Day Tripper — If you have the luxury of taking a few days off work, Kanchanaburi is well worth a visit for the things it has to offer. Go for a trek in the jungle. Ride a bamboo raft down a river. Ride the death railway across the famous bridge over the River Kwai. The long list goes on for the province famous for its waterfalls and green scenery.
However, for those of us who only have a weekend, Erawan Waterfall, situated in Erawan National Park, is the best way to get a sample of the beautiful province. Few waterfalls in Thailand can compare to Erawan, a gorgeous, seven-level, cascade of water falling over smooth limestone rocks running over 1.5 kilometers through the jungle.
You can happily spend a full day hiking alongside the falls and jumping in whenever you find a good spot (which is very often). The park also features a number of beautiful hiking trails and many caves. There is very affordable lodging within the park if you feel inclined to spend the night there and check those things out at your leisure.
How to get there
The most convenient way to get there is definitely to drive. If you leave early and beat the traffic, the commute will be about 3 hours. The cheapest way to get there is by public van, bus or train. At the Kanchanaburi bus terminal and train station, there are buses that will leave to Erawan Waterfalls every one or two hours for THB50.
But if you feel a bit less adventurous, another convenient option is to book a day trip through one of the many travel agencies in Bangkok. An all-inclusive trip to the falls and back (which includes park entrance fee and a meal) will probably run you about THB1000 – THB1200.
What does it cost?
The entrance fee to the national park has fluctuated quite a bit over the years due to the volume of tourists and subsequent upkeep costs. At one point, the cost was as high as THB500 per person. However, currently, the fees for foreigners are THB300 for adults and THB200 for children under 14.
Of course, there’s a Thai price: THB100 for adults and THB50 for children.
Don’t let the double pricing upset you. At least, everyone pays zero baht for the fish spa.
Have you ever come across one of those fish spas in the city that charge you THB250 for 15 minutes? Well those little fish are all over the place at Erawan and will happily nibble at your feet for free if you stay still for them.
The seven levels
Level 1: Small shallow cascades beside a bunch of bamboo tables. Good place for a picnic.
Level 2: A nice deep pool with a bit of a cave under the falls. Well-worth a swim, though rather crowded at times.
Level 3: Here’s where things get pretty good. This level is over two meters deep and has a nice big waterfall you can swim to and stand under. It’s like a free massage.
Level 4: Natural water slides! The pool is also quite deep which makes sliding down fairly safe. Probably the most fun level.
Level 5: Beautiful pools and cascades. There is a great place to sit and dangle your feet into the water for the fish spa.
Level 6: A large shallow wall of water and ferns. Great for a picture but not so much for a swim.
Level 7: Getting to the top is well worth the effort. In recent years, new paths have been laid down along most of the route which makes it a lot easier to reach level 7. The top level boasts an amazing view of the highest part of the falls (during rainy season) as well as some beautiful limestone cascades and a light blue pool.
Things to “watch out” for
The rocks can be very slippery in places and rather sharp in others. Going barefoot is definitely possible though not recommended.
From time to time you’ll see monkeys. Don’t feed them. Monkeys can be quite vicious at times and feeding them just encourages them.
If you feel inclined to jump into the pools, be sure to check for rocks underneath and measure the depth.
Wildlife in general. I found this awesome caterpillar.
Hours: 7am – 4:30 pm, everyday