25 Nov Cycling to the Ratchaprapha Dam
Today, we plan on cycling to the Ratchaprapha Dam at Khao Sok National Park. To get there we have about 40 some miles of cycling to do. The road leads through much more jungle type vegetation, past many more beautiful karst mountains, and up and down plenty more rolling hills. Although, we packed up early and were on the road before 9:00 am, we start sweating only a few minutes into the ride. The sun’s rays are aggressive and hot. It is humid, and we have the feeling we are never ever going to really dry out. We are constantly wet: either from rain or from sweating in this humid giant green house. Some of our clothes never really dried from getting rained on the other day and are still hanging off of our bike racks while we are riding down the road. By now my clammy, wet socks smell sour and a little bit like they have been stuck in my sweaty hiking boots for weeks.
A couple hours into the ride, we cycle past a small, deliciously, sweet smelling food stand. Although, we are all craving chicken, we stop to see where the sweet aroma comes from. The lady in the small stand next to a tiny shop smiles and shows us what she has to offer. Initially we are not sure what the crispy brown stripes are, that’s when she insures us they are fried bananas. “That sounds good!”. We motion that we would like to try some, she asks “How many? 20 Bhat?”
“Ehh, Sure!” …She grabs a bag and puts about 18 pieces of fried sweetness into it and hands it to us. We sit down with our bag next to the stand and eat the yummy treats. They are delicious and very filling. While we continue snacking we watch how she skillfully prepares the banana-treats and realize that they are coated in a coconut batter before getting fried up.
Satisfied with our full tummies we continue our ride. As we are almost a mile away, we hear a scooter racing after us and honking at us. We look back and see the woman from the banana-stand waving at us from the scooter, urging us to stop. She holds something up in her hand and smiles…It’s Jessica’s small money-pouch, aka wallet! Astonished, happy, and very relieved Jessica takes the small pouch. It would not have been for who-knows-how-many-miles, before Jessica would have noticed her loss. For sure not until it would have been time to buy more food or water. We can’t believe our luck and the kindness of the lady with the big smile. Humbled, we say our “Khop khun kha”, before she tells us good luck, turns around on her scooter and hurries back to her food-stand.
Grateful and happy for the encounter, we continue our ride toward the dam. We cycle over a few more rolling hills and ring our bells at the little shrines on top of the hills. At some point we reach a long bridge with a wonderful view of nothing but lush green and mountains surrounding us. Although, we take plenty of pictures of the area, we already know right then, that they will not do the beautiful landscape any justice.
Somewhere in Ta Khun is our turnoff to the Ratchaprapha Dam. Not sure, whether there will be camping or any other accommodation near the lake or the dam, we decide to find a room in the small town. We stop at a 7/11 for water and notice a market and another temple behind an inconspicuous wall across the street. After quenching our thirst, we push our bikes past the market to the Wat Ta Khun and then back out onto the road where our turn to the dam is going to be. On the other side of the road we notice a “rooms for rent” sign, so we push our bikes right across the street to fetch a room.
After getting all settled in we head back across the street to the night market. The many different stalls with fried food, fresh fruit and veggies and all kinds of sticky, sweet treats smell delicious. After walking around the lit up little booths we settle for several spring-rolls on sticks, sausage on sticks, and chicken pieces on more sticks, before calling it a night.
In the morning, we head back over to the market area to check on a cab out to the dam. We find one of the many minivans. The driver is lounging around in the back seat taking a nap. We ask about the rate going out, the man does not understand what we want and points us into the direction of another man, who in return talks to another cab driver, who is noticeably not interested to have customers at the moment either. He throws out a ridiculous price for the fare and seems not surprised, that we are not going for it. Instead, we head back to the room, grab our bikes and decide to ride the 8 miles to the dam. Hopefully, we’ll find a spot to secure our bikes once we find out where to take the long boats out on the lake.
The ride out is almost all gradual uphill, except for the last mile, which was much more of a climb before reaching the pier. We find the ticket booth for the long boats and pick out which area of the lake we’d like to get to. It seems most tourists hire longboats via official tourist tours, so we are a little bit of an anomaly. Yet, it works out to our benefit, because we get a whole longboat with guide and a chance to go swimming in the lake all by ourselves for 3 hours, for a fraction of the price. The boat driver is a cheerful guy, laughs a lot and takes us a different route over the lake then most of the other longboats are taking…actually, it seemed like a much more interesting route between many of the big rocks sticking out of the water and along some of the cliffs. The water is clear and emerald green, the white and black rocks and cliffs between the lush woods are spectacular. We reach the famous 3 rocks at the other side of the lake, take plenty of pictures and then head over to the floating bamboo huts which are for rent for a substantiation amount of money. He ties the boat to the adjacent floating restaurant, tells us where the bathrooms are and disappears. Not sure, what is going on, we stand and wait a moment until Ron finds the driver and asks him what is going on. Apparently, this is where we get to hang out to go swimming. We strip down into our bathing suits and look into the water, apparently there is no easy way in. Another boat guide swimming in the water, says “Just jump in, it is 50 meters deep, you’re not going to hit bottom!”…and so we did. The water has the perfect temperature and we are the only people around. We swim and float, we hang on to the rope holding the restaurant in place and we have a great time.
Our guide sits down at one of the tiny little huts with the other guide chats and plans on taking a nap. We let him know, that we do not care, but we also do not plan on paying more then our 3 hours worth.
“No problem, it’s about 3 hours…maybe 4, who knows, you let me know when you’re ready!”
“Sure we’ll do”
Eventually, we do return back to the pier, jump on our bikes and head back to the room.
We are more than happy with our decision to have cycled to Ratchaprapha Dam at Khao Sok National Park and are sure it is one of the most memorable places we’ll encounter in Thailand.
At the end of the day, we take another stroll through the night market for more spring rolls and banana pancakes…life is good.