be made of better materials and built to a higher standard.
Greenery Panvaree was one of those properties, and the young Thai couple who owns the resort, Ton and Yohke, have created a spectacular retreat that is without doubt the most beautiful and well appointed raft house on the lake.
Many of the raft houses, including Greenery Panvaree, are also used for packaged day trip tours. Mini-van based tour groups coming from the town of Khao Sok or Surat Thani or Khao Lak drive to the lake, jump in a longtail boat for a ride out to the raft house, spend a few hours enjoying swimming from the raft house or doing a hike in the jungle or to a cave and then return to their hotels by longtail boat and minivan.
I found it really difficult to figure out how to put together a visit to a raft house on Cheow Lan Lake that would be a 5-star adventure, despite reading endless TripAdvisor reviews and some blogs. Most people seemed to have arranged their tour to Cheow Lan Lake and a floating raft house once they arrived in a hotel that was within a one to three hour drive from the lake.
I also found travelers’ experiences at the raft houses varied tremendously, since some are simply too rustic for the tastes of many international tourists. But it was difficult to find detailed information about each individual floating raft house destination, especially contact information for the hotel managers, to be able to compare one hotel to another and get answers to questions.
Greenery Panvaree stood out as unquestionably the finest and most luxurious raft house on the lake, and reviewers loved their stays there, whether on daytrips or overnight. But again, I couldn’t figure out how to arrange to visit Greenery Panvaree specifically, as most pre-packaged tours don’t explicitly state which raft house would be on their itinerary.
I finally found the Greenery Panvaree website, but it was written mostly in Thai. I began to realize that this is a special resort that Thai tourists cherish but that international tourists don’t visit very often. How cool is that — visiting a place in Thailand where local Thai people choose to vacation!!
I emailed the resort, and the owner, Yohke, who is fluent in English and is very well traveled herself, answered all my questions.
When I met her during our stay at Greenery Panvaree, I found out she lived in Seattle for a year and she was also a flight attendant on international flights for over a decade. No wonder she is so comfortable with English!
Because this is a small operation, Greenery Panvaree requires a 50% deposit to book a room to insure that the customer is serious about coming. Because this resort has been primarily a destination for Thai people, the transaction is done via wire transfer, which is a common method of payment for Thais in Thailand.
Western Union is easy for foreigners to use, and even though it seems scary to wire money to a far distant country to book a room, the rich reward is an incredible experience at Greenery Panvaree.
The remaining 50% is paid at the resort. This remaining portion must be paid in cash because the floating raft house is so remote there is no signal for credit card transactions. There is a low grade cell phone signal some of the time, and the TV in the restaurant broadcasts a Thai station. But who goes to a place like this sit on Facebook or watch TV?
The owners of Greenery Panvaree are working on setting up PayPal so they can accept online credit card transactions for room deposits to make it easier for foreign tourists, but until that is up and running, tourists shouldn’t be concerned at all by the requirement to wire funds to book their room.
Greenery Panvaree was our home base for three glorious and fun-filled days. Pics and stories from those adventures will be coming soon!!
More info and links below…
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More info about Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House:
- The Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort – Official Website
- Rooms and Rates at Greenery Panvaree – Official Website
- Location of Khao Sok Pier and Greenery Panvaree – The Longtail boat ride goes from the pier to Greenery Panvaree
- Greenery Panvaree Reviews – TripAdvisor Reviews
- Western Union – Send money online
- General Info on Cheow Lan Lake Raft House Tours – This link is for reference only
Be sure to choose the “English Only” menu below the top photo on the home page to see the English language pages. To read the Thai language pages auto-translated into English, use Google Chrome and install the Google Translate plugin for Chrome. The resort’s owner Yohke speaks English fluently and she is the one who responds to email inquiries. Email here.
Rooms are booked in packages of 1 or 2 nights (you can opt to stay longer too). A jungle hike, cave tour, and longtail boat rides at dawn and after dark are included in the package, depending on how many nights you stay. Our 3 day / 2 night tour was 14,900 Baht or about $440 US total for two people (National Park fee of 600 Baht ($18 US) for 2 people paid separately).
Please note that all pre-packaged tours to floating raft houses on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok, like the ones listed by the company at the above link, are as much as twice as expensive when booked through them as they are when booked directly with the raft house owners. The “tour package” you receive is identical. You are simply paying more to book through a third party.
Other blog posts from our travels in Thailand:
- Snorkeling Ko Rok with Dive & Relax – Underwater Magic in Thailand!
- Cheow Lan Lake Tour in Khao Sok with Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House
- Kanchanaburi, Thailand – History, Caves, Monkeys & Exotic Fruit!
- Huay Mae Khamin – Thailand’s Most Beautiful Waterfall – Mellow Adventures
- Erawan Falls – Jewel of Erawan National Park – with Mellow Adventures
- Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi – A Ride Through Thailand’s Countryside
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Bangkok or Disney’s Epcot Center?
- One Day in Bangkok – A trip on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat!
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