Thailand is full of national parks, each unique in its own ways and fun to explore. Some tend to be overshadowed because they are located away from the main tourist areas, I believe that Chaloem Rattanakosin National park is one of these places. When people visit Kanchanaburi, most people tend to visit Erawan National park because of its stunning waterfalls and close location to town. This is a great park to go to if you want to enjoy a nice walk, swim in the blue pools and have a bite to eat but if you are looking for an adventure then Chalowm Rattanakosin National park is for you.
Located about an hour and a half drive away from the main town in the Saway district of Kanchanaburi, this park is a relatively easy drive to take. The highest peak of this park’s mountain range is Kam Pang with a height of 1,260 metres. If you visit early in the day and during the week it is likely that you will be the only people there, it doesn’t get very busy.
Once you arrive, there is a large car park for you to park in. There is an entrance fee to the park which is 200 baht for foreigners, Thai nationals will be charged less. After you enter the park, there is a short walk down a hill, here you will pass some toilets, small stalls and a campsite. The toilets are western-style and very clean. At the top of the road is the start of the walk and the entrance to the Tham Lot Noi Cave, you have to sign a visitor book before you enter. This is to make sure that you return at the end of the day and don’t get lost up the waterfall.
After you have signed the visitor book you can then venture into the first part of the park. You’ll first discover Tham Lot Noi Cave. Make sure you check out the signs on the outside of the cave warning you about poisonous wildlife that you could possibly run into. I presume they are referring to snakes or spiders that could be hiding in the cave but I doubt you would actually see one so don’t worry. On the way into the cave, we also came across a cute stray dog that lives in the park, he was very sweet and friendly.
The cave was a complete surprise to us and we were not expecting how incredible it really was in person. After about a minute of walking through the cave, the roof of the cave comes down very low, so low that we had to crawl on the floor to get through (this would be a smart time to check for snakes on the path, you don’t want to accidentally out your hands on a snake!) but the cave walkway got much bigger, quickly and we were able to walk the rest of the way through.
Once deep inside the cave, we were surprised to find bats, lots and lots of bats. I know that bats tend to live in caves but I just was not expecting to find them here, let alone as many as there were! Don’t worry, the bats stayed on the roof of the cave so you don’t need to worry about them touching you. It truly was a spectacular sight. As we followed the path around the cave, there was a small river flowing through. The sound inside the cave was sensational. The path inside the cave is lit up by subtle lights so you will easily be able to find your way through the cave. The cave is full of hanging stalactites and stalagmites. Some of the stalagmites (like the ones pictured below) were huge and such an impressive sight to see.
Once you exit the cave, you will be at the start of the walk to the top of the waterfalls. There are two falls in this park, Namtok Than Thong and Namtok Than Ngoen. I am still very confused about which one is which and which one we walked up so I am just going to talk about my experience and what I did. After we left the cave, we started walking and following the path. The forest areas that surround the path are stunning, it felt like I was walking through Jurassic Park. Everything was huge! The trees, the leaves, the branches, I felt like a giant bug from the movies was going to appear somewhere but luckily it didn’t.
We were the only people in the park at this time of the day, we arrived very early and there are no park keepers hanging around, keeping watch like they do at Erawan so we were truly alone. We walked for quite a while, stopping to take pictures and admire the beauty around us. Eventually, I can’t remember how long we had been walking, we arrived at the lowest part of the waterfall. It was beautiful and a lovely light to see. There were some signs telling us how far the next level of the waterfall was so we decided to keep walking.
We walked for quite a while, it seemed like forever and then we arrived at some wooden stairs. These stairs led up the side of the limestone mountain, it was a lovely day and still early so we decided to follow them. The path started out OK but soon the path became unruly and broken. This was not a very encouraging site when we were halfway up the side of a mountain, alone, but we carried on anyway hoping the path would hold out. The steps turned more into rock climbing at some parts and there had been heavy rain in the days leading up to our trip so a lot of the path was wet and slippy. Finally, after I nearly passed out from exhaustion we could see the top of the waterfall. It was breathtaking.
My friend and I were overjoyed that we nearly made it to the top. The first part of the walk was lovely but the last part was definitely a struggle I’m not being dramatic but I nearly died about 3 times. My friend was genuinely worried that she was going to have to leave me alone up the mountain to get help. Don’t attempt to hike to the top if your health isn’t in the best state, luckily I survived and pushed through, I felt proud that we were nearly at the top. There was a bridge going over the waterfall that we needed to cross but due to the heavy rain, the day before the waterfall was insanely strong and was covering most of the bridge.
As we were looking up at the rest of the walkway we noticed a sign blocking the pathway up to the top. I took a picture of it so we could see what it said, It basically said that the rest of the path was closed and that we couldn’t finish the walk. We were very upset, I understand why we couldn’t go further because of how dangerous it was but now we couldn’t finish the walk or see the rest of the waterfall that we nearly died hiking to see. I was also very annoyed because there wasn’t a sign at the entrance saying the pathway was closed, if there was we wouldn’t have even attempted to walk to the top. Oh well! It was a fun bonding experience, a good experience and the view was incredibly beautiful.
Now we had to make our way back down the broken steps and back towards the cave. At the top of the waterfall, there is supposed to be a temple, we didn’t get to see this but I read that you can drive up the mountain to the temple and see the waterfall this way. We didn’t find this out until after we left which was disappointing because I would have loved to see the temple, I guess it just gives me another reason to go back one day. The walk back down the mountain was much easier and faster than it was on the way up. The view was incredible and we could see over the treetops as we were walking down, it was magical.
To exit out of the park to the visitor hut we had to go back through the cave again, we passed a few people on the way down, so if you want the park to be very quiet then I suggest going early. We made it back to the hut and we looked around again checking that we hadn’t missed any signs about the top of the waterfall being shut but we couldn’t see any. Then, we stopped off at the toilets and made our way to the car park. It was at this point that I realized I was missing my necklace. It must have fallen off my neck somewhere up the mountain, I was so sad but despite all of this we had an incredible day.
I definitely would recommend visiting this national park, it was huge and everything reminded me of Jurassic Park. It was a great hike and an awesome adventure. I do have some advice for visiting this park, here are some tips I would tell myself for next time I visit:
. Don’t visit if there has been raining recently, only visit if it’s been dry for a few weeks
. Arrive early in the day to avoid people
. Bring a lot of water and some healthy snacks, I brought orange juice and it nearly made me vomit halfway up the mountain
. Eat before you go hiking, it is a long and steep walk to the top
. Wear good walking shoes or trainers. Don’t wear flip-flops
. Make sure you wear sunscreen. don’t wear any jewellery that you would be sad to lose, there is no hope of finding it up the mountain
. Take the walk slowly, enjoy the view and be safe! You will be alone for most of the walk, so hold onto the railings, watch the steps and mind any slippery spots
Would you like to visit Chaloem Rattanakosin National park in Kanchanaburi? If you have already been here, what did you think?