I was on a long-tailed boat cruising in a huge lake with cool wind touching my face. In front of me was emerald green water spreading wide ahead with its surface separated by several tall limestone islands, competing one another to shoot out and up to the sky.
The scenery looked stunning, yet mysterious. Above were dark heavy clouds floating among those tall peaks. It looked as if one of the sharp limestone tips could any time puncture a fat black cloud and exploded the rain that I wasn't expecting it to happen at this time.
Today I was drawn to go on a boat by the idea of being in the lake to overwhelm myself with the surrounding greenery and the far-flung water. When I bought the ticket I was suggested that I go to see "Guilin of Thailand". I knew that Guilin is a very beautiful city in China though I've never been there. I was wondering how Guilin of Thailand would look similar to the renowned Guilin in China.
I was informed that the shortest boat trip was 2 hours to see Guilin and to stop at a floating restaurant for lunch. The ticket was 1,800 baht which you can choose to pay it all by yourself or wait for other passengers to fill the seats and share the cost. I had nobody to share, so I paid all 1,800 baht for the 20 seated boat. After buying the ticket, I walked down to the pier and paid the national park fee for 40 baht. This reservoir is in Khao Sok national park's responsibility area. Noted that the fee for non-Thai nationality is 300 baht per person.
After about 45 minutes, the boat stopped in front of four limestone peaks shooting out of the crystal green water. The Tourism Authority of Thailand gave the name "Guilin of Thailand" because it is famous for its topography that looks similar to karst topography in Guilin city of China. Guilin of China is one of the most popular tourist destinations, and some even say that "Guilin" is a heaven on earth. This duplicated name strategy has increased the number of both Thai and foreign tourists visiting Ratchaprapa dam to see Guilin of Thailand.
The karst topography in Guilin of China was formed by natural phenomenon, however, the lookalike karst formation in Guilin of Thailand is a result from the construction of Ratchaprapa Dam, or the other name is Cheow Lan dam. The dam was built in 1982, and was completely finished in 1987. To build the dam, the place had been flooded until it has become a massive lake. The flood has separated mountains and hills into hundred-ish peaks and islands, and that makes it look like the karst landscape in Guilin, China.
After snapping a few shots of Thai Guilin, the boat took me to the floating restaurant for lunch. The restaurant was on a concrete base above the water with a thatch-roof. On its left and right were raft houses for people who want to stay overnight.
During my lunch, it finally started to rain, but I was lucky to be under the roof. Eating and looking out into the emerald lake, I was daydreaming of the scene when this area was slowly flooding. Under this water was once a virgin rainforest homed to wildlife and distinctive plants. I couldn't imagine how struggle it would be for those lives to try to escape from the flood. Before the building of the dam, the villagers were informed to migrate out of the area, and the wildlife was rescued by the forest department of Thailand. Undoubtedly, It wouldn't be an easy job when you think about having to catch wild animals when they don't understand your good intention. The forest officers could only help some of them that were stuck on trees or small islands that hadn't been reached by the flood just yet. However, there were still a lot of them that couldn't be found or helped in time before the flood. Development sometimes comes with the sacrifice of some lives.
Ratchaprapa dam is a hydroelectric dam that provides electricity to Surathani and other provinces nearby. Its bypass benefits are agriculture, fishery, and tourism. Surathani is in the south of Thailand. You can fly for 1 hour from Bangkok to Surathani airport, or drive for about 8 hours. From the airport to Ratchaprapa dam is about one hour drive. When you arrive the dam you can take a day trip to see Guilin of Thailand, then stop at some raft house to kayak and swim. You can also stay overnight in a raft house. There are a lot of them to choose from different spots in the reservoir. The ticket office at the pier can provide you the information about the trip and the accommodation. A good time to visit Ratchaprapa dam and Khao Sok national park is in November to April.
The rain had stopped and I finished my lunch. The clouds were still dark and heavy. It was time for me to cruise back and peacefully enjoy the heaven scenery for the last time of this trip.