Thursday, December 23, 2010


Tad Lang: the lowest and biggest drop

The Lao province of Xieng Khouang (Xieng Khuang) is not synonymously known for it's natural attractiveness. But rather for it's historical significance: most recently as the Vietnam War's location of dirty deeds when US aircraft saturated the area with bombs in a futile attempt to stem the communist Vietnamese from gaining the overhand in Vietnam. Simultaneously aiding their ally, the Hmong people, in their own attempt to avoid Lao from subsiding into communism.

More historically significant are the occurrence of man-size jar-like artifacts, hewn from stone and 2000 year beyond their birth; baffling researchers and tourists alike.
Neatly concentrated at a number of sites within Xieng Khouang province, these jars point to sophistical funeral rites.

Lots of jars

It's near one of the more picturesque sites where these jars can be found that one can visit Tad Lang (Tat Lang): a tumble of water, falling over the edge of the plain into the moist monsoonal forest.

Site 3 of the Plain of Jars is found in village of Xiengdi, due south of Phonsavan, the provincial capital. The ride here is a rough ride over unsurfaced roads slowly becoming less wide. Three km's before the jar site, one can head down a clearly indicated track towards the waterfall, which is about 1 km away from the turn off. Just before the waterfalls themselves is a small guardpost where a local villager will hand out entrance tickets in return for 10,000 kip (Dec. 2010 ~ US$ 1,20).

One continues to the top of the falls. The wide stretch of barren rocks stands as witness of the fury to be encountered in the rainy season, however now, a few months after the last rains, there is only a two meter water stream finding it's way down in a series of smaller falls to the base about 60m below the top.
The biggest fall is at the bottom about 15m. The top of the waterfall contains a number of pleasant pools, which are probably an attraction to locals, foreign tourists straying here seem very infrequent. On a week day the place is for one own though villagers still stride through the upper area on their way to their fields and/or forest. Lower down, the pools are not nearly as good but much more secluded for those preferring this.

Rocks made naked by high monsoonal waters

On your way south out of Phonsavan stop by the tourist information, there's more (and extensive) information to be had concerning the province as well as a load of junk, otherwise known as unexploded ordinance (UXO). Essential to exploring the province in more depth is the "A Guide to Xieng Khouang" by Creutz and Van Den Bergh, though all of the text is also on Wikitravel.
Other web based info from Virtualtourist, while on travelpod there is this conclusion by Zombywoof:
'... the waterfall was loud and impressive'.

Definitely not a waterfall fanatic.

There are also a couple of photo's by phnomsin on opera, which wraps up another waterfall entry.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chambok revisited

Chambok has been visited in the past, see this posting. Not much has changed since, which if paying $3 you would think that some improvement had occurred in 4 years! But not.

Yesterday's visit with friends was a delight. Heavy overnight rain had replenished the surroundings and the water was crashing down. Some new signboards are up encouraging everyone to help in keeping the spot clean, though trash hadn't been collected in quite some time.

In Chambok itself the Romantic Waterfall Cafe (and mini guesthouse) has opened business run by the charming Puoh. Expect not too much, drinks are beer, wine, cokes and coffee. He did put in lot's of effort in his hastily arranged fried rice.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

No sunny rainbow

Umphang district is synonymous with waterfall fame, at least in Thailand. Literally located at the end of one of Southeast Asia's most twisting and winding roads (just over 1200 curve's until the next district of Mae Sot) national tourists flock here, not to experience the torturous road, but to visit Thi Lo Su, claimed to be Thailand's 'largest' waterfall (height 200m, breadth 400m, see blog entry on Waterfalls of Thailand). Wikitravel adds that it's among the worlds six most beautiful waterfalls.

As apparently the final 40 km of road from Umphang village to the waterfalls are closed during the rainy season (visit took place early October 2010) visiting the waterfalls is not a lightly undertaken mission, an offer my son was not willing to give.

Heading into the wild.

So we opted for second best, rafting down Mae Klong river (which is another reason Thai tourist flock to here outside of the rainy season). Though Thi Lo Sur wouldn't be on the cards, a delightful hot spring (see Soaking in Siam) and the undisturbed wilderness would. And there's the sensation of floating on the raft below a waterfall, the waterfall called Thi Lo Jau (Thi Lo Cho or Saifon) Both translate (from Karen and Thai) as rainbow.
Apparently once the sun shines early morning you can see a rainbow. Despite this info and the urgency to get there early, the sun wasn't shining so no neat pictures of the rainbow. But no need to worry internet guarantees that somewhere there is the picture perfect of the waterfall and rainbow in one.

Because of the remoteness of Thi Lo Jau, boat is the only option in getting here and the only option in experiencing the falls as it is located in a canyon like setting: both banks of the river are steep rocks. Boats / rafts leave from just outside of Umphang village and in season combine a visit to Thi Lo Su, while out of season one needs to walk (3-4 hours) and add an overnight stay. In the rainy season though, after a total of 5 hours, you and the raft are brought back the 25+ kms to Umphang.

World of waterfalls has beaten me to posting this on their blog, much better photo's too.

Another similar fall.

There are more waterfalls along the way, some bigger some smaller. This one (see photo's below) on a side river has it's own name, Mor something.

Elsewhere in and around Umphang, besides the two waterfalls above there are the waterfalls of Le Tong Khu,
Thi Lo Rae, Sepla (Se Pla or Ze Pala) and even Thi Cha Na Ta.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A lot of Calamus

Heading south from Mae Sot towards Thailand's wild west capital of Umphang, there are a few opportunities to visit some waterfalls. One of which is the often visited Pha Charoen waterfall located in the national park of the same name.
However as one also has to return via the same road there's another opportunity to visit a waterfall in the same national park without everybody being stressed out about yet again a waterfall.

Pa Wai (or Ba Wai) waterfall is well signposted off the Umphang - Mae Sot highway no. 1090 though the distance from the highway is not the announced 9 km rather double. Access is south of Phop Phra district around km 40.

Apparently the name of the waterfall is derived from the plant of the same name (Calamus Caesius, rattan, see also below).

There aren't many facilities other than a toilet and a shelter, though there are a couple of makeshift bridges.

In reality the stream falls over a great many steps amounting to a fall of around 40m.
As the steps are small and wide there are many trees in-between giving the area something special, though there is no big pond at the bottom of the falls, there are a number of steps to splash around in.

On the other side there is a deep sink hole (see photo above) where a part of the stream falls in, only to reemerge at the foot of the cliff. there is also a cave for those visitors fortunate enough to have a torch on them all the time. And a large tree at the bottom of the cliff.

The official Thai Department of National Parks website there is this about the waterfall:
'Bawai [Pa Wai] waterfall is a 100-step limestone waterfall, originating from Huai Wai with the flowing water throughout the year. The Waterfall is situated in virgin forest consisting of medium-sized/large plants. The Waterfall is called “Bawai Waterfall” because there are a lot of Calamus Caesius within the area'.

'To admire this waterfall, one must walk from its ground floor to the upper level. Then, go further for around 30 m, visitors will see a channel of about 10 m wide where flowing water falls and disappears under the mountain base. The waterfall originates from Pa Wai Creek where water flows all year round and many rattan plants grow. It is therefore named ‘Pa Wai’, which means a rattan forest'.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Naming an extensive national park (855 km2) according to just one of the included waterfalls reaps up dreams of a magnificent and all-encompassing waterfall.

So when heading to Pha Charoen (Pa Charoen) waterfall we were expecting just that. The waterfall can hardly be missed and entails no extra effort if you heading on highway 1090 between Mae Sot and Umphang, Tak province, Thailand.

Located a km from the turnoff (km 37) the biggest surprise is that one can enter this national park free, though one does need to sign something.
The parking area looks well-equipped to contain those many visitors eager to see the name-giving waterfall of this national park. The foot of the waterfall has been transformed into a park, complete with fitness track. And the bottom of the fall is certainly picture perfect but would I name a national park after this waterfall?
No, not really. Though very nice, it's not so extraordinary. In all there are 97 steps as the stream tumbles down 50 m (
source) apparently, didn't count them myself.

We continue upwards along the side of the fall looking for a more discreet dipping place. Along the way there are some enticing pools but we seem to have adopted some youth whose day needs spicing up in the form of tagging along with foreigners. Beyond the lip of the fall, the stream still continues to drop, less in height but with bigger pools. But our bodyguard doesn't loose sight of us, so we return an illusion lighter. Other time other place.

Beyond the lip

Pha Charoen National Park contains more waterfalls such as Pa Wai, Saifa, Huai Tapu-kor, Nang Chron and Taralak (or Thararak).

World of waterfalls includes this waterfall as well with roughly the same sort of blog entry as above but with more photo's and a video, and complaints about visitors walking in the picture. It's funny but from many photo's on the web, it seems that this waterfall is visited more for ecstatic reasons, nowhere do we see people splashing around.

View downwards

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Couple of waterfalls

Lan Sang waterfall.

Located nearer Tak town than Taksin Maharat National Park (see also entry on Pang Ah Noi waterfall) is the national park of Lan Sang (sometimes written as Lansang). Just 17 kms along a gradually climbing towards the foot of the mountains road in the direction of Mae Sot (Highway 105).

As always there's a significant entry fee (~$US 7), but with the added benefit that the aforementioned Taksin N.P. is included in the same price if visited the same day.

Once past paying the road continues onwards along the Lan Sang stream for another km until one reaches a carpark. By then one could have already visited the Lan Lieng waterfall.
At the carpark there is also an information kiosk and after some search a toilet, oddly that they built two toilet structures next to each other.

A short amble gets you to Lan Sang waterfall itself. The waterfall is a small series of 5-10m drops between a rocky gully. Some good pools for splashing but as this is easily accessible it might be a little too public for my (and wife's) exhibitionist behavior. Or so it maybe construed. Careful.

Instead we notice the nearby signboard which mentions a number of waterfalls along the same riverulet but more upstream. All seem within an hours walk (the furthest, Pa Tay (Pha Te) is only a little more than 2 km away) and my wife and I decide to tackle the track to the next fall. The track alongside the stream is narrow and beginning to be overgrown. About 30 minutes up is Pa Pueng, the destination. This fall is much more open and is actually the stream going along a 20m slope rather than a real fall. Nonetheless a great place to hang out naked.

Pa Pueng waterfall during rainy season (October 2010).

On our way back we discover a much more worn track which though longer takes just the same amount of time. Once back we discovered we were just a short distance from the next waterfall Pa Noi.

More photo's of Lan Sang here and here.

This website provides a good insight:
'Legend has it that while leading an attack on Chiang Mai, King Krung Thon Buri became separated from his troops. In the dark forests, his soldiers were forced to wait for daylight to search for their beloved King. ' That night, a strange light appeared in the sky and the soldiers heard the King's horse whinny in the distance. They followed the horse's cries until dawn, when they came across their King mounted on his trusty steed. This site was aptly named "Lan Sang", the "Dawning Ground"'.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Taksin Maharat National park is not commonly known for it's waterfalls. There's the tree which it's claimed to be Thailand's largest (of it's sort; 16m in diameter, 50m high and 700 years old) and somewhere in the park is also a natural rock bridge.

Visiting the tree known as Krabak tree (Anisoptera Spp., an endangered tree species) though has the added value of also visiting the Pang Ah Noi waterfall, which is situated a km downstream.
The fall is rather non-descript though, simply some of water crashing 20m along a rock face. That said there are a few nice pools (along the stream not necessarily under the fall), but the jungle here is pretty intense. On our visit (October 2010) leeches (literally) were out in full force and though they're not the kind of creatures to permanently damage you, the remainder of the day was very bloody. In all the trek to the tree and waterfall is a nice 1,5 km triangular trek, not too complicated or strenuous, but rewarding and devoid of people.

Pang Ah Noi, with the emphasis on 'noi' (Thai for small)

Taksin Maharat National Park is located in Tak province, lower northern Thailand and the park was initially named after the tree until someone saw the light. There's this description:
'Taksin Maharat is a rugged mountainous park, often swathed in cooling mists. Thanon Thongchai mountain is a major watershed area. Evergreen forest and pine forest cover the upper hills, with deciduous and dipterocarp forest in the lower elevations. Wildlife includes serow, sambar deer, barking deer, golden cat, wild pig, and bear. Visitors can enjoy cool fresh air all year round. The nights can be chilly during the winter in the months of November till February'.
The park (and tree and (possible other?) waterfalls) are easily accessed from the Tak - Mae Sot highway 105, the national park entrance being 26 km up (elevation 1000m) the road from Tak.
Possible to combine with Lan Sang National Park which is nearer Tak town. The entrance fee to both is the standard fee for entrance with the possibility of getting 2 (National parks) for the price of 1!

The Krabak tree after which the national park was initially named.

Elsewhere on the internet is another visit blogged here (more on the natural bridge) and here (for birders).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Added Value?

Coming from a 2 km walk through the surrounding hills (altitude around 1000m) from Candi Sukuh temple one enters this waterfall through the lower riverside entrance. It being a Friday just after prayer time, the car park is very much deserted and the ticket officer has to scramble to present himself at the other side of the ticket booth.

Tickets are on a premium. Though the practice is commonplace in some Southeast Asia countries, this is one of the few places I've encountered in Indonesia to ask the poor foreign tourists to pay for overtime: 19,000 INRs. Still it’s not much (~2 $US) but compared to other cheaper waterfalls there’s not much in return. An area set aside for the waterfall (20 ha). A load of poorly maintained and unusable facilities (why a fishpond, if there’s not even water in it?), a track of upturned stones (which seems to dissuade everyone from continuing onwards to the waterfall), a complete lack of refuse collection understanding and a troupe of loitering monkeys which have taken up residence of the only bridge.

Anyway Air Terjun Grojogan Sewu (which translates as 1000 waterfalls) is seen to be famous. The LP Indonesia terms it as ‘probably the most famous waterfall in Java’. Other than that the water drops about 80m onto a bed of rocks (source, though it may be an overstatement), there doesn’t seem to be any other reason why it might be famous. Visitor numbers are down, but the fact that there are 2 parking areas might be the reason why it’s famous.

Between the car park and the falls themselves there is the aforementioned footpath, which alternatively to stumbling along can be taken by horse, some even cripple. Nearer the bridge which is the termination point of the trail are a number of stalls whose sole intention is to add to the refuse blending in with the scenery. There are a number of picnic spots as well as the odd pool in which to paddle.

Getting here other than described above is via Tawangmangu, 2 km away, a town which maintains good transport connections with Solo city.

Not so far away is the waterfall of Jumog, a better place to picknick. And Pringgodani.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Alt programme

While heading out for the Candi Sukuh temple complex in Central Java (see photo above), my eye caught hold of a signpost announcing Jumog waterfall. After a quick discussion with that day’s guide and we were pulling up into the small car-park precariously located on the edge of the ravine.

It being early morning, life still had to kick in, but at least the ticket officer was open. We paid the fee (3,000 INR apparently community run), made a U-turn and walked down the steep stairway leading into the ravine until we reached the valley floor.

Here there was a kiddies water park normally river fed, but now (still?) empty.
Across the river the well-cemented paths continued. Everything was still in the process of getting cleaned, though it was very apparent that almost all cleaning work had taken place, the area being nearly spotless. Past some stalls still in the process of opening up, one comes to the cliff face where the approximately 30m high waterfall thunders down. Swimming possibilities are available under the waterfall as well as further downstream. even a kiddies pool is available.
Air Terjun Jumog made a great impression, one of the better managed sites in Southeast Asia.

As said we continued on to the top of the ridge to the Candi Sukuh temple (entrance fee 10,000 INRs, nearly a $US) and then walked two hours along fields and through cloves plantations to another waterfall, named Grojogan Sewu.

All are best accessed through Tawangmangu, a town reknown for it’s cool climate as it sits between the Lawu and Kukusan mountains. Tawangmangu sits on the road from Solo to Magetan and can be best accessed from Solo.

Visiting the 15th century Candi Sukuh temple is certainly worthwhile; it’s not so big, nor overrun (as say Bororbodur). A Hindu-Buddist temple, it seems to include various animism elements. Further away (nearly 10 km from Candi Sukuh) is the Candi Celo temple from the same era.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Sometimes there are waterfalls right in the middle of a heavily touristed area where nobody seems to come. Batu district, already characterized as 'Small Switzerland' by the Dutch, sees many national tourists, none seemingly missing out the chance to visit Selecta's swimming pool.

But only a km or 2 upstream from this Dutch era swimming pool is the waterfall of Air Terjun Coban Talun. Getting here involves continuing up the mountain for about 2 km (following the main road) and then taking a well-signposted left for another 1,5 km. There is a small ticket office which doesn’t seem to be at all attached to the falls themselves, but it's simply the end of the road. Entrance fee is something like 3,100 INR (~3,50$US).

View along the way, after crossing the river. Far away one can see the town of Batu.

The track starts again off to your left and you gradually descend to the river level, above the falls. Here the track goes through the river and continues on the opposite bank. For another 750m the track hugs the mountain side as the valley drops away. Then a steep descent and after a total walk of 30 minutes one is at the foot of the 50m+ high falls.

Underneath (and probably above) the quite clean surrounded waterfall are some nice pools to cool off in. Do note that the climate here is already a lot cooler ... The lack of refuse may well indicate that there was lack of visitors ...., all the better for others to enjoy!

Nearby are other attractions such as a cave used during the Japanese occupation. This according to

In the Batu region other significant natural attractions are Cangar hot springs (about 8 km up road) as well as further away the hot springs in Songgoriti and Cubanrondo waterfall. Coban Rais is another local waterfall.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Poor widow

Prior experience with Indonesia’s waterfalls gives a mixed picture. Some are well-known and despite the natural beauty they are often trashed beyond recognition. Others, less well-known, are pristine and exude the expected beauty.

Air Terjun Cubanrondo (or Cuban Rondo / Coban Rondo) lies on the well-trodden route surrounding Batu town, located just over 30 km west of Malang. Located above Malang and squished between 2 volcanoes, the landscape and cooler climate lead to a great many tourists coming here, though mostly Indonesian nationals.
As said very few foreigners make it here, most stick to the big attractions on Java: Bromo volcano and Borobodur.

That does not imply the rest of the island is not interesting. Quite the opposite. And having an extremely dense population rate, combined with increasing prosperity discovering Java is quite easy.

However that easiness might not apply here. Eventually we made it to this waterfall on the backs of motorcycles for a hefty sum. Best accessed from the main Malang to Kediri highway, Cuban Rondo is found by taking the first turn left once over the pass beyond Batu.

After 1 km on this road, one is required to pay the entrance fee of 10,000 INR (~ 1,10$US) and one continues for another 5 km through park like surroundings. Camping grounds, possibilities to hike and cycle are all possible. The car park is definitely geared to swarms of visitors though even on a Saturday there are only 20 plus vehicles.

From the car park it’s a short stroll along the stream to the waterfall proper, which drops about 60m (source), though a wikitravel entry cuts that height by 50%. No pool underneath, though the stream has a couple. Water is very cold though. Alas, due to the influx of tourists the direct surroundings from the car park to waterfall are in desperate need of a clean up.

From internet are many blog entries, some though come with some additional info.
‘In the past, there was a beautiful princess who were married to an ordinary man. Their marriage was not blessed by the princess' parents and they run away. On the way of their trip, they met a man who also fell in love to this princess. The princess' husband and that man fought for days and nights. The princess was hidden by her husband behind a waterfall and he asked her to stay there and wait for him. However, her husband and the man were both killed on their battle. The princess did not know. She stayed and sat on a rock behind the waterfall. She waited for her husband faithfully until she died. That is why the locals named the waterfall as 'Cuban Rondo'. Cuban (in Javanese) means waterfall and Rondo (in Javanese) means Widow. So this waterfall is not recommended for couple who are not married yet. There is a belief that you will break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend after the visit’.
That explains the naming of the falls.
Worthwhile destinations in the area are Songgoriti hot springs and a outlook point from which one can view Batu valley and take a tandem dive down.

Video's from internet. Cobanrundo from

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wondering in the Kingdom

Flowers in the hair, waterfall in the background, another pic for the album.

Cambodia likes to see itself as a nation of natural beauty as exemplified by it’s waterfalls. And there is ample evidence of beautiful waterfalls in outstanding areas. However what they often neglect to inform visitors of, is the fact that the management of these waterfall areas and other areas of outstanding natural beauty contradicts the very reason why visitors may come. Or am I missing something?

K’bal Chhay (Kbal Chhay), Kompong Som province (yes you may refer to it as Sihanoukville) ranks high on Cambodia’s must see waterfalls. With the possible Bou Sra waterfalls in Mondulkiri having the edge, these falls are seen as something not to miss. Even though they aren’t the highest nor have any other qualities which would seek to attract visitors. But being close to the coastal resort of Sihanoukville seems to be the premier reason to visit here. And the reason why I have avoided visiting them.

Until this morning.
Located 8 km up a dirt road from a turn off on the main road out of Sihanoukville, access is good. Entrance fees are $1 per vehicle (up 100% with 3 years ago). Along the way one passes the municipal water reservoir as well as some clear cut forest just above the reservoir. Only in Cambodia is one allowed to denude the hills surrounding it’s number 1 drinking water source. Another wonder.

There is a wikipedia page on Kbal Chhay. It mentions that the fact of the upper part of the stream being the fresh water source of Sihanoukville. That the road was constructed by a company which somehow is not responsible for the fee collection anymore, the government has moved back. None of this though I believe is transparent.

Car park galore.

At the end of the road is a gigantic car park, which I imagine can spare enough space for upwards of 1,000 cars. Luckily today there are only a dozen. Along the edges are a number of stalls, selling drinks, foods and tourist nick nacks.
Access to mid way the falls is from a small corner of the car park, but most visitors opt to cross the river and seek out a nice shaded hut on the opposite bank above the falls. There are quite a few of these stalls, fanning out above the falls. Oddly though there seems no access to below the 15-25m high falls, where one can easily see a nice pool to swim in.

Overall it all seems pretty dangerous, I for one would not be surprised at children being swept off the waterfalls or just falling. On the other side is another smaller stream which joins the falls but with it’s own set of beautiful falls.

Not the main falls.
Again it certainly is a beautiful place, but the obscenity of all the stalls above the falls takes a major part of the enjoyment away. At least for ourselves. Naturally on holidays business will be roaring so no doubt I am one of the few who resent this development. Beyond the stalls huge piles over rubbish exist and closer to the falls much rubbish has been allowed to accumulate, but that seems to concern no one. It’s a pity how a beautiful area can be destroyed in humanities never ending search to make a quick buck.

The thing to do I believe, is to see if one can extend the visit by finding a path below to the lower stream and seek out a waterhole there.

We opted to follow the brook which enters the falls site. After some 10 minutes of scrambling through the forest we come to a very small waterfall, jungle enclosed and up to half a meter deep. No crowds. No noise. No rubbish. No need for clothes. Just pure nature.

Nearby is Iball, another delitefully peaceful area where one can zorb from a slope (apparently if you’re drunk naked zorbing is allowed …), swim or simply relax. A good idea to combine the two?

Halfway down the falls. The water drops here another 15m.

Elsewhere Andy B has as always a good blog entry. He attributes Kbal Chhay's popularity to it featuring in a 2000 local movie. More photo's too and from the rainy season, a fact which also the province guide mentions as well as more of the development history.

Monday, April 12, 2010

End of paradise

The waterfalls and rapids of Thmor Roong, Koh Kong province, Cambodia were revisited for a third time this month. Located at nearly the half way point between Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh the area was a great place for a complete getaway. Three years ago there was just 1 lady with an eski and possibly 2 or 3 shelter huts depending on what exactly you would describe as those.

Since though things have taken off: roughly ten shops now supply about 100 huts. These huts are lined two rows thick and seem solely intent in damaging the very environment that is the main attraction. Despite it not being Khmer New Year, rubbish was already easily to be found.

Worst of all a development 100m upstream seems to be excluding use for those wishing to get away from it all. A huge two meter high wall has been erected and signs through the riverbed seem to be there to deter visitors from straying upstream.
Beyond the wall, a guard hut and building have been built and the once verdant jungle undergrowth was still smoldering after some slash and burn. This stood in stark contrast to the opposing river side where the forest was still prime and once away from the main area birds were singing. Though I can’t say for sure that this side will not see the same fate.

Three years ago a visit was free to get away from the crowds, now a dollar the person to join the crowd! Thanks again folks for ruining what was once a beautiful place to visit. Long may you party (one set of visitors had a speaker box along, 1.5 m tall).

Another recent blog entry on Thmar Roung. There's apparently now a signboard with a JICA logo on it ....

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hit or miss? The latter

Kampot province is Cambodia is largly well-known because of the natural setting, at the foot of a high mountain range (Bokor), the sea and a fertile plain. The town of Kampot lies on a broad river which springs from the Bokor mountains. Visits to town seem to mean that a visit to the nearby Tek Chou rapids is called for, them being just 5 kms upstream from town.

Until now (January 2010) I've been able to avoid this tourist trap, simply because it's that. But all things must come to an end and thus last month I visited Teuk Chou (or Tek Chhou). There's a blanket charge for visitors, which seems steep for what one gets. One gets nothing. Along a 100 m stretch of the river, about 10,000 stalls are vying for the best place and get visitors to stay and spend some cash. Between the river and the stalls is a dirty area which seems to make this a natural area to be enjoyed redundant. And it seems that with the dam just upstream under construction the river and the rapids themselves have gone, leaving behind a couple of pools of tepid and dirty water. Avoid at all cost.

More photo's from internet:

Photo's from times with more water. Sources above and below.

Do note that this is only my opinion. Under the caption
'Teuk Chou's brook nevelrfails to win local and foreign fans'
comes the following first hand experience:
'It was not difficult to find 'Teuk Chou'- a local out-of-sort resort by a rocky brook only a few minutes drive from town. On arrival, we were greeted by many stalls by the road selling all sorts of foodstuff and fruits.
As we got out of our vehicle, we were immediately approached by food vendors rushing and pleading to take our order for lunch. These vendors can be quite persistent but since we needed lunch anyway, we permitted this big lady to lead us to a place under a tree by the stream. This was a makeshift platform made from some planks and neatly covered by a grass mat. Under the shade of trees by the stream, it was really quite cozy and comfortable.
We ordered lunch and, believe it or not, they actually served a full meal with fish, vegetables, chicken, soup and rice. The place was quite crowded with holiday-makers picnicking and having fun in the water.
The water in this rocky stream was crystal clear and cooling as well but unfortunately it appeared as though it was fast drying up and there was not much left to cater to the crowd, all rushing for what's left of deeper areas. For us, it was a rather pleasant place to have lunch'.
Teuk Chou's time is up apparently, recent reports [March 2011] on the Khmer 440 forum refer is as a 'fetid creek'. Certainly not worth a visit.

Elsewhere in Kampot province reference is made to Anlong Thom waterfall. Anyone been there?

Friday, January 8, 2010


Odd it may seem but Thailands biggest wildlife reserve, the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Reserve is bound to contain innumerable waterfalls, though only 1 is really open to visitors. Sai Boe (also seen as Cyber) waterfall is accessible from the (south)east. Coming from Uthai Thani's Ban Rai one needs to continue northwards towards Lan Sak on highway 3282. After 30 km a well sign posted side road heads west to Sai Boe. The road soon deteriorates as tarmac seems to be in short supply and the road becomes a rough dirt track before all of sudden reverting to a wide tarmac road 2 kms before the park entrance.

Entrance fees are stiff (200 THB). This being January 1, most locals are converging here.

From the car park it's about a km walk, the path swinging from left to right to the left shore. The track ends at the falls and going beyond the falls is actively discouraged, especially today as there are two wardens whose other job is to keep people from picnicking or trashing the place. The trash though must be pointed out is sold by family members of the same wardens nearby the parking. Beneath the slanted 10 m high waterfalls is a nice and deliciously deep water pool, a nice place to cool off even with the crowds as most can't swim so you still have the pool to yourself.

From internet I learn that discouraging tourists from climbing the falls is due to the fact that someone died not too long ago. It's another interesting account of a visit to this waterfall.


Namtok Pha Rom Yen is for once a waterfall that fails to fall under some kind of protective state run Thai agency. Probably that accounts for it being quite difficult to find. It all seems pretty straight forward, leave Ban Rai town (Uthai Thani province, Thailand) direct west along highway 3011. Continue for roughly 20 km until you have just reached the top of a mountain plateau. Take the first road right about 1 km before the police post. You now go down steeply, pity of all the height just achieved. Stop in the first hair pin bend. There are small spirit houses and a dress in plastic. From the bend of the corner look back over the valley and you will see the water fanning out over the cliff.

The corner in the bend is where to park. Two spirit houses and a dress.
From here one can see the waterfall drop from the opposing cliff side.

One can get to the foot of this fall with a frenetic scramble. From the parking there is a path going down to the river. It then goes through the stream upwards. Where there are two distinct streams joining take the left fork and with the aid of a rope haul yourself up to the end of the first level (derscriptors mention 4 levels). Not really a waterfall to plunge in, though the mist from the impressive 100 m height envelops the surroundings making this very lush. There's also a great view from here.

Lush undergrowth

Another thing striking is that the water contains a lot of lime which results in sediments building up from the bottom of the fall upwards.

A very beautiful waterfall and different. A pity though that there seems to be even a scrap of management. Prior visitors are leaving behind quite a bit of evidence. This contrasts with this description:
'The entire environment surrounding the waterfalls is serene and mostly unspoiled by any kind of urban civilization, thereby providing visitors a soothing atmosphere to relax and have fun'.

More photo's from the Thai government site.

Now go through this cave ...

Kanchanaburi province, Thailand is along the well trodden tourist path which takes in the River Kwai railway as well as jungle surroundings. It's home to some of Thailand's more famous waterfalls such as Erawan and Sai Yok.

Off this west-east tourist path is located the national park of Chaloem Rattanakosin. Getting here means taking highway 3086 60 km north of Kanchanaburi town to Nong Prue and then going west for about 20 km along the 3480 which brings you to the national park entrance.

Though off the tourist path, locals are out in numbers in late December 2009. Just beyond the entrance is a large car park with restaurants, bungalows and camping facilities. On this day there is even a first aid tent with its complete (limited) stock of medicines on show.

Most tourists are all heading for the same waterfall, Tri Trong. To get here one needs to pass 300 m through a cave (Tham Lod Noi) as the stream on which the waterfall lies does the same. Lights are on during day. From the cave it's another 1 km to the waterfalls.

Tri Trong has three levels and the picture above is of the first level. The path here is beautiful, both the cave as well as the path following a stream along a deep valley which provides for radiant growth. Beyond the falls the path steepens and ends in a even larger cave (Tham Lod Yai).

Elsewhere in the national park are the waterfalls of Tran Ngern / Tran Thong and Slider.

Cascade of Falls

Cambodia is not really well known for it's waterfalls and when it does, these seem to be all located east wards in the mountainous area near the Vietnamese border.

However those familiar with the Bokor mountains will have to admit that a mountain range located close to the coast is bound to have a waterfall or two. Which is the case though they are mostly unknown. The Kampot Survival Guide mentions a number of unnamed waterfalls which flow mostly during the monsoon which usually lasts a little longer here. Known to locals but with little details for tourists.

Prek Thnaut is one of these lesser known waterfalls or better said a cascade of smaller falls located not far from the road to Sihanoukville, roughly 25 km from Kampot. From the road one needs to pay attention to a school, on the north side of the road. Follow the dirt road to and around this school and one comes to Prek Thnaut visitor center, though as mostly visitors are expected during the monsoon and in the weekend, the center will mostly be deserted. Then again Save Cambodia's Wildlife, a nationally operating NGO is trying to promote community based ecotourism here so the center may not always be deserted. More info from Cambodia's Community Based Ecotourism Network.

Park the car here and continue on foot for another 200 m and you'll see various tracks diverging from the main track to different pools / falls.
The falls are mostly of 1 m height with small tubs beneath each.

Our visit here was in late December 2009. Water was still flowing and the pools were still refreshing though one can imagine that in April / May nothing would be flowing ... Then again come in September and you'will be swept away (literally?).

Tip: Take a bike from Kampot, the road is less traveled. Stay closer at the Nataya.

Update (August 2010): the Cambodian NGO, Save Cambodia's Wildlife, is stopping assistance here due to lack of donor funding. They have however published a brochure which is distributed throughout Kampot.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pha Toei waterfall and a rose garden

The west of Ratchaburi province, Thailand, is gifted with many waterfalls, some more well known than others.
The past December (2009) I made a visit to Usawadi Rose Garden. This private resort seems a bit peculiar. It contains a larger restaurant with a number of bungalows nearby, but all apparently do not form one resort so it seems. Beyond the restaurant lie a number of obstacles of an obstacle course. The Rose Garden itself is beyond these and seems to be dying out.

Beyond this Rose Garden much effort has been made to make a path along a small stream which gradually gets steeper and steeper. However even though the path and canalization of the stream are quite obtrusive, at the top a large dam holds a nearly 2 m deep pool with cold water and on the opposite side water rains down from an about 20 m higher cliff (see photo above). Again with no one in sight another great skinny dip sight, but even if not skinny, it still is a rewarding place to dust off the accumulated sweat.

The waterfall goes under the name of Pha Toei. Getting here is not too complicated. From Suan Phueng continue along road 3087 until one comes to a turn off 20 km from Suan Phueng. Continue onwards for another km then take the sharp turn right and after another 1 km the Usuwadi Rose Garden is on your right.

The lower levels of the falls have been artificially landscaped, not much charm.
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