Erawan should have been crossed out of my list when I visited Thailand last year but it proved to be a daunting trip from Bangkok. Hence, it was only this year that I was finally able to walk along its jungle trails and swim in its crystal pools.
Overview of Erawan National Park
Erawan National Park, named after the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology, is a sprawling 550-square kilometre park of rainforests found in western Thailand.
The main attraction of the park is the Erawan Waterfalls, a series of seven waterfalls located along 1.5 km of trail. Each of the seven tiers has its own name and deservingly serves as an individual attraction.
1st waterfall: Lhai Keun Lung
2nd waterfall: Wang Matcha
The first and 2nd tiers are the busiest in the park, as these are the levels where picnics are allowed. Benches and tables are scattered around the area where local families usually set-up their lunch.
A glimpse of the first two waterfalls set the mood just right to entice visitors on the views that lay ahead. They have clear pools where schools of fish swim comfortably with people.
3rd waterfall: Pha Nam Tok
4th waterfall: Oke Nang Phee Suer
5th waterfall: Buer Mai Long
6th waterfall: Dong Pruek Sa
The trail starts to get more challenging towards the 6th waterfall. The path is no longer paved but requires navigating (and sometimes scrambling) through the roots of huge trees. However, visitors are sure to be rewarded with a multi-tiered waterfall that gently cascades down into a wide pool.
7th waterfall: Phu Pha Erawan
The gem of the trail, and also the most challenging to reach, is a three-step waterfall with limestone cascades. The pool, though not as wide as the previous pools, are the bluest and cleanest I’ve seen.
Aside from these seven tiers, there are smaller tiers and emerald pools perfect for a refreshing dip. A comfortably-paced hike up to the last tier and back takes about 3 hours.
Visiting Erawan Waterfalls
Erawan Waterfall is open for visits everyday from 8AM to 4:30PM. However, rangers start to clear the 6th and 7th tier at 3PM to ensure that visitors will be back in the headquarters by closing time.
Picnics are allowed up to the 2nd tier. Beyond this point, there is a station where guests are no longer allowed to bring food and are required to declare water bottles. These bottles are marked and a deposit of 20 baht per bottle needs to be paid. The deposit is returned if the bottles are presented to the same station upon exit. This is an effective way to remind park visitors to avoid throwing their empty bottles carelessly and I commend the park authorities for successfully implementing rules that promote its protection.
Foreigner: THB 300 (adult), THB 200 (children)
Locals: TBH 100 (adult), THB 50 (children)
Motorcycle: THB 20
Cars: THB 30
How to get there
Kanchanaburi town, 144 km from Bangkok, serves as the gateway to Erawan. It’s possible to reach Kanchanaburi through the following ways:
There are 1st and 2nd class buses that leave from Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal to Kanchanaburi every 20 to 30 mins. Fare costs 95-110 baht and takes about 2 hours.
There are also buses that leave hourly from Bangkok Northern Mo Chit bus terminal. If you’re coming from Don Mueang Airport, Mo Chit bus terminal is easily accessible with an airport bus. Note that the terminal is about 2 km from Mo Chit BTS station, and hence called Mo Chit 2. Motorbike ride from Mo Chit BTS to Mo Chit 2 is available for 50 baht.
Vans to Kanchanaburi departs from Mo Chit 2 every hour until 6:00 PM. Fare costs 120 baht and takes 2.5-3 hours depending on the traffic condition in Bangkok.
There are two train trips between Bangkok and Kanchanaburi: at 07:50 AM and 1:55 PM. Train departs from Bangkok Thonburi Station and arrives at the River Kwai Bridge. Travel time takes 2 hours and 30 mins and costs 100 baht.
Kanchanaburi to Erawan National Park
From Kanchanaburi town, Erawan is another 1.5 hours away. There are public buses in Kanchanaburi terminal that leave every hour. The bus passes through the Erawan ticket booth where each visitor has to pay the entrance fee. The trip then continues and passengers are dropped at the entrance of the national park where the jungle trail starts. Fare costs 50 THB for a one-way trip and is usually collected by the driver before the trip or during a stopover for gas refill.
Kanchanaburi to Erawan/ Erawan to Kanchanaburi
Where to stay
Kanchanaburi town serves as a popular gateway for Erawan Falls. I chose to stay at Canaan Guesthouse (350 baht/night), just 150 m away from the bus station. This area is a perfect location if you’re arriving late at night or wishes to catch the earliest bus to Erawan.
It is also possible to stay at the park entrance/HQ where bungalows can be rented for the following prices:
2 pax – THB 800
4 pax – THB 1200
50 pax – THB 4000