It was a day with nothing planned, so it was the perfect opportunity to grab the bike and take a scoot out to the Huay To Waterfall I had heard so much about from my local friends. The waterfall itself is a part of the Khao Phanom Bencha National Park – a 50 square km piece of lush, protected forest that lies around 35 km from Ao Nang. It is the only national park in the whole of the Krabi province that is fully located on the mainland, so it is easy to reach without having to rely on water transport.
I got there in around 40 minutes, parked the bike and went to pay the ticket at the booth. Being a national park, they charge a small admission fee for visitors, which goes to support the upkeep of the area. The extremely helpful employees that were dotted around the parking area greeted me and asked what I was interested in seeing. I was given a map of the park and pointed in the direction of the waterfalls, as well as a viewpoint that pointed up an ominous-looking slope into what looked like a trail that has not seen the footprint of man for quite sometime. Still, it was only 750 meters up according to the sign, and I could loop around to the waterfall afterwards, according to the smiling Thai man, so I decided to start up the trail.
The path started out like a path and withered into a trail. Then the trail shrank into a rough dent in the undergrowth that you could only see if you looked slightly to one side of it. The map boasted proudly that most of the national park was ‘virgin forest’, which I then translated into, literally, a ‘jungle’. The trail was fairly steep and uneven, and it was very warm and humid; the promised 750 meters were right, yet it seems longer walking through the jungle than on a flat road. I learned my lesson. After a while, I got into my stride and began to adapt to my surroundings; as I stopped to take a drink from my water bottle – do not forget to bring one – I was struck by the silence of my surroundings, broken by only the occasional squawk of some unseen bird and the screech of a cricket high up in the canopy. On the way I was aware of how close I was to nature here, without any fenced off areas and well defined walkways.
I came across enormous ants an inch long, a termite mound as big as myself, huge golden orb spiders lounging in the middle of immense webs, and lots of different lizards that scuttled up trees and through the undergrowth as I approached. After a particularly loud rustle ahead of me that shook the undergrowth violently, I again checked the map to see what other inhabitants I might come across. The map boasts a very helpful and informative ‘Flora & Fauna’ section that said the park is home to tapir, serow, wild boar, panther, clouded leopard and Asiatic black bear. Somehow after the panther and leopard, the Asiatic black bear wasn’t so shocking to read. Fortunately, I didn’t come across any of the aforementioned animals. They must hear me coming a long time before I get anywhere near them, so I was in no real danger.
Before I knew it, I came to the viewpoint at the top, which I found to be slightly overrated: a small gap in the trees that allows you to see miles into the distance over the whole of the Krabi province. You will not be standing proudly on a mountaintop, gazing upon a spectacular panoramic view, like I thought. I made my way eagerly to the sign that pointed the way to the waterfall, and just a few minutes later, I could hear the roar of water getting louder and closer. The thought of jumping into fresh, cool water to refresh my sweaty bodies had me slipping and stumbling eagerly towards the sound. The jungle parted and there I was – staring down a 70 meter roaring torrent of fresh water. It was a beautiful sight to behold, but unfortunately not too safe to swim in; I crossed the river easily and decided to start heading downwards on the other side – following the water as I went. After a while, I realized that the waterfall was actually in several stages – 11 tiers in all – and some of them much safer to swim in. I found a deserted section, stripped down to my swimwear, and dove in. This made the whole trip worth it!
Unlike the warm, salty water of the ocean, this was clear, cool and fresh. I splashed around for 10 minutes or so under the falls, before lying in the sun for a while to relax and dry off. I headed further down the trail and as I came closer to my starting point, I started to see other people – the first since I started on the trail at the bottom. I noticed that they were all Thai – no foreigners here but myself. Little kids were squealing excitedly as they splashed and fell in the cool pools below the falls as the parents watched on. Elderly women rested on rocks and soaked their feet, smiling and waving at me as I passed. I soon reached the bottom and realized that I had indeed walked in a loop all the way around. If I wanted to just see the waterfalls, I could have gone the other way and not via the viewpoint – good to know if you don’t fancy the trek!
On the way back to the bike, I noticed that there were several traditional style bungalows for rent, which would be a great experience for anyone wanting a real getaway break. If you are looking for something truly authentic and aren’t afraid of a little effort to get it, then the trek and waterfall is something I would heartily recommend.
If you are coming here, it would be a good idea to bring water bottles with you, although there is a restaurant on site if you need it. Also, wear something on your feet more substantial than flip flops, if you want to get through the trail without problems. Some parts of the loop are fairly steep, so trainers or Teva-style walking sandals would be a good idea. Also, if you are planning on swimming in the waterfall pools, please remember that this place attracts a lot of local Thai residents, who are Muslim. So women, perhaps no bikinis here unless you are alone at the pool.
Video of the trek on Youtube (note – this video is not from me): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqZUGIMuqKs
Opening Hours: 8am to 5pm
Directions: from Krabi town travel up Uttaradit Road away from town. Pass several traffic lights and reach an intersection with Highway 4 at Talat Kao, where you turn right. Keep an eye on your left for a sign that says Huai Toh and shows a picture of a waterfall. It’s a blue sign with white waterfall image. Make a left at the indicated road, the waterfall is at the end of that road, 20km away. At the end of the road you’ll see the gate and guardhouse.
Huay Sakae Waterfall
About 1.2km away from the park entrance along a path.
Klong Haeng Waterfall
A 500 meter high waterfall also part of Khao Phanom Bencha National Park in Tub Prik, Krabi. This one is a bit difficult to find. This waterfall is about 10km from the Khao Phanom district office in Tub Prik.
Ton Han Waterfall
Also about 500m high and about 16km further from the Tub Prik district office.
Hin Phoeng Waterfall
A 3-level waterfall that drops a distance of 800 meters to the pool below. A walk of over 400 meters around the base of the hill is required to reach this waterfall.