I hadn’t seen my friend Boat in a while and it had been a little too long since we last adventured together, so we grabbed our friend Yim and headed out to conquer the four tiers of Tat Pho waterfall within Phu Langka National Park. We had stopped by this waterfall once last year but it was too late in the day to hike all the way up and so, one year later, we finally returned to finish our quest.
I am going to tell you now, if you come to SE Asia and you are not Asian, you WILL be hit with the “tourist price”. I’ve been here for 2 years now and I can tell you this is bulls**t. Thailand isn’t the only culprit, Malaysia does it too and I’m sure other counties as well I just haven’t been there yet. Now an extra 30 baht or even 50 baht I would….probably understand. I’m admittedly very reactive so in the moment maybe not but upon retrospective contemplation I would be ok with it. So I showed up to this waterfall with two of my Thai friends. We tell the guy we are going to see the waterfall, he tells us that would 20 baht for my Thai companions and 200 baht for me. What. My mouth dropped open and, I will be honest, my first thought was You corrupt bastard how dare you…(even though it was posted on the sign so technically he wasn’t the corrupt one) and it is a good thing that I was not in the driver’s seat and my friends didn’t really give me a chance to speak because I may have had some regrets. They said I had lived in Buengkan for two years already and so he gave me a 100 baht discount. Not even cool. It feels like no matter how long I live here I will never really fit in. But this is putting a negative spin on an otherwise awesome experience so I will leave it at this: expect a ridiculous jack in prices almost anywhere in Thailand because of your skin color.
Price for waterfall:
Thai people: 20 baht
Farang/”Tourists”: 200 baht
*Try hiding in the back of your friend’s car to avoid the stupid fee (ha…ha…kidding…)
*Eat before you go or pack a lunch. Unlike some of the waterfalls I don’t remember seeing much in the way of food or drinks for sale anywhere.
*Bring a small pack or backpack to carry along your snacks and water. I really want to stress bringing water because you will be doing some hiking if you want to explore past the first tier and it can get hot.
*Wear non-slip shoes like hiking boots you don’t mind getting wet because I am not kidding when I say some of those rocks are SLIPPERY. So wear some all terrain shoes or go jungle native like Boat and I did and don’t wear shoes at all! It is a mile up to the top though so, you know, the choice is yours.
*As I’ve said before, don’t show up for a dip in the water in your bikini. You will feel very out of place and it would be more culturally mindful to swim in shorts and a tank top or t-shirt.
Tier 1 is easily accessible and visible from the parking lot. It is only a short 50m jaunt along a path and you are there. This is Tat Pho.
This tier is stroller and family accessible. It is also lazy person accessible; if you want to see a waterfall with minimum work this is it! There is no hiking involved whatsoever and it is quite beautiful.
The 2nd tier is called Phasawan Waterfall. Phasawan is about 400 meters up from Tat Pho. At the start there is a bit of a short but somewhat steep climb, or you can take the alternate route which is an easier access road. After that initial climb you follow a smooth, gradually increasing trail. This trail is very easy to follow. Once you get to the 2nd tier, you can stop at the bottom and risk climbing across the rocks for some cool photos. It isn’t dangerous in the sense that if you fall you will get swept away, but it is incredibly slippery since moss grows on the damp rocks and you kind of have to take your time and spider crawl. If you are not keen on attempting this, it’s perfectly fine as the top of this tier is just as beautiful! After the second tier the trail begins to get a little bit difficult.
At some point during this 1,100 or so meter stretch of trail to the 3rd tier it becomes more of these slippery rocks, and that is when we decided to ditch the shoes and go barefoot. Tier 3, or Sai-Ngam Waterfall, is arguably more stunning than the first two. The waterfall spans across the rock in two parts, and right in the middle above you can see the rest of the waterfall cascading down in the distance. Unfortunately due to the lighting you can’t see it in the pictures, but I guess that’s part of what makes it so magical in my memory and makes it something you have to see for yourself. 😉 Just like at Phasawan, you can stop at the bottom or the top. Actually you have to cross over the top of this one to continue on to the next tier. The bottom is great for a cool down swim, and we stopped at the top for a quick snack and water break. For the most part the water either constantly runs over the rocks or not at all, so it isn’t too slippery up at the top but you do still have to be careful.
From this point on the going gets a bit rough so it isn’t for the faint of heart. From the 3rd tier to the 4th the trail basically becomes vertical and you have to claw your way up the mountain. It is doable, but you have to be motivated and probably not afraid of heights as you will be climbing ladders vertically up the rocky bits. The final stretch is probably about…well the sign at the bottom says about 200 meters from tier 3 to 4. That could be true but it is a tough 200 meters that feels like more. However, I promise you the view from the top is definitely worth it! We got to the top at about 4pm, and since we are so good at directions (haaaa) we couldn’t find the trail to the actual 4th tier and we didn’t want to get lost on a mountain with the sun setting (again) so we called it a day. I think the viewpoint was the highlight of the hike though. It was amazing and I felt on top of the world!
**Some of these pictures are not mine I borrowed/stole them from Boat because his phone camera trumps mine.**