Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mae Surin National Park and Waterfall - Mae Hong Son

Mae Surin National Park is given national park status in 1981, this natural wonder, which straddles Mueang and Khun Yuam districts, encompasses a wildlife and botanical reserve, a huge waterfall and a spectacular terraced mountain. Namtok Mae Surin, its main attraction, is 37 kilometers from Khun Yuam district. It is a huge waterfall cascading over eighty meters down below.

Mae Surin national park is located in Mae Hong Son province, it covers 397 square kilometers of rugged terrain. It was established in 1981 as the 37th national park of Thailand. The park contains some of the main peaks of Thanon Tongchai range with elevation varying between 300 and 1,700 meters above sea level. These highland give birth to numerous streams and small rivers which are important tributaries of the Pai river, the main river of this region. 

The three seasons of northern Thailand offer varied conditions within Mae Surin National Park throughout the year. With the mountain tops and river valleys often wreathed in mist, the cold season (November to February) offers beautiful scenery, lush vegetation, and comfortable temperatures for hiking and camping. The temperature during the hot season (late February to May) can be somewhat oppressive in the lowlands of Mae Hong Son with a mean high temperature of 39ºC in the month of April. Rainy season is normally from June to October. This brings the forest into vibrant life and fills the rivers and their waterfalls to full capacity. While nature is at this time in its grandest state, hiking along the mountains will be quite difficult. Careful planning must be done for safety. White water rafting on Pai river is a popular activity during the rainy season. 

Drastic variations in topography and soil types in this region have created numerous habitat types ranging from sparsely vegetated stands of broadleaf deciduous to lush stands of tropical evergreen forest. Flora of interest are: increasingly rare stands of teak, stands of temperate pine, and a number of orchid and wildflower species. Probable animal species present in the park include Malay sun bear, golden cat, common wild pig, barking deer, and serow.

Mae Surin waterfall (Thai: น้ำตกแม่สุรินทร์), is a not-to-miss attraction in the park and is set amidst towering limestone mountains. A single jet of water leaping off a cliff face and plunging gracefully onto the rocks 100 meters below, Mae Surin waterfall is one of the tallest and most beautiful single tier waterfalls in Thailand. The fall can be viewed from the hills across the valley, or you can hike down the hills for a closer look. On the way to the waterfall, there are Karen and Hmong hill tribe villages as well as the famous Toong Bua Tong (Thai: ทุ่งบัวตอง), or fields of wild sunflowers, which bloom for two weeks only in the month of November.

The Park itself has two main locations with visitor facilities. The main Headquarters is located just North of Mae Hong Sorn along Route 1095 and beside the Pai River. At Mae Surin Waterfall, there is another information centre and visitor facilities. Both locations have accommodation available. The Headquarters has three bungalows overlooking the Pai river. At Mae Surin Waterfall, there are 2 new Bungalows and 2 basic Adobe huts available (There is no mainline electricity at this location. A generator provides electricity from Dusk until 22:00 hrs.). Both locations have camp grounds and tent rental.

The highlights of the Park include Mae Surin Waterfall, Doi Mae U-Kor, Mae Sakeud Nature Trail, Rafting and the Huay Fai Kor Wildlife Conservation Project.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Erawan National Park and Waterfall - Kanchanaburi

Erawan National Park is a 550-square-kilometer park in western Thailand, located in Kanchanaburi Province, Amphoe Si Sawat in the tambon Tha Kradan. Founded in 1975, it is Thailand's 12th national park.

The major attraction of the park is Erawan Falls (Thai: น้ำตกเอราวัณ), a waterfall named after the erawan, the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology. The seven-tiered falls are said to resemble the erawan. There are also four caves in the park: Mi, Rua, Wang Bahdan, and Pharthat.

With its spectacular seven-tiered waterfalls, Erawan National Park is one of the most popular natural attractions in the country. Located about 65 km northwest of Kanchanaburi town along Route 3199, the 550-sq-km park is situated in the Tenasserim Hills running along the Thai-Burmese border. Mixed species deciduous forests with occasional stands of bamboo characterize the park. More than 80 species of bird have been sighted, as well as gibbon, slow loris, macaque and rhesus monkey.
The highlight of the park is undoubtedly the multi-level waterfall, one of the most powerful and beautiful in the country. The various tiers have deep pools, ideal for swimming, and the area abounds in ferns, orchids and other wild plants. To fully appreciate the beauty of the falls, you should take the winding trail up to the top and most magnificent level. The seventh tier is said to resemble the shape of Erawan, the three-headed elephant of Hindu mythology, and from which the park draws its name.

A number of limestone caves within the park are worth visiting. The Phrathat Cave, 12 km northwest of the visitors' center, is encrusted with monumental stalactites and stalagmites, and swarms with bats. Wang Badan, with its multiple chambers and a subterranean stream, is located in the west of the park.

Accommodation is available in the National Park bungalows or you can pitch a tent nearby. Buses to Erawan depart Kanchanaburi town from 8.00 am. The trip takes about two hours. The last bus back from Erawan leaves at 4.00 pm. As with other waterfalls, Erawan is best visited during the rainy season when the falls are in full volume.


Huai Mae Khamin Waterfall - Kanchanaburi

The Huai Mae Khamin Waterfall (Thai: น้ำตกห้วยแม่ขมิ้น), is one of the most popular places in Kanchanaburi Province. Huai Mae Khamin has been a popular destination for many years, particularly during the rainy season. One of the attractions is the tall limestone walls and dense forest that surround the area. The water cascades over an ochre-stained limestone rock face, earning the falls the Thai name “Huai Khamin” or “Turmeric Stream”. The little-visited falls have formed deep pools that are ideal for swimming. The surroundings are very peaceful with dense jungles and occasional sightings of elephants and other wildlife.

The Huai Mae Khamin waterfall, in the mountainous Khuan Sri Nakharin National Park, is located in Amphoe Sai Yok and Amphoe Thong Pha Phom in the province of Kanchanaburi. The waterfall itself is located near the National Park office. The best way to get to the falls is by long-tailed boat from Ban Tha Kradan or Si Sawat on the eastern side of the reservoir. Hiring a boat can be expensive unless you go as a larger group (up to 20 people). It’s also possible to get there by motorcycle or off-road vehicle from Erawan but the road is treacherous and this route is not recommended.
The Huai Mae Khamin waterfall is a moderate-sized limestone waterfall. It has seven levels. Visitors here feel at peace while watching the clear water fall down the steps of each level. Because this is a limestone waterfall, the area surrounding it is not slippery and doesn’t support algae. The most stunning level is the fourth, called “Chat Kaew” (Thai: ฉัตรแก้ว). To make the area safer for visitors, the park officials erected a path that goes all the way to the top. In addition to seeing the waterfall, the Sri Nakharin Dam is also a popular tourist spot. The dam was originally built to provide water and power the rice farmers in the area. While here, it is possible to rent a boat and explore the man-made lake.

In the National Park there are several beautiful caves for amateur spelunkers to explore. The Neramit Cave (Thai: ถ้ำเนรมิต), has many stalagmites and stalactites formed over thousands of years. This limestone cave also has a domed roof, which is perfect for taller travelers. The Phra That Cave (Thai: ถ้ำพระธาตุ), is the home of an ancient Buddha statue. This cave was used by Thai soldiers hiding from the Burmese Army back in the 18th century. In addition, there are two hot springs where you can bathe and soak your sore muscles from your adventure.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Sai Yok Waterfall and National Park - Kanchanaburi

Sai Yok Waterfall (Thai: น้ำตกไทรโยค), located 104 km northwest of Kanchanaburi town, is the most popular attraction in the 500-sq-km Sai Yok National Park. Popularized in poetry and a classic Thai song, the Sai Yok and Sai Yok Noi falls cascade directly into the Khwae Noi River, close to the National Park headquarters to the west of Highway No 323. A wire rope suspension bridge has been strung across the river opposite the falls to give visitors a clear view. The sand bar on the opposite bank from the falls also affords a direct view.

Sai Yok Noi (Thai: ไทรโยคน้อย) is a waterfall in the Sai Yok district of Kanchanaburi Province, near the small town Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi. It is the most popular attraction of the Sai Yok National Park for domestic and foreign tourists alike, in part because it lies next to the province’s trunk road alongside which there is ample parking space. The immediate vicinity features several sites of interest including the Krasae Cave, a small Buddhist shrine next to a section of rail tracks of the notorious Death Railway and, to the west, Daowadung Cave, a secluded collection of impressive stalactites. Hellfire Pass Memorial, a museum and tribute to those lost during the construction of the Death Railway’s cuttings and trestle bridges, lies about 35 km to the west of Sai Yok Noi falls. A small market geared toward travelers is also nearby. Sai Yok Yai waterfall, some 40 km to the west lies offset from the valley’s main road, adjacent to the Sai Yok National Park Headquarters. It comprises a 10 meter (32 ft) picturesque cascade which drops directly into the Khwae Noi River (Thai: แม่น้ำแควน้อย).

Other attractions in the Sai Yok National Park include fascinating limestone caves, which are home to the Kitti's hog-nosed bat, discovered in 1973 and reckoned to be the world's smallest mammal at just 3 cm (1 inch) in length. Wildlife in the area includes 67 bird species, barking deer, slow loris, gibbons, porcupines, serow and wild elephants. Tropical broad-leaved evergreen forests cover most of the park, while bamboo and mixed deciduous tracts can be found in the lowlands and foothills.

Sai Yok was the site of a Japanese army barracks during the Second World War and traces of the soldiers' camps and the abandoned Death Railway can still be seen. Most of the rails and sleepers of the railway have been claimed by local villagers.
Rafts can be hired from Sai Yok to explore the limpid Khwae Noi and to get to the Daowadung (to the north) and Lawa (to the south) caves with their exquisite stalactites and stalagmites. Some of the unforgettable Russian roulette scenes in the film 'The Deer Hunter' were shot on the river in this area.

Accommodation in the form of raft houses and National Park bungalows is available close to the park headquarters. The place is popular at the weekend so expect to pay more than in the week. Sai Yok National Park can be reached by bus or car from Kanchanaburi or by train to Sai Yok and then bus. It's also possible to charter a boat from Kanchanaburi for the 100-km trip upstream.