Sunday, 7 January 2018

Erawan Waterfall, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

One of the most beautiful waterfalls I've ever been to was Erawan Waterfall at Kanchanaburi province, Thailand. Erawan Waterfall is named after the three headed elephant, and is famous for its clear, emerald blue, seven tiers of falls. The cold, emerald blue water runs from the Huai Mong Lai River down a 2100 meters tall mountain.
My favourite part of Erawan Falls, Tier 5
I visited Erawan Falls during my recent trip to Thailand in October 2017, and I was awestrucked! I can still remember vividly the excitement I had, from planning my trip, to hiking the waterfalls from tier to tier! Every tier was different and beautiful in their own way - and the water just gets clearer and more blue as I hiked up further! 

Here are some useful info for those of you who would want to visit Erawan Falls! 


When to Visit

The park is open all year round. However, the seasons you visit Erawan Falls might change the landscape drastically, which will dictate your experiences. The higher tiers, especially the seventh tier, dries up during dry season. Whereas during rainy season, you might risk seeing murky brown water instead of emerald blue water. And sometimes when the rain gets too heavy, the ranger might deem the falls too dangerous for visitors, and thus closing off the falls. There are two main seasons at Kanchanaburi: 

Dry Season: February to April
Rainy season: May to October

The best time to visit is probably from late October to early December, just after the rainy season, and right before peak tourism season. I visited the falls in late October - when the rain was unfortunately, still relentless. I was checking Erawan National Park's official Facebook page diligently every day - It was nerve-wrecking, as visitors were limited to visiting the first few tiers, and higher tiers were off-limits a few days before our intended trip to the falls.

Some snippets of Erawan National Park's Facebook page a few days before our visit: 


Below: Facebook update on the day we visited Erawan! We were somewhat lucky as the falls were open on the day we visited Erawan Falls. I was brimming with joy when I found out all tiers were accessible, and the water was somewhat emerald blue - not as blue as it usually is on a good day, but nevertheless I was still really satisfied with my experience.



Here is a Blog Post to get a gist on how it is like visiting Erawan Falls during drought season. 

Snapshot of Erawan Falls on better days below. Rest assured, the photos are not photo-shopped! 


Do check Erawan National Park's Official Facebook Page to ensure that the falls are feasible for visit before embarking on your journey! 

The official opening hours of the falls are 8am - 4.30pm daily.

Although the official close time is 4:30 pm, the rangers start ushering visitors down from the seventh tier around 3pm. The rangers will then move down tier by tier to ensure all visitors are out before closing. I would recommend hiking to the seventh tier first, then enjoy the falls while you descent, as the higher tiers are more likely to be less crowded in the morning. 

Getting There from Kanchanaburi

1. Self-Drive

Cost: Around 180 Baht (4.5 USD) per day for bike rental + petrol cost + parking (50 baht for bike)
Duration: Around 1 Hour

There are plenty of bike rental services around Kanchanaburi. We rented a bike for two days for 9 USD, which was pretty reasonable. The roads to Erawan Falls from Kanchanaburi was straightforward, with sign boards present every few kilometers or so.

Pro:
- Straightforward and wide road, sign boards present
- Flexible journey, able to stop whenever you want. You can visit a nearby cave and dam lookup point 10-20 minutes drive from Erawan Falls.

Cons:
- A little pricier compared to public transport

2. Public Transportation

Public Transportation is definitely the cheapest way to get to the falls. There are frequent bus services from Kanchanaburi Bus Station to Erawan falls which departs hourly. The journey will take around 1.5 hours. You can check the bus departure schedule here 
Photo Source: Trip Advisor
Pro:
- Cheap
- Frequent departures

Cons:
- Last bus to leave Erawan is at 4pm
- Longer journey time
- No stop over for photos etc.

Another alternative is by flagging down a taxi, which might be a more expensive but time-saving option.

Entrance & Parking Fees

(As of November 2017)

Entrance Fees:

Thai
Adult 100 THB
Child 50 THB

Foreigner
Adult 300 THB
Child 200 THB

Parking Fees
Motorbike 50 THB

The entrance fees to Erawan Falls also entitles you to visit Phartat Cave, which is about 10km away from the falls. The only way to get to this cave is by self-driving or hiring a taxi, as there are no public transport heading there so far (as of Jan 2018). Did not visited the caves as we were tired after spending half a day at the falls.

The Hike into the Falls

The hike from the parking lot/bus drop off area to the seventh tier will take around 1-2 hours without any breaks. You'll definitely stop more numerous times for photos so do allocate at least half a day to visit the falls!

Upon arrival at the parking lot/bus drop off area, visitors have to walk around 500m to the first waterfall. You can opt to take a buggy for 30 Baht from the entrance to the water fall. The trail is flat and mostly paved, so I personally feel that the buggy ride may be little overkill, as you still have to hike up the falls, unless you only intend to visit the first two tiers.
Path from the carpark to the falls
After a short 10 minutes walk, we arrived at the first tier.
Tier 1, featuring fallen tree

There are plenty of picnic area around the first and second tier, as well as toilets. You can also purchase some food and drinks at the stalls around the first tier as well. Not too sure about the pricing as I did not purchase anything when I was there.

The first and second tier are just less than a minute walk away.
Second Tier
You can walk behind the waterfall when the water volume is not as high!

Food and beverages are not permitted beyond the second tier. Visitors are required to register the number of plastic bottles they are bringing beyond the second tier. The rangers will be collecting a deposit of 20 baht per plastic bottle. You may get back your deposit if you can show the ranger you brought your bottle back with you at your return leg.
Expect more stairs from second tier onward!
Tier 3
The trail from the third tier onward becomes more like jungle trail and more rocky. However, the trails are well marked & the hike was relatively easy – nothing too strenuous, but it can be a little steep and slippery at some point. Bring decent footwear and drinking water if you plan to hike up to the highest tier!

Waterproofs shoes are highly recommended - though it is almost close to impossible to keep your shoes dry if you hike during rainy season due to the higher water level!
Spot the fishes in the water? You'll see plenty of fishes lurking in the clear water, waiting for humans to dip their leg into the cool and refreshing water, to nibble on their flesh. "Free Fish Spa", what most visitor would call it. Personally am not a fan of fish spa (nor the idea of fishes feeding on my dead skin) so I stayed away from the fishes, though they are harmless! 
Fish spa? Uhmm, no thank you!

Fourth Tier
The rocks at the fourth tier forms a natural slide.
5th Tier
Suddenly I realize the stairs are forming another waterfall, and it was impossible to keep my shoes dry as the water level was higher than my ankle, so water just started seeping into my waterproof shoes....

7th Tier

Pool at the seventh tier

More fish spa
Read somewhere that you can climb the falls at the seventh tier, which will lead you to a "secret" pool. However, the water level was higher and there were rangers around that whistle blows anyone who tries to do any act that is deemed dangerous during my visit.

Accommodation

You can camp at Erawan National Park for a really reasonable fees. We were intending to spend a night but changed our mind due to the monsoon season. We ended up staying in Kanchanaburi and doing a day trip to the falls.

Not a fan of camping? You can also book bungalows for a really reasonable fee. You can book tents and bungalows here in advanced!


What to Pack

- Sturdy pair of waterproof hiking shoes/sandals
- Waterproof bag
- Extra Set of Clothes
- Towel
- Mosquitoe Repellent
- Sunblock
- Water bottle (preferably not plastic bottles!)


Other Practical Info

- Visit the falls on weekdays if possible, as it gets packed with holiday-goers on weekends!
- Try to visit the falls as early as possible! Bear in mind that you have to start descending from the 7th tier from 3pm, and the hike up is about 1-2 hours without stopping (which is, mission impossible, because you will be stopping numerous time to take photos of the breathe-taking falls!)
- Alternatively, stay a night at Erawan National Park, you'll get the advantage of being the first few visitors !
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