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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