|Far from "full" this is how the falls looked on the day of my visit in March 2012/2555|
My few hours hiking in and out of the falls area of Nam Tok Phliu National Park was one of the more enjoyable afternoons of my last trip. It was another of those farang-free times where I was able to mingle with Thai who weren't hustling about, trying to sell me something or otherwise working - they were merely there to relax and enjoy the same spot I was there to enjoy.
During the visit my friend and I made we only saw a small part of what was available there, so I'd urge you do to some further research on it if you plan to go yourself, and I'd also suggest you plan a full day of activity there.
|A woman sits at one of many "viewing" spots to watch the fish|
There are plenty of places to sit and have lunch and do some trinket shopping, too. If you're one of those who likes to picnic you can buy a packaged meal to sit beneath the trees and eat. You return the plates and things to the vendor afterwards.
NO food, other than the long beans for the fish, is allowed past a certain point, and there's someone there to remind you if you try - up to and including the rubber bands that often bundle the beans when you buy them. The rest of the way (that I saw, anyway) was completely litter-free.
|There are some raised bridges, but a lot of the walk to the falls is stairways and inclined pathways|
The hike up the hill from the parking areas to the falls would be plenty for some of you, but there's plenty of room to hike around for the more adventurous folks who are in better shape and enjoy such things.
|The park's entrance - the ticket booth is to the left of the sign|
Most of the sites sharing information about the park itself seem to have borrowed liberally from each other, but if you do some deeper searches you can find detailed information, albeit it in Thai. There wasn't a brochure in English that I could find there, so I've also borrowed the area figures below.
The basics are these: the park in its entirety covers a little over 134 square kilometers / 51 square miles, it's open seven days a week (barring the odd holiday quirk) and admission is two-tiered, meaning Thai pay 40 baht to enter and farang pay 200 baht. Some people balk at that, but frankly I think it's perfectly logical - even though my friend makes substantially more in a year as a surgeon than I do in my profession. After all, it's their national park.
We were there on a weekday and there was still parallel parking available within 100 meters of the park ticket booth and entrance, but when it's busy you'd be in the actual parking lots, and those are further down the hill.
|I stayed near the red dot - about 45 minutes from the park|
Google maps report it's 200Km/125Miles from the downtown Pattaya to Phliu, and it's not a freeway so you're looking at about four hours each way; more with the logical stop to rest or have a snack along the way. I'd strongly suggest making the time for an overnight stop at a beach-side place in the area. I stayed there for four days, so it was just a 45 minute drive through some lovely countryside to the park.
|Savoury soup and a bottle of water - my travel day lunch|
It's more or less a straight shot most of the way down Highway 3, or Sukhumvit Road (yes, that Sukhumvit - the same one that runs all the way up through Bangkok) through beautiful countryside of farmland and orchards of mangosteen, rambutan, jackfruit, sawa, durian and other tree fruit. During April and May the fruit is ripening and ready for harvest and my friend was sorry we weren't coming through there then, when the fruit makes the whole area quite colorful.
|More water was actually coming down the right side (barely visible here) but I didn't clamber up for a better view, sorry to say.|
The falls themselves were less than they are during the rainy season, as you'd expect. The day I was there I was told they are a mere fraction of what they can be, but during those periods it's far less safe to be clambering around what I'm told are more what you could call raging rapids down along the paths, few of which have hand rails or other protection, and they were somewhat slippery the day I was there, so be advised even during calmer times - unless you don't bruise easily!
There are at least eight to ten different spots to stop and feed the schools of fish on your way up to the waterfall I visited, so if you don't feel up to the entire hike you won't miss out on trying your beans - I mean hand - at this. Again, be advised that wet rocks can be slippery. The water isn't cold, but warm water can also do a number on your cell phone, wallet and other things.
All in all I'd have to say it's a place worth visiting when you're in the area. If you, like I, are of the belief that there's much more to Thailand than shopping malls and nightlife I can attest to there being more to see and do in the area. We'll cover more of it soon.
|A large carved wooden tor soro carp on the path to the falls|