Erawan National Park & Waterfalls

Ian Armstrong

Containing one of the most famous - and most stunning - waterfalls in Thailand, Erawan is the by far the most popular of the seven National Parks in Kanchanaburi Province. The 550 sq km park is located 65km from Kanchanaburi city, and if you only go out of town once, this may be the place to go. Around 80% of the park is comprised of mixed deciduous forests and the rest is evergreen. The limestone hills rise to just under 1,000m with plains and a multitude of streams in between. The major attraction is the Erawan Falls with its emerald green ponds, named after the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology. The top tier of the falls is said to resemble the elephant's head. There is also an abundance of wildlife, especially birds and wild flowers, including many species of orchids, and also five caves. Tham Phra cave is the only one open and it has a variety of limestone formations. You will need to contact the visitor centre before driving out there, and a guide will meet you with paraffin lamps. There are several walking trails starting from the visitor area. One trail is 5km, takes 2-3 hours to walk and ends at the falls, and another is a nature trail which takes less than an hour. To get to the main event - the falls - from the car park, it is a short walk to the first tier. You can rent a bike for 20B but the walk is only 5 minutes. The second and third tiers are quite an easy walk, but after that, you will need to have walking shoes and be reasonably fit to complete the 2km climb. Bring swimming clothes as you can swim in the blue waters at each level, but be wary of monkeys who may snatch your belongings while you’re taking a dip. Level four has a natural rock slide and level six has the fewest swimmers. Beyond the fifth tier, the hike becomes a little more testing. The sixth and seventh tiers are not far from each other, but the paths are not well defined. The waterfalls can get very crowded with tourists, both by Thais on weekends and by coach-loads of Russian and Asian tourists. The best time to go there is early morning or just before sunset, but in the afternoon you will only be able to go to tiers 1-3. The falls open all year around. The driest is March and April, the wettest August and September, and the best time to visit is November to early December, just after the rains and before peak tourism season. There are several places to buy food before you start en route to the falls. There is a restaurant at the visitor centre and a market near the park. Drinks can be bought at a stall at tier two, and no food is allowed past this tier. Camping sites are available in a green area by the riverside and tents are rented out starting from 150B (2 persons) up to 300B for the largest, (4 persons). You can set up your own tent for 30B. You can rent out accessories such as sleeping bags, lanterns or stoves from the park for a minimal charge. Fan-cooled double cabins are also available from 800B, and larger cabins that sleep three to eight run from 1,200B to 2400B. If you book through the National Park website for a weekday stay, you receive a 30% discount. The accommodation office is just past the car park. Entry: 300B/200B (Adult/Child) Open: 8:00am - 6:00pm (Note the 3 upper level of the falls shut at 4:00pm) Tel: +66 34574222 Email: erawan_2518@hotmail.co.th Address: Moo 4, Tha Kradan Sub-district, Amphur Si Sawat Kanchanaburi Website: www.dnp.go.th/parkreserve/asp/style1/default.asp?npid=107&lg=2 Getting Here: By car or motorcycle it is a straightforward 65km trip north up Route 3199 from Kanchanburi town. Buses run from the main bus station in Kanchanaburi every hour starting at 8:00am, and the 90-minute journey costs 50B. The buses drop off right in front of the Visitor Centre and the last bus back to town leaves at 4:00pm when the gates to the waterfall close. From Bangkok, take the bus from the Southern bus terminal (Sai Tai Mai) to Kanchanaburi, then catch a bus to the park.

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