One of Thailand’s most popular island destination is Koh Samui, but the world hardly remembers that it belongs to the city of Surat Thani. And in this province, we would like to introduce you to a new destination tucked away in the middle of the richest rainforest in Southeast Asia.
Surat Thani is a southern rural province known for its beautiful beaches and bountiful nature. It faces the gulf of Thailand on the east, where Koh Samui and Koh Tao locates, connects to Phang-nga on the west and Krabi in the south. At Surat Thani, there is a hidden treasure, a handful of floating resorts found deep within the beautiful wilderness of Khao Sok National Park. We were able to visit this beautiful place with Nariman Khaled, crowned Miss Universe Egypt in 2018, and got to experience a unique trip beyond the blue ocean and white sand beaches. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by Mr. Atirat Danphattharaworawat or Khun Ble, the owner of 500 Rai Floating Resort locating in Cheow Lan Lake – the manmade reservoir part of Khao Sok National Park. The Cheow Lan Lake or Rajjaprabha Dam was completed in 1987 for the purpose of irrigation and power generation. Surely the reservoir serves its primary purpose but the beauty of limestone cliffs contrast with blue emerald water giving astonishing sights invite over 70,000 visitors every year.
Mr. Danphattharaworawat is an environmental engineer and passionate about developing his home ground to improve lives of people in his community while balance the growing economy with environmental conservation.
For the dam to be built back in 1980s, 385 families from the Ban Cheow Lan village had to evacuate while the whole village was submerged over 60 meters under the water. The locals are now settled scatter around the dam where they contribute differently to the local community, not only to raise the overall income but also to build a strong bond among its people. While the resort could have easily conducted business independently, Mr. Danphattharaworawat shared with us that it is important for a local business to cherish its local people. For example, the charter boat service transferring to his resort could have been operated by the resort itself perhaps with more luxurious fleet, instead he forsakes these earnings for other families to earn income from transporting business.
Now here’s the interesting tips for you readers to choose where to stay at Cheow Lan Lake. The lake is roughly divided to 3 zones; first zone is the lake entrance, mid zone takes 30 mins on boat where many floating resorts located, and the 3rd zone is the deepest takes up to an hour ride to reach the resort. 500 Rai is in the last zone. Mr. Danphattharaworawat said that each part of the lake has different pros and cons. For his resort tucked away in the deepest part, the water is quiet as there is less wave creating by boats, guest rooms are hence less shaky and more pleasant. Meanwhile other resorts in first and mid zone are closer to caves, waterfalls, and trekking pathways.
In order to further immersion into the nature, the resort employs a “disconnect to reconnect” policy, where telephone and Wi-Fi signals are purposefully cut. It is a perfect way for friends, families, and couples to bond during their time away from home or urban animal like myself to tech detox for a couple of days. Yes, at the beginning, it was quite nerve wrecking for our group imagining to live without Whatapps and Instagram. But as we arrive to the resort and see kayaks parking right outside of each villa, no one seems to bother about the world outside anymore. Nariman, myself and the whole crews were quickly changed and geared up for the kayak on this peaceful water.
Although being rather distant from any towns and cities on the island, food is plentiful and delicious at the resort restaurant. We were able to enjoy authentic Thai cuisine in the middle of the rain forest. The resort has policy in hiring staff to be all locals either from former Ban Cheow Lan residents or from Surat Thani province. Rather shy and humble, but sincerely care for every guest, Ms. Khaled was delighted to experience a true sense of Thai hospitality. The restaurant even had a small opening on the floor for guests to be able to feed the fish in the lake, further giving the sense of the floating resort concept.
The next day, we woke up early in the morning to go on the free morning safari on a long tail boat, where we can see the way of life of the local fauna and take pictures of the sun rising atop the misty mountains. The morning was even more silent and peaceful than the day, and sounds of birds can be heard in the distance. As we rode on the long tail boat, the crisp morning air helped wake me up as the sun was slowly rising up from the horizon. As we traveled along the banks of the lake, we were able to see a few species of animals coming to the water to have a drink. For those who wish to have a late start to their day, a long tail boat ride to a nearby wildlife sanctuary is also offered throughout the day. Popular among families, guests are able to see different species of monkeys, tapirs, and rare birds.
After a few days at 500 Rai, it was time to head back to the lights and sounds of the city. “It was a truly unforgettable experience” said Khaled. “Spending time in 500 Rai, remote in the mountains without any distractions from mobile phone allowed me to really appreciate the beautiful nature and experience another side of Thailand I have never imagined before”. The warm and friendly hospitality of the locals combined with a thoughtful sustainability concept makes 500 Rai one of the best hotels in Khao Sok National Park. For those who look for serenity, to get away from the bustling city and reconnect yourself to nature, I strongly recommend try visiting 500 Rai Floating Resort and Khao Sok National Park.
Once you are recharged and probably ready to jump back to the city life, you can choose to continue your holiday in Phuket which is 3 hours drive away, and return to the lights, crowds, blue oceans, and liveliness of the city. Or you can change from lake view to sea view by heading west for 1 hour 50 mins to Khao Lak in Phang-nga province.
For more information about Khao Sok National Park Click Here >>> https://www.khaosok.com/
And for 500 Rai Floating Resort Click Here >>> https://www.500rai.com/
Written by Admin TAT-Dubai 09/03/2020