Kanchanaburi: Erawan Waterfalls Park, Tips for Hiking Solo & Secret Fish Spas (Part II of II)
In three days, I discovered a lot about Kanchanaburi and reasons why Kanchanaburi is worth the visit. While Kanchanaburi has a tragic history, a lot of beauty and nature can be experienced there. Like floating hotels on the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi’s attractions merge with the wilds of the jungle, making it a bit like nature’s resort. There’s even a famous Tiger Kingdom there, which I unfortunately didn’t get to visit. Fortunately, my tour made up for the tigers by letting us spend half a day at the 7-tiered Erawan Falls National Park, where one can discover some of the most exquisite, milky blue waterfalls and ponds.
Erawan (Thai name) is the name of a mythical three-headed white elephant, which actually originates from Hindu religion. The 7 tiers of the park’s waterfalls are said to resemble him. Hiking the jungle park and it’s various levels of waterfalls are worth the time and effort, especially the top waterfall. Taking a dip into those crystal blue waters felt almost like a necessity.
How to Hike Kanchanaburi’s Erawan Falls as a Solo Traveler
I went as part of a tour so on one hand, I was guided up until the entrance. The rest I hiked in part with fellow travel bloggers and on my own, so I literally had the best of both worlds. The park was well-populated on the day I went, so I never felt completely isolated and alone. However, had it been a less visited hiking trail, I wouldn’t have gone as far as I did. I would’ve just stuck to the easy path and not gone to deep in.
With Erawan Falls, often, I’d pass other travelers on my way up or going down. Although the park sees a decent amount of tourists, the trail can still be tricky and there are parts that can be surprisingly challenging, so you will have to be careful and not assume safety. There’s times you’re climbing hills, hopping jagged rocks,… it’s definitely makes you work a little for the prize of each level. But seeing each level is a prize in itself.
Tips for Hiking Solo (at Erawan Falls or anywhere else):
• Stick to worn paths
Sticking to worn paths seem like common travel safety sense. For obvious reasons, they’re the safest. However, with hiking, it’s not uncommon for worn paths to fall off the higher or deeper you go. It’s as if many parks guide you the first few legs and leave the rest for hikers, who want the rugged challenge, Keeping an eye out for signs is helpful, but there are times you may invariably need to take your best educated guess. If you’re uncertain about a path, follow it for a short way until you can see signs of a worn path or other travelers in the distance. If you don’t see any signs of this, and the path just gets *more obscure*, turn back. With Erawan Falls, there were times when the staid path was not obvious to me. I took the advice I’m give you now.
• Avoid isolated areas
Paths can have off-shoots and you may be tempted to wander and see if the secluded areas offer more beauty. Off-shoots entail an added risk. They are further from notice and away from ear shot should you get hurt or worse, attacked.
• Follow other travelers
Try to join a group. I have no problem asking other travelers if I can join their party or tag along part of the way. Normally, however, what I try to do is position myself so that I’m always around other travelers. I like to have my freedom and to take my time hiking and sightseeing, but being all alone in a jungle or woods, isn’t very safe- you can get injured, lost, stranded, attacked by a criminal or have difficulty crossing parts of a trail….many things. At Erawan, the word, “park” can be misleading for many. While the park is very popular for tourism, the trails leading to higher areas of the park and it’s waterfalls can be much more rugged and risky.
• Wear shoes; Avoid flip-flops or slippers
There’s a level of difficulty to hiking and you never know what conditions to expect, so it’s best to wear good shoes. With Erawan Falls, some areas were very rocky, involving a bit of a climb (as I showed you in my video, it’s not all simple hiking). It was easy to get a shoe caught in wedges and on occasion. In rugged conditions like that, it’s easy to get hurt if you’re not careful.
Erawan Falls’ fish spa
Bummie, our Thai guide, prepared us to meet one of the more off-beat, but pleasant parts of the hike. She told us that we could get some free spa action if we took a swim in the waters. If you’ve ever heard of Dr. Fish, it’s a foot-nibbling fish spa originating in Thailand.
Those fish are resident fish at Erawan Falls and sacred by Thai standards. They’re also larger versions of Dr. Fish. They will nibble at your toes but also your legs too. I took a dip in the waterfall pools and being nibbled on was insanely cool. The fish are a little shy getting started and sudden movements might scare them, but once they feast on you, they’re focused.
What to bring with you to Erawan Waterfalls:
Towel Swimsuit- You will want to swim. Shoes Sunscreen Insect Repellent A bit of modesty (check the photo below)
I was told there’s resident monkeys, who may try to steal your belongings. So if you’re carrying a backpack, make sure it’s secure. Try not to leave snacks out. Although I didn’t see any monkeys on my path, we were warned against them, so it’s a possibility. Now if you’ve never encountered wild monkeys before, let me warn you– they can be aggressive and bold when going after things they want. Some may even jump on your bag. Also, the hike can be quite humid so you will want to take a bottle of water with you for hydration. In order to keep littering down to a minimum, you will be asked to leave a 20 Baht deposit per bottle at the checkpoint. It’s only 20 baht so I wouldn’t make a fuss. Your baht is refundable when you leave and show the entrance guards your bottle.
How to Get to Erawan Falls National Park:
I took a tour to get there, but I’ve found some information from TripAdvisor for those who are looking to get there independently. By bus, take Bus #8170 (leaves hourly) from the Kanchanaburi Bus Station to the Srinakarind Market. The ride takes two hours. From the market, it is a 1 km walk. The last bus back to Kanchanaburi leaves at 4pm.
Admission to the park is 200 baht. All plastic bottles entering the park will be subject to a refundable 20 baht fee and is instated as a means to help prevent littering in the park. Please report your bottles. Note: The visit was sponsored as part of a 3-day tour with Khiri Travel. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.