Traveling Thailand - Ratchaprapa Dam (Photos, the Accommodation and Video)
This trip was connected with a group of colleagues at my girlfriends workplace. However, I am very happy that they invited me to tour with them, as the Ratchaprapa Dam is amazing and they were also a great bunch of peeps to travel with. The dam is located in South Thailand and I highly recommend it as a destination if you are considering traveling in Thailand. Although many flock to Thailand beaches for their week abroad, the Ratchapaper Dam offers a truly unique waterfront experience. However, before I get to that, let's start at the beginning.
The day kicked off at 5:30am (definitely not my chosen time of the morning), as we all had a long journey to the Dam, and then a boat trip to where we would stay. The travel time was 6-7 hours, despite the fact that we were already located in the southern 'leg' of Thailand. Thankfully, Thais have a rule that everything should be 'sanook' which simply means 'fun'. It is a part of the way of living here, whether at work or driving, it should be made fun and this trip was to be no exception.
Thailand tourism is at its highest, at least for Thais, is during the long weekends. This happened to be the birthday of the Queen of Thailand, hence many people would be traveling. The added traffic and having a long drive ahead can mean that things get stressful, but not with the group we had. They had made sure to pre-plan everything, including making the journey to and from Ratchapraper dam fun and interesting. This involved every car having a Walkie-Talkie, something I recommend for anyone on a long group drive, as it enables easy communication for things like directions, but also fun banter along the journey.
Another aspect that had been though of was where everyone would stop for breaks along the way, to stretch there legs and unwind. However, this would not be 'sanook' if that was it, so a card game had also been created for the cars to compete. Basically every car of people was a team and at each stop, two teams had to draw cards (or it may have been one team drawing two cards, I could never remember who was in each team). Anyway, on these cards, things had been written that would 'knock out' competing teams, which could only happen to your team twice before you could not win the prize. This was cards with things like 'an even last number on your number plate', or 'Someone in you car is drinking coffee right now' written on them. It made the trip a bit more fun and the chance of a prize helped motivate the groups too.
Eventually after a lot of walkie-talkie banter, many kilometers and a few coffees, we arrived at Ratchapaper Dam. The boat was pre-booked for us, and so all we needed to do was park and go straight down to the boat. However, this may not be the kind of boat you would normally see, so please let me pause here to show you some photos and explain a bit about this style.
It is called a long-tail boat, due to the very obvious 'tail' sticking out from the rear. This is your propeller shaft, which is basically linked to a car/motorbike engine on a balance. Some of these have insanely large and noisy engines, but that is another matter. Now, the 'driver' controls the boat by moving the engine with a long pole on the front. On this pole, you should be able to see a string, which is pulled to accelerate the engine and therefor the boat. These can go very fast and are incredible maneuverable. However, the noise can make things a little hard to hear ... here are some pictures of this unique and popular Thai transportation:
Now, back to my Thailand travels. This boat took us hurtling towards where we would stay (which would also surprise me!), yet it seemed to take forever. This lake is BIG, as I think it took around an hour of travel to reach our resort. At the top right of this hub, you can see some of the photos from this journey. Unfortunately, my camera doesn't do it justice, as you just can't feel the depth and size of these mountains emerging from the 60-70m deep waters. However, I hope that they give you an idea of how beautiful the Ratchapaper Dam is.
When traveling in Thailand, you can be sure to get a few surprises. Anyone that has been here, knows that this place has a very free and unrestricted style, a way of living that makes you feel alive, rather than just existing and 'getting by'. This trip was to be no disappointment in that sense, as the resort at which we arrived, well was errrm ... floating! Yes, you read that right, the resort located on this dam are generally not on the shore/land, they are floating raft houses, or even entire raft resorts.
As you can see in the photos, this particular resort does have walkways to the land and even a few rooms on land, but is almost completely floating. The showers and bathrooms are on the land, with some more expensive accommodation, but the resort itself bobs along with the waves of the lake. Health and safety is not like in the UK, as you are expected to watch out for yourself and take responsibility for your own well being. This means that things like this can still exist, and personally I love that, as I would choose to have destinations like this over 'safe and regulated living' any day! The planks are often just balanced, there are holes in some walkways, and you really do have to be careful when changing walkways, but this doesn't take away the awesomeness of this place at all.
That said, partying into the eve and the idea of balancing back to my room a little 'less than sober' was quite a daunting idea at first. However, it is surprising as to how fast you addapt. Within not time, you hardly notice the swaying, you are watching where you step and you expect the 'sinking feeling' when you step across onto another platform. The only one that caught me out a few times was the walkway to the toilets, which is the one with all the arches, as when you stepped onto this one, it would drop by about one foot (30cms to be modern and metric lol), before swaying side to side in this fashion ... I can tell you, that is a surprise when your bladder is full!! ha ha. Our group had rented almost the entire resort and I have to say that it is a good deal. It costs about 600 baht per night, which is 12GBP, or 20USD roughly. However, this price also includes 3 meals! Yes, you get gorgeous fresh fish and Thai food all inclusive in the price ... a great deal in my mind.
Yet, before the drinks began, we still had a wildlife tour that is put on for free by the park. This is a boat trip to see wild animals in the area, where you can apparently sometime see quite a diverse range of wildlife. However, I would consider it more of being just a fun boat trip, as we were only lucky enough to see one bird! Ha ha. Still, for free you cannot complain and it certainly is a fun time, plus a great way to meet other people.
This was a busy day, so the evening ended with some card games and eventually a few relaxed whiskeys out on the balconies, watching the lake under the full moon and enjoying the peace. The next day was going to be busy, so most turned in early and the rest did when the electricity was cut off at 11pm ... navigating rafts in pitch black is an experience for those late to bed, or who need a bathroom visit in the night.
Having spent a lot of time in Asia, I have seen many unique construction techniques. However, I had to say that I loved the simple style of lighting and the electricity supply on a raft resort where you are only just above the water. I'm sure you will agree, that it is a bit different from the UK, US or many other places! lol.
Ratchapraper Dam | Day 2
When we got up for showing and the mornings trip to the caves, the sun was barely rising on Ratchapraper Dam. The air was fresh and cool, but certainly not cold. Thankfully, this resort would be putting on a healthy breakfast of pork and rice soup, a popular Thai breakfast, or pancakes for those that are not used to that. This is accompanied by an unlimited and very welcome supply of coffee!
Breakfast out of the way, it was time to travel Thailand a little more and discover some of the hidden treasure within the huge lake created by Ratchapraper Dam. It is so big in fact, that mountain ranges exist within it, standing proudly above the already 60 meters of water. The morning scene in Thailand is often beautiful, but on this particular lake, the mists are magical. The mountains, layers of greens, clouds huddling around the peaks and mists rising off the surface produce a tranquil feeling. It is a shame that technology can't capture this, but here are a few morning photos of Ratchapraper Dam to give you an idea:
This mornings adventure would consist of a boat trip to the mountains that hold some wonderful caves, a hike through to woodland to the internal lake (kind of like the hole in a doughnut), a raft trip across these calm waters and finally an exploration of the cave ... before repeating the first steps in reverse.
The hike was not too strenuous, as most of it is along gradual slopes and where things are steeper, there are also extra railings to help people get up/down safely. There are also some very weird bugs in this section of the wood, that are about the size of a large beetle, but make a noise that sounds very similar to the horn of an extremely large truck ... quite impressive!
After the hike, you arrive at the raft docking area, a lovely bamboo structure situated on this stunning hidden lake. The sun was up now and the scene was quite amazing, hence the photos here describe it far better than I possibly could:
The raft trip doesn't take long, and is actually very smooth, due to the lack of waves on the lake. We were also fortunate enough to observe a large (2-3 foot) lizard swimming its way across the waters. Arriving at the Khao Kop cave (one of the tourist attractions of Trang in Thailand), the raft masters become your guide to the caves. Unfortunately, they do not speak English, but luckily for me, my girlfriend and the group was very good at translating the interesting aspects of the cave. I won't go into a long description here, but instead the photos below show it off better. What I would say, is that it seems some Koreans have visited these caves, as money being slotted into the wall and the small stone towers are very indicative of Korean culture when making a prayer for luck or wishing hard for something.
After exploring the cave and reversing the trip there, a butterfly seemed to take a shine to me. Everyone found it amusing, as for some reason this little creature would keep returning to my hand, even when other hands were offered. It really was fearless, or maybe just knew I didn't intend it any arm, so happily posed for a few photos.
We were now on our way to the second resort, which certainly did not disappoint! This Thai raft resort was completely afloat, with no connection to the land. It had logs afloat that could be used for rest areas while swimming and there were plenty of canoes available for free too. For those feeling nervous, life-jackets are given to everyone and some choose to use these while walking around the resort. However, what I loved about this resort was the stunning scenery ... just take a look at these photos:
Not only was the scenery stunning, but this are was alive with large fish. In fact, I guess that they have learned that the resort is a good area for food, as there really is an amazing amount of life right underneath it. I did have a video to give you all an idea of how alive the waters are ... it is not a pond in the photo, it is just an open area of lake that can be seen in the middle of the resort. However, unfortunately technology seems to have beaten me for now, as I can't seem to find it anywhere (this will hopefully be updated when I do).
The rest of the day here was spent swimming, canoeing and generally relaxing. Once again the evening was a free 'pick n mix' style dinner, followed by drinks and games until late. The resort does not turn the lights off at 11pm however, but for us we had another reason to sleep early. This was because shooting stars (meteors) would be hitting the atmosphere at about 3am. Sure enough, we dragged ourselves out of our sacks at 3am and sleepily staggered out to the deck to lay down and watch the show. I have to say, this was actually surprisingly impressive, as light after light shot across the day. Plans for an early start to our journey back were surely delayed a little! Lol
Ratchapraper Dam | Day 3
Once everyone had woke, showered and eaten, we all started on the journey back. I thought that this would probably be another road trip of games, but I was to be wrong. This journey had two stops planned that would be quite interesting and started with a boat trip. The boat trip was a part of the journey back to the mainland, which takes you to tour a rock formation that is very famous. It consists of three rocks and is very beautiful. These and the journey were really beautiful and I felt kind of sad to be leaving.
The first stop was to be a temp of a very famous monk in Thailand. His teachings were revered by the people and he also aimed at creating a more universal and livable Buddhism for everyone, not just in Thai temples. You will see, if you read in the Thai temple photos bellow, exactly what I mean by this:
Temple of Thai People
Toilet Restaurant and Themed Attractions
The next stop, however, was to be very different. It was to a resort that, erm, well is about toilets. Yep, you read that right, TOILETS! I was rather dubious about this one on my way in, but it is actually quite a fun and interesting place. There is a themed restaurant and themed toilets of some weird and wonderful designs. You can sit in a town of glass (one way) and stare at the world while doing your business, you can look out through a pigs bottom, or even get a feeling of being Tarzan/Jane in these wonderful loos.
Then there is the coffee shop. This has a great play on the Thai word for excrement 'kee'. In Thai, the word key is often used to mean extremes, such as 'kee mowl' which politely translates are excrementally drunk ha ha. Anyway, you can see the photos of the shop in the moment. Yet, what I found to be very appropriate was the coffee they served. Normal coffee is available, but for those who feel brave, there is the option of the famous Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee. For those that do not know about this coffee, let me explain why this is so appropriate. This coffee is extremely expensive (up to $350 per kilo), due to the weird way it is 'created'. This is because the smooth taste is a result of it passing through the digesting system of Civets, predominantly the Asian Palm Civets. The process of digestion seeps enzymes into the coffee, which actually cause a smoother milder taste and health benefits too. What better coffee to serve in a toilet resort than that of coffee which starts its life as excrement:
The rest of the trip was just a relaxed drive home. Well I have to say that this hub ended up being a lot longer than I had planned, but what an awesome long weekend!!! ... I need another long weekend to recover lol. I hope it has given you an insight into what is available in Thailand. Anyone wanting to see the lake themselves, can find more information here:
Khao Sok National Park:
Tel: +66 (0) 77 395 139
Fax: +66 (0) 77 395 155
or on their website:
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