Take a dip into Kaeng Krachan, Thailand’s natural water park

DAY TRIPPER — Officially the largest national park in Thailand, though not nearly as well-known as parks such as Khao Yai, Kaeng Krachan offers some fun activities in its man-made waterways. Whether riding an inflatable raft, swimming or just relaxing on a swing, the park is a perfect place to spend quality time with friends or family.

How the waterway works is like this: upstream from Kaeng Krachan is a reservoir behind a dam. Each day, the dam is released, which floods the waterway and creates a two-meter deep, fast-moving stream that runs off through the jungle. The water runs fastest from 9am until 5pm but it’s definitely subject to change depending on the weather and the season. Show up early in the day during the dry season to get the best ride.

 

Getting There

The most convenient way to get to Kaeng Krachan from Bangkok is driving since the park is located off main public transport routes. The journey takes about three hours if you don’t hit traffic.

For those of us who don’t have the luxury of a car, the next best option is to rent one. Several travel and car rental agencies offers a chauffeured car from Bangkok for THB2,500 – 3,000 per day. If you need more space, a van might run you THB4,000 – 5,000 per day.

For a budget plan, you can take a commuter van from Victory Monument. Look for the stop near Century Plaza shopping mall. The van will take you all the way to to Kaeng Krachan for THB200 from 6am – 8pm every day. There is also return transportation from the park, but we recommend you to make a reservation with the ticket booth in Bangkok.

 

What does it cost?

There are a lot of independent resorts along the river, each offering its own unique style and aquatic attractions, but I recommend going with one of the resorts closest to the dam.

These resorts will be the furthest upstream and you can float down to all the other ones from there. Most of them will be happy to let you use their facilities provided you buy lunch and rent life jackets from them. Rooms vary in price but are, on average, about half the price of what you might find in Bangkok in case you want to spend the night.

Life jackets are available for rent for THB50 per day.

 

What to do

The most fun thing to do, by far, is renting an inflatable raft and floating down the river for a few hours through the jungle, making the occasional stop at another partner resort to use their water slides, drinking beer all the way. Yes, you can drink beer on the raft so long as you clean out the cans afterwards. You are more than welcome to take a dip into the water at any point.

It’s like a family-friendly version of Vang Vieng, the Laotian town famous for wild backpackers tubing down its river — but without the influence of alcohol buckets spiked with ketamine or tantalizing mushroom shakes.

The rafts, which usually comes with a local captain, seat 8-10 people and costs about THB1,200. A truck will come and pick you up downstream and bring you back to your resort.

Once you dry off, there are a ton of fun things to do in and around whichever resort you end up choosing. There are water slides, rope bridges, zip lines, swings, ladders, jungle gyms and even a surfboard! It took me a while but I managed to stand on one. There is a communal walkway that runs along the water way past each resort, so no matter where you finally manage to get to shore you can easily walk back upstream.

Travel tips

1. Bring gloves. With the sheer amount of climbing, swinging, and pulling you’ll be doing with the ropes all along the water way, your hands may get a bit raw to say the least.

2. Bring a waterproof bag. It’s nice to be able to bring a camera along on the boat ride, but keep it safe in a waterproof bag since the water tends to splatter the boat.

3. There is quite a lot of silt in the water, so you’ll find that your eyes can get irritated quite easily if you get too much water in them. White clothes will become slightly brown, but it’s just red dirt. Nothing to be worried about.

Happy travels!

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