Do you ever feel like taking a Sunday drive away from the City, even away from the coast? Not too far, but a few hours of cruising in the countryside? Here’s one answer; take a drive to the Pranburi Dam. However if you make the trip, don’t be content with just a drive across the dam wall to see what’s on offer.
If you are heading across the dam with the lake on your right, the main road goes downhill to the left. However to the right there is an unsealed ‘track’ heading around the lakeside, take it and keep going! I’ve called it a track, but it’s really an unsealed single vehicle width road with a surface that’s surprisingly good. No need for a four wheeled drive or anything more than a standard vehicle. Adventurous two-wheelers would also find it very manageable.
This was really an accidental discovery; from the dam there are signs of civilization across the vast lake, but no directions or encouragement to try a lake ‘circumnavigation’. We spent more than an hour travelling along the track, unsure of whether there would be a forced stop or if we would need to retrace our own tracks. No problems; the condition of the ‘track’ remained constant; a ‘long & winding road’ with some sensational views across the waterways and scenery. We probably travelled about two thirds of the lake perimeter before intersecting a wider, though still unsealed road. Turn left at this junction and before too long it becomes a real road.
Then just follow your nose and signs towards Petchakasem and you’ll end up on the main highway just south of Pranburi City. Comparisons with Kaeng Krachan Dam could be made, but it is different. This is not a National Park but a fertile flood plain from the days before the dam controlled the river flow with a mixture of planted crops (vegetables, mangoes, pineapples, rubber trees and many more) and native vegetation. There are even small copses of Eucalyptus trees. It may well be the case that some of the small dwellings and plantations do not have ‘official’ sanction, but somehow it works. Not on a commercial large scale but many ‘cash crops’ for those in the know. It’s like a drive through the ‘Garden of Eden’, Thai style. Both natural scenery and agriculture seem to be in balance but without camping grounds or other accommodation, water activities or tourism activities on offer.
And not a restaurant in sight! The lake is magnificent; placid, serene and picturesque. If I was to put on a ‘tourism hat’ of some sort I would have to say this is an inland water playground waiting to be discovered. Perhaps the Coniston Waters of Thailand. I couldn’t help but imagine yachts, water-skiing, wind surfing and the sort of activity you may find at freshwater tourist destinations worldwide. Maybe even a leisurely horse ride along the track and what about fishing? At the Pranburi Dam Lake we only spotted a few small fishing punts and one lonely jet-ski. These comments may be naïve to a host of environmental and political issues.
The current, apparently unmanaged development on the shores is unobtrusive and really minimal but what of the future? Controlled and planned usage of this great resource is begging to be another reason to visit Hua Hin. Some Facts: The Pranburi Dam was built in 1978, to protect the lowland against flooding and well as to have a steady water flow for irrigation use. The 42-metre (138 ft) high and 1,500-metre (4,900 ft) wide earthen dam created an artificial lake, which covers 35.2 square kilometres (13.6 sq mi) and has a capacity of 445 million cubic metres (361,000 acre·ft).
Where: From Hua Hin there are a number of ways heading inland from Petchkasem Road, the main southern highway south, either before or after Pranburi town. It’s about 10 km inland from Pranburi. An important Tip: If you take our suggested route along ‘the track’ take it easy. Head on collisions are not nice; presume someone is coming the other way on the narrow and winding journey. Bring your own: There are some great picnic spots along the route but nowhere to purchase the ‘essentials’. Take Your Time: Apart from the locals, you are likely to be an early discoverer. Relish the moment and take the time to stop-off at ‘viewpoints’ that are in abundance.