Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vachiratharn Waterfall

After our stop at the highest point in Thailand we were about halfway back down the mountain in Doi Inthanon National Park when Jiab flipped on his signal and slowed to make the turn into the park-within-a-park so I could see the Vachiratharn waterfall. I’d been keeping up with my water intake so had figured it wasn’t much more than a welcome rest stop and had no idea it would be the impressive place it turned out to be.

My guide, Jiab (owner of PJ’s Place in Chiang Mai) had probably been there countless times so knew the most convenient spot to park the van for a hong nam (bathroom) stop, but as I got out I could actually see a portion of the falls and hear its roar - so I denied Nature’s call and turned to make the short walk up the path and stone steps to see the falls. They were fantastic, especially for being this being September and late in the rainy season.

Plumes of mist rose from the churning water as it cascaded 230 feet down the steep, rocky granite hillside and I soon gave up trying to keep my sunglasses dry, opting to protect the camera instead. Clouds moved across overhead, making photos a bit of a challenge as the light changed dramatically every few minutes, but it also allowed me to be in the correct spot (sun behind me, mist in front of me) to catch a few shots with a rainbow arcing across below our vantage point.

There’s a trail up the left-hand side to the top of the falls where you can get what I was told was an amazing view, but as the mist was blowing to the left we’d have gotten soaked and that – along with this silly fear I have of slipping off of slick rocks and tumbling ass over tit 70 yards or so down to more rocks – kept me content staying at the main viewing area.

After getting sufficiently wet we walked back down past the van to the visitor’s area, where I gratefully made use of the hong nam and wandered around the lower falls area, watching the deep, fast-moving water rush along between and over the boulders as it made its way to one of the rivers fed by the mountain’s rain runoff. As has been the case so many times I said to myself “well, that’d be a lawsuit waiting to happen back in the USA” as I noticed the small sign reading NO WADING as the only barrier to keep foolhardy tourists from taking their chances in the deep, fast moving water.

Doi Inthanon is about 80Km (around 50 miles) from Chiang Mai, the ride was restful, the countryside lush and green. Your park admission to Doi Inthanon includes this stop, and it’s one you’ll regret missing if you don’t. We didn’t stop to eat but there was an open-air restaurant. There are no strenuous trails to hike and as I said, the parking is plentiful and convenient.

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