Exploring Hidden Thailand
If you want to experience some of Thailand's natural beauty up close, a hike through lush foliage to the waterfalls in Erawan Falls, Si Nakharin, or Sai Yok national parks is a must-do.
Another way to enjoy the rivers of Kanchanaburi Province is to take a one- or two-day raft trip down the Mae Klong River and its tributaries. Don't expect to be rushing any rapids or jumping any falls. The main rivers are slow and the"raft" is a large two-story floating hut in which 15 to 20 people can sleep.
Erawan Falls National Park
Erawan Falls National Park, a 550-square-kilometer area, contains a stunning and easily reached seven-tier cascade. The topmost tier is believed to have the shape of Erawan, a three-headed elephant in the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon.
There is an undemanding, two-kilometer trail that climbs to the top of the falls, skirting and sometimes crossing its stream (the bit between the sixth and seventh levels is not clearly marked and seems left up to the hikers's whims). Tall monsoon forest trees choked with colorful flags, vines, and an amazing array of flowers provide ample shade for the walk. Small, makeshift shrines periodically add an anachronistic touch to the natural beauty. The color adds to the charm of the trail.
Getting There :
Getting to Erawan from Kanchanaburi is easy. Hop on any of the buses making frequent departures for the two-hour trip to the northwest. You would do best to take the first bus (at 8 a.m.) since you will want the whole day at the park and the last return bus leaves at 4 p.m. During the high season, there are usually minibuses that leave Kanchanaburi at 9 a.m. and make the trip in one hour. Ask locally.
Si Nakharin National Park
Si Nakharin National Park is home of the Huay Khamin (Turmeric Stream) Falls. If the little fish at Erawan disturbed you, don't miss a swim here. The force of the water has dug some deep pools and keeps most of the fish at bay.
Unfortunately, getting to Huay Khamin can be quite difficult. The 45-kilometer road beyond Erawan is very bad (and you will probably have to provide your own means of transport) and chartered boats can be expensive.
Sai Yok National Park
Furthest afield (more than 100 kilometers -- a little more than an hour by direct bus) from the city of Kanchanaburi is Sai Yok National Park, home to falls of the same name. Trails crisscross the park and also provide access to some impressive limestone caves.
Other falls and caves can be found in Chaloem Ratanakosin (Tham Than Lot) National Park (a two- to three-hour trip from Kanchanaburi) and around the small town of Thong Pha Phum three hours northwest of Kanchanaburi.
These falls, and all others, are best visited during the rainy season (May/June to November) or early in the cool season (November and December). Wildlife, most notably wild elephants, can sometimes be seen at both Si Nakharin and Sai Yok. Accommodation is available at or near the parks if you plan to spend the night.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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