Infamous, but still magical, the little town of Kanchanaburi is full of intoxicating tastes, smells, sounds, images and emotions. In truth, calling it a ‘little town’ may not be accurate due to the number of people living there. In 2006 there lived over 31 000 inhabitants.
Back home in the Czech Republic, a town if this size is considered a county town. However in Asia, 31 000 inhabitants is not really a big number. To me, personally, Kanchanaburi felt like a big village, rather than a town. Maybe that’s why I found it so magical.
After a few nights spent in a floating house called the Sam’s River Raft House we met the girls in my favourite Red Tanks Bar, that I fell in love with on the first sight, and after a few refreshing drinks, we are planning tomorrow’s trip to the Erawan National Park.
It’s supposed to be a park full of waterfalls, so I thought it would be a great place to take a few photos and the readers of Life On The Move could use it as an interesting idea for a trip. ‘Okay, I’ll join you’, was my answer to the girls’ offer, ‘however, I’m seriously considering taking a scooter to get there, as it’s been a while and I really miss it.’ I added. They thought it was a great idea, even though I wasn’t really sure about it myself, but when I imagined taking the bus in 30°C weather, the scooter seemed like a much better choice.
I’d played with the idea from the very beginning when we arrived, however at this point I had no idea how far it is, what kind of road I should expect on the way to the park, what’s the weather going to be like, how difficult it’s going to be to navigate around there, or even how hard it’s going to be to find a gas station on the way.
Riding a scooter after a long time and feeling the wind in my hair is very tempting, so I made a decision to hit the road to Erawan on a scooter after all. After studying the journey in a map, I found out it’s only about 72 km away and fairly simple to reach even with this kind of vehicle. The road seemed to be well marked and it looks like it’s the only road in that direction. However, what worries me now is not knowing if there are going to be any gas stations on the way. This proved to be trouble when I was in New Zealand and carelessly didn’t pay much attention to signs like “Last gas station in the next 180 km!” etc. I also didn’t know how much gas this scooter consumes, I’d only driven it for a few hours at this point.
As it later turned out, my worries were justified, because I bumped into only three gas stations on the way – one was too close to Kanchanaburi, so it didn’t make sense to be filling up the gas tank there; the second one was out of gas entirely and only in the third one I was able to get some gas, but I just barely got there on last few drops.
Despite leaving about an hour later than the bus, that the girls took, I arrived about 15 minutes before them. The timing was great, I have to compliment myself, my judgement wasn’t that bad, with the exception of riding the scooter in a t-shirt and without a headscarf, which left me with a bad sunburn even under the t-shirt.
I found the Erawan National Park without any problems. Following the road, it was right ahead and there was a sign indicating the turn leading to Erawan. You can’t miss it, in my opinion.
After paying the entrance fee (foreigners pay 200 THB, locals have free entry) at the gateway to the area, I continued on the asphalt road by scooter. You can ride all the way to the main entrance, where they even have a scooter parking area. However, I’d recommend you to not forget the key in the lock of the storage when you take out your stuff like I did, perhaps you wouldn’t be as lucky as I was and find out that your scooter has been stolen. You then may have a hard time explaining to the rental company that your scooter had been stolen and that you somehow ‘lost’ your keys… I’ve been incredibly lucky, because over here the scooter is worth about the same as a camel in Egypt. Later on, the owner of the Red Tanks Bar confirmed this to me when I told him about what had happened to me that day.
Erawan National Park is full of various natural ponds, rivers and waterfalls, and it has seven levels. The whole time you are going up the hill, you can cool down by swimming in one of these before-mentioned seven levels, or cascades, if you like. In the first two levels you can find little podiums serving for relaxation and the locals with their families use them a lot. I’d recommend coming during the workweek, if you have the chance, because during the weekend this place is usually packed. Numerous thai families can be found practically at every corner.
Luckily you don’t have to fear coming here even during the weekend, because by the time you get to the third level, you’ll find out you can’t take any food with you. If you want to take some water with you, you have to pay a refundable deposit for your plastic bottle.
A lady writes down the exact amount of your deposit and your number. The same number she writes on your bottle. You’ll get your deposit back once you give her a bottle with the same number she has in her notebook.
It’s a great idea how to prevent people from trashing the park. At the same time it’s a great way how to pay the folks who clean the park, because, apparently, there are people who do throw away their bottles even though they paid the deposit.
We saved swimming in a lake for the last, seventh, level. In Erawan park, it’s a very pleasant and welcomed activity after a long day of hiking in hot weather. The final seventh cascade has the biggest and tallest waterfall of the entire park. The water in the pond is… vvvery cold… I’d say!
The difference in temperature may cause a little shock, but all the more enjoyable it is in the end. While in the water, I was attacked by the fish and they bit my legs. It was nice for a while, but then it began to tickle so much that I had to run away. :)
We took some photos, but mainly we enjoyed a well-deserved relax and bathing. Just a little more back massage from the waterfall and we then headed back down, where we continued bathing in each of the cascades. If you pay enough attention and keep your head up, you’ll notice the monkeys chilling and playing in the tree tops, sometimes a beautiful butterfly passes by or a lizard runs by.
At the place where we placed our deposit, we showed them the marked bottles and then threw them away in front of the lady in order to get our deposit back. There are a few food carts at the parking lot that I couldn’t resist. I got a beautiful piece of grilled chicken with a chilly sauce from a lovely lady and I washed the spicy delicacy down with a small beer.
I’m jumping on my scooter and heading back towards another adventures in Kanchanaburi. Today was amazing and if I ever get the chance, I’ll gladly come back to the Erawan National Park.