Cheow Lan Lake Tour in Khao Sok with Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House

January 2017 – During our stay at Greenery Panvaree floating raft house resort in Khao Sok National Park, we had an absolute ball with our cameras, taking endless photos of this incredibly scenic little fairy tale hideaway on Cheow Lan Lake in Thailand.

Photography at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Taking sunrise photos on the main dock at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House

Kayaks are available for guests to use any time for free, and I took off to explore the coves nearby. As I pulled into one small cove after another and drifted along the shore, I was amazed that each cove had a song of its own as one resident bird or another sang its heart out deep in the trees that clung to the steep slopes.

Kayak Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House

I jumped in a kayak and went for a spin through some of the small coves near the resort

The construction of Ratchaprapha Dam to generate electricity for all of southern Thailand ended up displacing many families that lived along the river as the waters rose and Cheow Lan Lake formed.

So, there is a unique tradition at Greenery Panvaree to honor the people whose lives were so terribly disrupted and to say thanks to river goddess and to the jungle for this beautiful and precious place.

Every night Greenery Panvaree combines their personal tribute to Cheow Lan Lake’s origins with a small reenactment of a traditional annual Thai ceremony called Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง) that takes place nationwide on the full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai calendar (usually in November) .

After dark, all of us guests at The Greenery section of floating raft houses gathered on the main dock, and we were each given a candle embedded into a small loaf made from bread flour. We climbed into a longtail boat for a short ride to the next cove and soon found ourselves drifting silently on the silky water under a canopy of stars.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park

After dark, guests took a longtail boat ride to honor the spirit and history of Cheow Lan Lake.

As the boat rocked gently in the waves I looked up and saw Orion sparkling in the sky. The dark night air embraced us as our hostess, Yohke, told us a moving story that took place in this exact spot about 50 years ago when it was the edge of a river rather than the surface of a huge wide lake.

A young man named Jong Dong had lived and worked on the river, and he was deeply in love with his beautiful young bride-to-be, Kaew. Just days before their wedding, he had an accident with his boat and he died. His young fiancée was so overcome with grief that a few days later she died from a broken heart.

A spirit house, or shrine, stands on the shore of the lake near the place where he died and is dedicated to the memory of “Grandfather Jong Dong” and “Grandmother Kaew.” We couldn’t see the spirit house in the dark, but we were all very touched as Yohke told this story, first in Thai for the Thai guests and then in English.

Spirit House Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok Greenery Panvaree

The spirit house for Grandfather Jong Dong and Grandmother Kaew — in daytime.

As night’s gentle breezes caressed us, we each held out our candles and Yohke lit them. Then we each silently made a wish and thanked the goddess of the river and the goddess of the rainforest for the beauty of this unique spot.

One by one, we reached over the side of the boat and placed our candles in the water. The little bread loaves that carried the flickering candles slowly floated away. This is the essence of the Loy Krathong celebration in which the light of the candle venerates Buddha and the water symbolizes the cleansing away of one’s cares and frustrations.

To keep the National Park’s lake as “green” as possibly, by morning the bread loaves would disintegrate and become food for the fish.

Longtail boat Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Cheow Lan Lake at dawn.

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn for another longtail boat excursion out onto Cheow Lan Lake. As we drove out onto the lake we learned that the name “Panvaree” is a fun play on words with “Pan” meaning “1,000” in Thai and “Varee” being the name of the owner’s mother as well as the word “river” in Thai.

Riding in a longtail boat Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Greenery Panvaree

Along with our companion Greenery Panvaree guests (a local Thai family enjoying a family reunion), we took an early morning longtail boat ride with our hostess Yohke (left).

Mist and fog clung to the mountainsides as we cruised along.

Morning mist Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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In many places the tallest of the trees that once lined the river’s edge stuck up above the surface of the water.

Misty morning Chiao Lan Lake Chiew Larn Lake Khao Sok National Park Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House

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And everywhere around us the jungle slowly awoke and the sounds of exotic birds and other creatures filled the air.

Longtail boat Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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Eventually our driver stopped the boat and let us drift right up to the shore in one cove. He pointed up at a tree and we all gazed up in wonder as we heard something very big moving around in the tree.

Longtail Boat Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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Tree limbs shook and leaves rustled, and then we saw two huge Great Hornbills high above us. These are hefty birds that are about the size of a pelican, and they made guttural noises as they moved about on the branches. They seemed to be ignoring us in our longtail boat just below them.

Suddenly, one took off into the sky with a majestic sweep of his huge wings. Then the other flew away too. Wow.

Great hornbill Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

A Great Hornbill takes flight above us… Magnificent!

When Yohke had told us before the boat ride that we might see hornbills, I had no idea what she was talking about. But when we returned to our room and I into our bathroom, I suddenly recognized the image that was hand painted on the lovely ceramic sink basin!

Great hornbill on a plate at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Khao Sok

The handmade sink basin in our room was decorated with images of Great Hornbills – Cool!

It was special touches like these that made Greenery Panvaree floating raft houses such a unique spot to visit. We learned that the great hornbills hang around in the jungle by the lake quite a bit, and they are a mascot for Greenery Panvaree.

We then had a traditional Thai lunch in the main raft house restaurant, and Mark got a wonderful photo of the pretty young women who had been taking care of us during our stay.

Greenery Panvaree Floating House Restaurant Khao Sok National Park Cheow Lan Lake

The staff at Greenery Panvaree took great care of us.

Then our captain brought our longtail boat around to the dock once again for an afternoon excursion on the lake.

Longtail boat Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

More adventures ahead!

Again, the exotic scenery of towering limestone cliffs in the background with lush jungle vegetation in the foreground caught our imagination as we slipped by on the lake.

Lush vegetation Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Incredible scenery on Cheow Lan Lake

Eventually we pulled into a cove where the mist of the rainforest moisture hung heavily in the air.

Coral Cave Tour (Pakarang Cave Tour) Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park with Greenery Panvaree Resort

A small settlement emerges on the misty shore.

We got off the longtail boat and began a trek through the jungle to another lake. The path was wide and it was an easy walk despite the truly sultry heat that enveloped us.

Suddenly, someone up ahead pointed into a tree. As we approached we saw something dark and then caught a glimpse of a pair of eyes peering out through the leaves.

Dusky Leaf Monkey Khao Sok National Park Thailand

A Dusky Leaf Monkey peaks out at us.

It was a dusky leaf monkey, and he was as happy as could be as he quietly sat in the shade of the leaves.

Dusky Leaf Monkey Jungle Tour Khao Sok National Park Thailand

What a cutie pie. Look at that tail!

We had seen longtail monkeys in Kanchanaburi when we visited the Lawa Cave, but this was a monkey of a different color and totally different personality. What wonderful good fortune that he was in the trees watching our parade of humans go by!

Dusky Leaf Monkey Khao Sok National Park Thailand

“Sittin’ on a corner watchin’ all the girls go by.”

The path opened up and some buildings appeared, and off to one side we saw a pineapple growing.

Pineapple growing in Thailand

Down on the ground a pineapple was ready to pick!

Then we saw the lake we had been hiking to, complete with long bamboo rafts waiting for us on the shore.

Bamboo raft tour Coral Cave Pakarang Cave Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Long rafts made of bamboo logs were waiting to take tourists out to Coral Cave (Pakarang Cave).

These are very cool rafts that are 100% bamboo. Because the bamboo logs have sealed hollow chambers, they are extremely buoyant and easily support lots of people sitting on them.

Bamboo raft Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Bamboo raft.

We all climbed aboard and our raft pilot maneuvered the engine to get us turned around and headed onto the lake.

Bamboo raft tour Khao Sok National Park Jungle Trek Thailand

Our pilot turned the bamboo raft around to head out on the lake.

We zipped across the small lake and were delivered to a very short hiking trail to Coral Cave (Pakarang Cave). The trail was a little slippery in one spot because of the moisture of the rainforest and the cave, but there were railings to help us keep our balance.

Once inside, we were greeted by fabulous stalactite and stalagmite formations. Some were very long fins.

Coral Cave (Pakarang Cave) Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Coral Cave was filled with beautiful formations.

Others were little crystaline formations and still others were like mammoth fall leaves or giant clams.

Coral cave (Pakarang Cave) formations Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Greenery Panvaree Floating House tour

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After a refreshingly cool meander through the cave, we hopped back on the bamboo raft and hiked back through the jungle to our longtail boat which was waiting for us on Cheow Lan Lake.

Longtail Boat Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Tour

Our longtail boat was waiting for us!

Along with pretty flowers growing here and there, Mark spotted a wonderful pinwheel shaped dried flower on the ground.

Wildflower petals Khao Sok National Park Cheow Lan Lake Thailand

Nature’s pinwheel.

There were a few shops and resting areas under simple bamboo shade ramadas near the boat and we roamed around a bit.

Jungle hike tour Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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We’d been drinking water like mad, but what fun it was to get a Coke with the beautiful Thai script letters on the side of the can!

Buying a coke at an outdoor shop in Thailand

Have a Coke and a Smile! (Or a Leo beer!)

As Yohke explained to me later, Thai people love to have organized activities as part of their vacations, and after a brief few hours of relaxing back at our delightful floating bungalow at Greenery Panvaree, we set out on one last longtail boating excursion on Cheow Lan Lake.

Raft houses Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Mountain views on Cheow Lan Lake.

The sun was setting and it cast a wonderful golden glow across the tall limestone rock formations on the water’s edge.

Longtail boat tour Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

What a ride!

Our captain took us to Little Ha Long Bay, which is named for the much more famous Ha Long Bay in Vietnam because of the resemblance in the rock formations.

Little Ha Long Bay Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park

Little Ha Long Bay is a miniature version of its renowned namesake in Vietnam

This is a favorite spot for selfies, and we all took turns getting our photos taken with the rocks behind us. What a hoot!

Selfie Little Ha Long Bay Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Our stay at Greenery Panvaree floating raft house will always be a treasured memory. It is an unusual destination that few foreign tourists know about, and we feel blessed that we found this jewel on the internet prior to our trip and arranged to spend a few days there.

More info and links below.

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Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House – Khao Sok National Park… Wow!

January 2017 – While sitting in our fifth wheel trailer in Arizona and planning our Thailand adventure, I wanted to find the most exotic and beautiful landscape possible and to stay in some truly unique lodgings.

We found just that at the Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Thailand

We had 3 days in paradise at the Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House in Khao Sok National Park

Cheow Lan Lake — also spelled Chiewlarn Lake and Chieow Lan Lake — is the jewel of Khao Sok National Park in the southern jungles of Thailand. It was created in 1982 when the Ratchaprapha dam was built on the Klong Saeng River to supply electricity to the southern half of the country. No one knew at the time just how exquisite the scenery on this lake would soon become.

Now it is a little known gem that offers sublime beauty without the crowds of tourists that are found in other parts of Thailand.

The best way to see the lake is to get out onto it in a longtail boat, and when we arrived, lots of longtail boats were waiting to take people on day trips and to deliver them to unique overnight accommodations at floating raft houses scattered in little coves around the lake’s extensive shores.

We had arranged for a three day and two night stay at the Greenery Panvaree Resort floating raft house, the finest and most deluxe floating raft house on the lake.

Longtail boats Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Exotic Longtail boats shuttle tourists on exquisite Cheow Lan Lake

Before heading out on the boat, we needed to purchase a ticket to enter Khao Sok National Park, since we would be staying within the boundaries of the National Park. It was 300 Thai Baht per person, or a little less than $10 US. The ticket was very pretty!

Khao Sok National Park Ticket Thailand

Our entrance ticket to Khao Sok National Park – what a neat souvenir!

In no time, we boarded the longtail boat that was bound for the Greenery Panvaree floating raft house. We were joined by an extended Thai family of parents and grown kids (who all live abroad) with their significant others enjoying a family reunion vacation together.

Khao Sok National Park Thailand Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake longtail boat

We saw longtail boats in the distance as we traveled across the lake

The magic of this lake is not only the extremely clear green water but the towering limestone mountains that encircle it. As we rode along on the water, we were mesmerized by the views in all directions.

Longtail boat Khao Sok National Park Thailand Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake

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Longtail boats were skimming across the water both near and far.

Limestone karst Longtail boat Khao Sok National Park Thailand Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake longtail boat

Limestone karsts rose up from the depths of the lake.

Longtail boat Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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The ride was about 30 minutes from the pier out to the Greenery Panvaree floating raft houses. When we turned a corner and saw the row of little bungalows perched on the water, a collective “Ahhh!” went up from all of us on the boat.

Greenery Panvaree Floating raft house Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Our first glimpse of the Greenery Panvaree floating raft houses. What a setting!

These charming little villas are nestled into a cove backed by enormous cliffs, and they looked utterly inviting and romantic.

Greenery Panvaree Floating raft house Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Family Zone

What an exotic place to spend a few days.

There are two groups of raft houses on either side Greenery Panvaree’s small and private cove.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Khao Sok National Park Cheow Lan Lake Chiew Larn Lake Thailand

Greenery Panvaree has two groups of floating raft houses, the Family Zone (left) and Greenery Zone (right)

The Family Zone is made up of five raft houses with nine rooms that are designed for families along with a main raft house with a common kitchen and restaurant building where meals are prepared and served.

The Greenery Zone, where we were going to stay, is made up of four rooms on two floors designed for couples. They are all located in one building that has a breezeway hall on the first floor. The Greenery Zone also has a main raft building with a kitchen on the first floor and a lovely restaurant with a view on the second floor.

Greenery Zone Greenery Panvaree Resort Floating Raft House Resort Khao Sok National Park Cheow Lan Lake Chiew Larn Lake Thailand

The Greenery Zone has two floating raft buildings.
One has four rooms for guests (left) and the other has a restaurant and common area (right).

As we slipped by the Family Zone, we saw a collection of kayaks in a wonderful rainbow of colors tied up out in front of their restaurant building.

Kayaks at Greenery Panvaree Floating raft house Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Plentiful free kayaks were waiting for guests to take them out for a paddle at the Family Zone.

As our longtail boat slowed down, a couple paddled by us in a kayak. What fun!

Kayak on Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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When we arrived at the Greenery Zone, which is about 100 yards from the Family Zone, anchored to the bottom of the lake with its own mooring system, we stepped off our longtail boat at the dock in front of the main building and were greeted with a delicious and cold fruit juice “welcome drink” that was dark red and incredibly sweet and tasty.

As we sipped this ambrosia with our fellow guests and gaped at the views around us, our bags were whisked away to our room.

Longtail boat Greenery Panvaree Resort Chiewlarn Lake Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Our driver takes our longtail boat to its dock out back.

We hung out on the front dock of the Greenery Zone for a while, chatting with the staff and each other, soaking in this very unique spot.

The clear emerald water was warm, and the air was blisteringly hot and humid in the sun. One of the great things about staying here is not only enjoying the gorgeous setting but being able to jump in the water from anywhere, including right outside your own room!

The main dock by our restaurant raft house had both colorful kayaks for guests to use and big round floating couches and a swing set too.

Kayaks at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House resort Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Chiewlarn Lake

Water toys.

Swing and water toys Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park

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We weren’t ready to swim just yet, so we made our way to our floating raft house room. When we looked down into the water we were floored that it was teeming with fish!!

Fish at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park

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The raft houses are linked together with floating walkways, and we were as excited as little kids as we strolled around this very cool and very unique kind of accommodations.

We spotted our longtail boat tied up to the raft house where the staff stay.

Floating raft house Greenery Panvaree resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

All the raft houses were connected by floating walkways.

For those who don’t want to walk, another great way to get around is by kayak!

Kayaking Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Not only were guests playing in the kayaks, people used them to get around!

Kayaking Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

“This is Our Happy Place”

We were absolutely smitten with the charm and beauty of this very cool spot.

Docks at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Super cool…

As we approached our room, we entered an open air hallway, or breezeway, that had a fun waterfront view in each direction.

Hallway View Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Looking one way down our “hallway.”

Hallway View Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Looking the other way down our “hallway.”

When we got to our room, we just stopped and stared!

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Greenery Room

A beautiful waterfront room in every sense of the word!

The glass doors opened right onto the water with a small walkway, and a set of stairs led right into the water for easy access to go swimming right from our room!

Bedroom view Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Greenery Zone

We opened the doors to our view…

Across the little cove, we could see the sweet floating raft houses of the Family Zone backed by towering limestone pinnacles.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

…And what a view it was from our room!

Our raft house was two stories high and had four rooms in it, two on each floor. Our curiosity got the better of us, and when we noticed that two of the rooms were still unoccupied, we snuck in for a look.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand King bed room Greenery Zone

Before anyone got settled in, we explored the other rooms in our Greenery Zone floating raft house. All wonderful!

Greenery Zone room Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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In the early evening, dinner was served in the dining room on the second floor of the main raft house. Staying at this resort is a very intimate experience, and dinner was served family style. The Thai family staying in the Greenery Zone with us was seated nearby at the next table, and they showed us how to eat some of the more exotic foods.

When we noticed a very yummy looking dark red drink being delivered to their table, I asked for one too. It is called Blue Pea Lime Juice. But it isn’t made from blue peas! It is actually made from a flower, and it is such a wonderfully refreshing drink I had it with every meal after that!

Blue Pea Lime Juice drink in Thailand

Blue Pea Lime Juice — Delicious (and not made of blue peas)!!

After dinner we wandered around the docks of this unique floating hotel in dusk’s magical light.

During the day, every so often the docks would move ever so slightly if a longtail boat went by on the lake and made a big wake or if the wind came up and rippled the water into waves. But as night fell the lake was still and the lights of the raft houses cast a warm light.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Twighlight

The main raft house glowed at twilight.

Cheow Lan Lake is in Khao Sok National Park, and the Thai government prohibits any building construction along the lake’s edge.

There had been people living on the river before the lake was built, and the government gave them new tracts of land located about 10 kilometers away so they could move and build new homes and lives.

The people who owned land that eventually got buried by water were given permits to build bamboo raft houses since all construction on land was prohibited.

Twelve raft house permits were granted on Cheow Lan Lake, which is about 15 miles long and several miles wide, and the grantees built twelve very simple and truly rustic floating hotels around the shores of the lake. Some were so rustic, lacking electricity and other amenities, some upscale international tourists were a bit unhappy with the accommodations.

As tourism expanded, the government gave out four more permits for prospective raft house developers to purchase, but they required them to be made of better materials and built to a higher standard.

Greenery Panvaree was one of those properties, and the young Thai couple who owns the resort, Ton and Yohke, have created a spectacular retreat that is without doubt the most beautiful and well appointed raft house on the lake.

Twilight Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

The restaurant and kitchen building in the Greenery Zone.

Many of the raft houses, including Greenery Panvaree, are also used for packaged day trip tours. Mini-van based tour groups coming from the town of Khao Sok or Surat Thani or Khao Lak drive to the lake, jump in a longtail boat for a ride out to the raft house, spend a few hours enjoying swimming from the raft house or doing a hike in the jungle or to a cave and then return to their hotels by longtail boat and minivan.

I found it really difficult to figure out how to put together a visit to a raft house on Cheow Lan Lake that would be a 5-star adventure, despite reading endless TripAdvisor reviews and some blogs. Most people seemed to have arranged their tour to Cheow Lan Lake and a floating raft house once they arrived in a hotel that was within a one to three hour drive from the lake.

I also found travelers’ experiences at the raft houses varied tremendously, since some are simply too rustic for the tastes of many international tourists. But it was difficult to find detailed information about each individual floating raft house destination, especially contact information for the hotel managers, to be able to compare one hotel to another and get answers to questions.

Greenery Panvaree stood out as unquestionably the finest and most luxurious raft house on the lake, and reviewers loved their stays there, whether on daytrips or overnight. But again, I couldn’t figure out how to arrange to visit Greenery Panvaree specifically, as most pre-packaged tours don’t explicitly state which raft house would be on their itinerary.

Khao Sok Floating Raft House Resort Greenery Panvaree Chiewlarn Lake Thailand

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I finally found the Greenery Panvaree website, but it was written mostly in Thai. I began to realize that this is a special resort that Thai tourists cherish but that international tourists don’t visit very often. How cool is that — visiting a place in Thailand where local Thai people choose to vacation!!

I emailed the resort, and the owner, Yohke, who is fluent in English and is very well traveled herself, answered all my questions.

When I met her during our stay at Greenery Panvaree, I found out she lived in Seattle for a year and she was also a flight attendant on international flights for over a decade. No wonder she is so comfortable with English!

Because this is a small operation, Greenery Panvaree requires a 50% deposit to book a room to insure that the customer is serious about coming. Because this resort has been primarily a destination for Thai people, the transaction is done via wire transfer, which is a common method of payment for Thais in Thailand.

Western Union is easy for foreigners to use, and even though it seems scary to wire money to a far distant country to book a room, the rich reward is an incredible experience at Greenery Panvaree.

Sunrise Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

The view of sunrise from our room was breathtaking.

The remaining 50% is paid at the resort. This remaining portion must be paid in cash because the floating raft house is so remote there is no signal for credit card transactions. There is a low grade cell phone signal some of the time, and the TV in the restaurant broadcasts a Thai station. But who goes to a place like this sit on Facebook or watch TV?

Sunrise Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

A day of adventure awaits…

The owners of Greenery Panvaree are working on setting up PayPal so they can accept online credit card transactions for room deposits to make it easier for foreign tourists, but until that is up and running, tourists shouldn’t be concerned at all by the requirement to wire funds to book their room.

Greenery Panvaree was our home base for three glorious and fun-filled days. Pics and stories from those adventures will be coming soon!!

More info and links below…

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More info about Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House:

  • The Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort – Official Website
  • Be sure to choose the “English Only” menu below the top photo on the home page to see the English language pages. To read the Thai language pages auto-translated into English, use Google Chrome and install the Google Translate plugin for Chrome. The resort’s owner Yohke speaks English fluently and she is the one who responds to email inquiries. Email here.

  • Rooms and Rates at Greenery Panvaree – Official Website
  • Rooms are booked in packages of 1 or 2 nights (you can opt to stay longer too). A jungle hike, cave tour, and longtail boat rides at dawn and after dark are included in the package, depending on how many nights you stay. Our 3 day / 2 night tour was 14,900 Baht or about $440 US total for two people (National Park fee of 600 Baht ($18 US) for 2 people paid separately).

  • Location of Khao Sok Pier and Greenery Panvaree – The Longtail boat ride goes from the pier to Greenery Panvaree
  • Greenery Panvaree Reviews – TripAdvisor Reviews
  • Western Union – Send money online
  • General Info on Cheow Lan Lake Raft House Tours – This link is for reference only
  • Please note that all pre-packaged tours to floating raft houses on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok, like the ones listed by the company at the above link, are as much as twice as expensive when booked through them as they are when booked directly with the raft house owners. The “tour package” you receive is identical. You are simply paying more to book through a third party.

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Kanchanaburi, Thailand – History, Caves, Monkeys & Exotic Fruit!

January 2017 – As we toured Kanchanaburi with Mellow Adventures, visiting Erawan Waterfall and Huay Mae Khamin waterfall, we got a huge kick out of the road signs we saw. Familiar signs like “Stop” and “Railroad Crossing” took on a whole new look in the pretty Thai script.

Road signs in Kanchanaburi Thailand

Road signs in Thailand.

We asked our tour guide Mai what our names would look like in the Thai lettering, and she wrote them out for us. How cool!

Our names in Thai

Mai wrote out our names in Thai letters – How beautiful!

Mellow Adventures Kanchanaburi Thailand

Our tour guide Mai from Mellow Adventures

On this second day of touring with Mellow Adventures, we started off by paddling downstream in a kayak while Mai followed us downstream in a longtail boat. We were mesmerized by the haunting calls of the birds in the trees on either side of us as we paddled.

Kayaking in Kanchanaburi Thailand

Kayaking in Kanchanaburi

We then made our way to Lawa Cave. The entrance to this cave sits at the top of a very long staircase, and just inside there was beautifully lit golden statue of Buddha with a rug in front of it for praying.

Buddha statue in Lawa Cave Kanchanaburi Thailand

A beautiful golden statue of Buddha greets us at Lawa Cave.

We descended into the cave following a well lit trail.

Lawa Cave Kanchanaburit Thailand

Heading into Lawa Cave.

Lawa Cave Kanchanaburi Thailand

Lawa Cave.

There were lots of stalactites and stalagmites that made exotic sculpted patterns on the cave walls.

Lawa Cave Kanchanaburi Thailand 2

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When we emerged from the cave, our guide Steffan noticed a woman selling fruits. She had a huge pile of what looked like gigantic pale green grapefruits in front of her.

“You’ve got to try these,” Steffen said excitedly. He said they were called “Som-oh” in Thai and he asked her to prepare one for us.

Pomelo fruits for sale (som oh) Kanchanaburi Thailand

Bigger than a grapefruit and deliciously sweet: “Som oh” or polmelo fruits

She peeled back the rind to and then put the sections back inside. The sections were just like an orange or grapefruit, but so much bigger and very delicious. It was sweeter than a grapefruit and very tasty. I have never seen this citrus fruit before, but I found out it’s called “Polmelo.” Yum!!

Pomelo (som oh) citrus fruit Kanchanaburi Thailand

Yum!

One of the really fun things about the jungle in Thailand is the unusual animals. Back on the road, we saw a monkey sign.

Long tailed monkey habitat Kanchanaburit Thailand

We hadn’t seen a road sign like this before!

And then we saw the real thing sitting in the middle of the road!

Long tailed monkey Kanchanaburi Thailand

The greeter…

There was a whole pack of them — parents and babies — milling around the edges of the road. They were hoping for treats from tourists.

A Long tailed monkey Kanchanaburi Thailand

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These were long tail monkeys, and Mai told us they have big teeth and can be pretty nasty.

On all fours - a long tailed monkey in Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Fortunately, none of them came after us, and viewing them from a little distance out the car window they seemed very cute!

Long Tail monkey face Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Our next stop was at a wonderful little coffee bistro that is built on a series of decks overlooking a river.

Sign for Rim Nam Cafe Kanchanaburi Thailand

A gourmet espresso shop…in Thailand!!

It’s called the Rim Nam Cafe, and it’s owned by a young man named Oh. How wonderful it was to have a Hazelnut latte at this special spot!

Rim Nam Cafe Kanchanaburi Thailand

Oh is the owner of Rim Nam Cafe.

Oh has created a wonderfully fanciful jungle retreat in the trees that is filled with unusual decorations and fun nooks and crannies that are perfect for curling up and reading a book or conversing with friends. Oh told us sometimes elephants come down for a drink at the water’s edge below!

Outdoor seating at Rim Nam Cafe Kanchanaburi Thailand

Wonderful outdoor seating overlooking the river.

The elephants didn’t show up while we were there, but we enjoyed roaming the grounds and taking photos.

River at Rim Nam Cafe Kanchanaburi Thailand

Sometimes elephants come down to the river for a drink!

Among the intriguing decorations we found two blue letters, an M and an E. What a coincidence that these are our initials. We just had to get a selfie!!

Happy travelers at Rim Nam Cafe

We found an M and an E among other eclectic and creative decorations at Rim Nam cafe

The city of Kanchanaburi is the site of the bridge that was made famous by the book Bridge on the River Kwai (also a popular movie) which tells the story of the horrendous Japanese WWII labor camps that built a 258 mile long railway to enable the Japanese to transport goods and troops between the coast of Thailand (then called Siam) and Rangoon, Burma.

In early 1942, the Japanese seized the colony of Burma from the British, and they needed an overland shipping route to avoid the many Allied submarines lurking in the sea. Between the fall of 1942 and the fall of 1943, the rails were laid and over 600 bridges were constructed. It was a monumental feat to complete the railway so fast.

Some 120,000 (or as many as 300,000) southeast Asians laborers and another 61,000 British, Dutch and American POWs endured horrific conditions in these camps. 20% of the POWs died while as many as 50% of the southeast Asians laborers (who had been enticed to come for “easy work and good pay”) perished. It came to be known as the Death Railway.

When we had first arrived in Kanchanaburi by train a few days earlier, we had passed the cemetery where 6,982 POWs are buried. Another 5,310 POWs are buried in two other locations on the railway route.

Gravestones of soldiers buried in Kanchanaburi Thailand

Kanchanaburi cenetary for POWs who died building the Death Railway in 1942-43

The “Bridge on the River Kwai” itself was a modest bridge that crossed a calm river, but the story of the starvation, forced labor and massive death toll that went into the building of the railway was gut wrenching to ponder as we walked across the bridge from one side of the river to the other.

Bridge over the River Kwai Kanchanaburi Thailand

The Bridge over the River Kwai (pronounced “Kway”)

The heat right now in the “cool” winter season was stifling. The sweat just poured down our faces. As we looked back across the river, the area was filled with buildings and air conditioned civilization, and a tall statue of Buddha looked out over the river.

I can’t even imagine what it was like to bush-whack the jungle to lay these train tracks in the middle of nowhere with almost no food and filthy, contaminated water.

Buddha statue at bridge over the River Kwai Kanchanaburi Thailand

20% of the POWs died. As many as 50% of the SE Asian laborers died too.

There are two places to see parts of the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi, and our guides Steffen and Mai took us to another location about 30 miles away.

As we were discussing the Death Railway, Mai pointed out that the correct pronunciation for the word “Kwai” actually rhymes with the word “way” and not the word “why” as it is most commonly pronounced by English speakers.

Buddhist monks on train tracks Death Railway Kanchanaburi Thailand

Monks walk on the Death Railway.

A tourist train runs on these tracks and passes both points. It is actually the same train that we had taken from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi a few days earlier.

Train at bridge on the River Kwai Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Tourists hung their heads out the window and snapped pics as they passed us.

Death Railway train Kancahanaburi Thailand

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The train continued along a bridge and disappeared around the bend.

Train on bridge Death Railway Kanchanaburi Thailand

The Death Railway.

There is a cave near this part of the Death Railway, and like Lawa Cave we had visited earlier, there was a golden statue of Buddha inside.

Buddha statue at Death Railway cave Kanchanaburi Thailand

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It is not a deep cave, but it was fun to look around.

Cave at Death Railway Kancahanaburi Thailand

Looking out of the cave towards the train tracks.

When choosing which places to visit on our trip to Thailand before we left, it was very difficult to narrow down the many incredible options of things to see and do.

Looking back now, our two days of tours of the waterfalls, caves and historic areas of Kanchanaburi with Mellow Adventures was one of the true highlights of our month-long trip.

There is more info in the links below.

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Other blog posts from our travels in Thailand:

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Huay Mae Khamin – Thailand’s Most Beautiful Waterfall – Mellow Adventures

January 2017 – After we finished hiking Erawan Waterfall in Kanchanaburi Thailand, our tour guides from Mellow Adventures took us to a second and even more breathtaking waterfall deep in the jungle.

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall – Breathtaking!

But before we hopped in the car to drive there, Mellow Adventures treated us to an amazing Thai lunch.

Back when I had been planning our tours with Steffen, the owner of Mellow Adventures, he had added a restaurant stop for lunch as part of our itinerary. However, I wasn’t keen on giving up precious time at the waterfalls to sit down for lunch at a restaurant.

“We can grab something on the run,” I said, explaining that we aren’t foodies and we wanted to maximize our time at the waterfalls.

However, Steffen insisted that food is an important aspect of Thai culture, almost to the point of being a national pastime, and he wanted to give us a proper in introduction to Thai cooking. So, as soon as we finished hiking, he took us to his favorite place tucked into a row of informal restaurants that line the edge of the parking lot at Erawan National Park.

Restaurants at Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Souvenir shops and eateries at Erawan National Park

Steffen started eagerly going back and forth in Thai with our guide Mai about what to order, and in no time Mai had written out a whole slew of beautiful Thai letters on a piece of paper. She handed it to the waitress, and in minutes, the most delicious array of platters arrived at our table.

With fried rice as a base, we had several yummy dishes that were so tasty we asked Mai to write them down for us in Thai so we could order them easily on our own during the rest of our stay in Thailand! Thai food connoisseurs might laugh, but this was a godsend for us!

Thai food order for restaurant in Kanchanaburi

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Back on the road, we headed deeper into the jungle to our next destination: Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall in Sri Nakarin National Park.

This part of Thailand is very hilly, and we were soon driving up and down very steep grades. Unlike America, where the Department of Transportation places signs for steep inclines only at the tops of mountains to warn drivers about the descent ahead, we saw signs warning about steepness going both up and downhill.

12% grade driving steep hills in Kanchanaburi Thailand

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And no wonder. At 12% and 14%, these hills were very steep!

Driving steep hills 14% grade Kanchanaburi Thailand

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At last we arrived at Sri Nakarin Dam National Park, home of Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall.

Huay Mae khamin Waterfall National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand Entrance gate

Entrance to Huay Maekhamin Waterfall.

Because the Thai language has its own alphabet, words often end up with multiple spellings when the Roman alphabet is used instead. Sure enough, the waterfall had different spellings on the different signs out front: “Huay Maekamin” and “Huay Maekhamin” (with an “h” in there). The waterfall is often written as three words too: Huay Mae Khamin.

Huay Maekamin Waterfall Sign National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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When we pulled up to the entrance gate, Steffen asked the rangers if the National Park was busy. It was midday, afterall, which is the peak time for tourists.

“No,” the ranger replied, “There is no one here.”

What a difference from Erawan Waterfall where we had to arrive super early in the morning to beat the crowds!

Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Entrance Kanchanaburi Thailand

All is quiet at this National Park.

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall is a gem of a waterfall that hasn’t yet made it onto Thailand’s tourism radar.

Steffen explained to me that he often combines a visit to Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall with a camping trip in the jungle as part of a multi-day trek to the Burmese border that goes through tiny rural villages that are quintessentially Thai and have no tourism whatsoever.

As he described that experience, I suddenly wished we’d arranged for a multi-day camping tour with Mellow Adventures. Next time!!

Vines and jungle Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

The jungle is full of big, twisty vines.

The hike to the waterfall took us past wonderfully long and thick vines and a hollowed out tree that Mark couldn’t resist climbing into.

Hollow in a tree Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Tree house!

All around us were dense clumps of very thick bamboo stalks. Bamboo is technically a grass, and it grows easily and densely in the Kanchanaburi jungle

Bamboo Grove Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

A grove of bamboo stalks and a sign, “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints.”

As I stood close to the bamboo stalks, I discovered they all had graffiti on them, most of it in Thai lettering! How cool is that?!

Bamboo Graffiti Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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The beautiful and ornate Thai letters were carved onto the stalks and painted on as well.

Thai graffiti on a bamboo tree Khuean Srinagarindra National ParkKanchanaburi Thailand

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I guess lovers declare their affection for each other on all kinds of trees all over the world in every language.

Thai graffiti on bamboo tree Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Soon we heard the tell-tale sound of rushing water, and in moments we arrived at the first set of falls. Wow!

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Srinikarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Unlike Erawan Falls, which is a hike from the lowest cascade to the highest, the hiking trail to Huay Maekhamin Waterfall brings you directly to the fourth of its seven tiers.

Huay Maekhamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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The water rushed over the flat slabs of limestone creating exquisite mini waterfalls.

Huay Mae khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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We were mesmerized by the shapes of the falls and the trees surrounding them.

Huay Mae khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Tree roots Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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We had the place to ourselves, and we wandered all over the rocks and between the trees getting pics of each other in this glorious spot.

Steffen Mellow Adventures Tour to Huay Maekhamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Steffen, owner of Mellow Adventures.

Mellow Adventures Tour Huay Maekhamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Selfie!

Huay Maekhamin Waterfall has seven tiers, and we had hiked direclty from the parknig lot to the 4th tier. From there we could hike down to see levels 3, 2 and 1 or we could drive around to another entrance area to see the top levels.

Our guide Mai felt that the seventh tier at the top of Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall was the most picturesque, so we decided to go straight there. How right she was!

Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand Mellow Adventures

Top level of Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall.

We were bewitched. This was the waterfall image I had carried in my mind all the way from Phoenix, Arizona, where we had left our trailer in storage and our full-time RV lifestyle behind.

Turquoise pools Huay Maekhamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Travertine pools.

The waterfall images were framed by rich green jungle trees, and sprays of water fell from ledge to ledge and from pool to pool.

As much as we loved Erawan Waterfall, for me, this spot at the top of Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall was even more magnificent. I half expected fairies to emerge on the waterfall ledges or for angels to start singing!

Green pools Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Sri Nakarin Dam National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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At that moment a jungle bird landed on a branch right in front of me and began to sing his heart out.

I listened for a while, mesmerized by his bright colors and vibrant song as his warbling and sweet songs filled the forest. I found out later he was a White Rumped Shama.

Tucked between the leaves we spotted a beautiful wildflower.

Wildflower Huay Maekhamin Waterfall National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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But it was the lush jungle pools and delicate sprays of waterfalls that will forever stay in our memory from our visit to Huay Maekhamin Waterfall.

Best Waterfall in Thailand Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Thailand has many stunning waterfalls, and lots of pre-packaged commercial tours take bus loads of tourists to visit them, especially the nearby Sai Yok Yai waterfall in Sai Yok National Park.

But the most beautiful waterfall in all of Thailand could easily be Huay Maekamin Waterfall, and amazingly, it isn’t promoted or dominated by the big commercial tour companies.

Most Beautiful waterfall in Thailand Huay Mae khamin Waterfall Khuean Srinagarindra National Park Kanchanaburi

7th Tier Huay Maekamin Waterfall.

What a thrill it was to work with Mellow Adventures to create a personalized waterfall tour and experience two of Thailand’s best waterfalls, Erawan Waterfall and Huay Mae Khamin Waterfall, and have them all to ourselves!!

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Erawan Falls – Jewel of Erawan National Park – with Mellow Adventures

January 2017 – When I started planning our month-long trip to Thailand, I wanted to be sure we saw some truly spectacular places. After doing many image searches for things like “the most beautiful places in Thailand,” I came across a photo of a waterfall that took my breath away.

Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

One tier of Erawan Falls at Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi Thailand

I found out it was Erawan Waterfall which is located in Erawan National Park in Thailand’s province of Kanchanaburi. Not only did this waterfall look like something out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the name sounded like it too!

Wondering if there were other gems like this in the province of Kanchanaburi, I found an image of Huay Maekhamin Waterfall in Khuean Srinagarindra National Park. If it was possible, that waterfall seemed even more stunning but was even more remote.

I wanted to be sure we would see these exotic waterfalls without any crowds, at our own pace and on our own terms, and I quickly realized it would not only be more efficient but would be more fun and we’d get more out of our experience if we worked with a professional and personal tour guide service.

Mellow Adventures, a company that has achieved TripAdvisor’s highest standard — the Certificate of Excellence — offers fully customized, private tours in Kanchanaburi that are designed to meet whatever unusual plans a traveler might have. When I emailed them that we wanted to be at Erawan Waterfall long before any of the commercial tour groups showed up, I got an email back saying: “We’ll pick you up at your hotel at 6:30 a.m.”

Perfect!

Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Erawan Waterfall

Not every vacationer wants to have an appointment at that hour, but we were on a mission to hike alongside these cascades without encountering anyone else on the trail, and we were thrilled at the prospect of photographing the many tiers of Erawan Falls for a few hours in total solitude.

The owner of Mellow Adventures, Steffen, is Norwegian and he is fluent in English and German and speaks Thai as well. He responded to my emails from the US very quickly, and in no time we devised a plan for two days of custom tours that would take us to both Erawan Waterfall and Huay Maekhamin Waterfall and also include a tour of a remote cave, kayaking on a river in the jungle and even sampling some good Thai food which he felt was critical to appreciating Thai culture.

When we finally met in person (rather bleary eyed) at 6:30 a.m. on the appointed morning, he introduced us to Mai, a young woman who had been a tour guide in Kanchanburi and at Erawan National Park for seven years before she joined the Mellow Adventures team last year.

As we drove to Erawan National Park together, we passed through an area that has several elephant encounter sanctuaries. Even though an elephant encounter wasn’t on our itinerary, it was fun to see the signs for these places on the road!

Elephant road sign in Kanchanaburi Thailand

An elephant road sign – How cool is that?!

Elephant road sign Kanchanaburi Thailand

…and with Thai writing to boot!!

Elephants are very important and much beloved in Thailand, and we saw many creative elephant decorations along the way, including elephant street lights!

Elephant lamp post decoration Kanchanaburi Thailand

Elephants decorate lots of things in Thailand.

Mai explained to us that the elephant is an integral part of Erawan National Park. In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the god of thunder, lightning and rainstorms, Indra, rides a huge white elephant across the sky. This elephant has three heads and is known as “Erawan” in Thai.

At Erawan Falls, the highest of the waterfall’s seven tiers has three parallel cascades that resemble the trunks of three elephant heads.

Sign for Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Erawan Waterfall is named for a three headed elephant that is part of both Hindu and Thai mythological traditions.

In no time we reached the entrance to Erawan National Park and the Visitors Center.

Erawan National Park Entrance Sign Kanchanaburi Thailand

Now here’s a cool National Park sign!

Erawan National Park Visitors Center

The Visitors Center for Erawan National Park.

Our guide, Mai, has hiked to the top of Erawan Falls many dozens of times, and she described what we would see at each level as we hiked in. Erawan Waterfall is an extremely popular place to swim, as the waterfalls have many shallow pools filled with warm, turquoise water. There are posted guidelines for swimwear, but we found out later they aren’t strictly enforced.

Erawan Falls sign Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

This way to the waterfall — and please dress modestly if you go swimming!

The beginning of the trail is a wide, paved path, and it wandered through the jungle.

Hike to Erawan Falls Kanchanaburi Thailand

The hike began with an easy stroll on a paved trail.

Soon, we heard the sounds of rushing water, and then suddenly we saw the lowest part of the falls in front of us. The water was cascading from one flat slab of rock down onto the next.

Prettiest Waterfall in Thailand Erawan Waterfall Kanchanaburi Thailand

The lowest part of Erawan Falls has many wide, flat travertine slabs that form turquoise pools.

We ran to the water in glee, quickly scouting out the best angles to frame this tropical jewel.

Most beautiful waterfall in Thailand Erawan Falls Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi_

Look at those tree roots!

The pools of aquamarine water were so inviting, it seemed like a fairy land.

Best waterfall in Thailand Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Erawan Falls is actually a series of seven waterfalls, each with its own personality and flair. The hike begins at the lowest level and gradually climbs to the top, passing by each level on the way.

Erawan Waterfall Pool at Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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As we hiked from one level up to the next, we found ourselves in the most deliciously thick jungle. The leaves of one plant were absolutely enormous!

Huge jungle leaves Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

The jungle leaves are huge and give great shade

We just loved the shapes of the rocks along these falls. There were so many places where the water formed a shallow pool on a flat rock and then fell over the edge, like Nature’s most perfect infinity pool.

Erawan Falls

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The hiking trail wandered alongside the stream as we climbed higher and higher, and we got glimpses between the trees of the water spilling over the rocks here and there.

Most spectacular waterfall in Thailand Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

We see a portion of the falls through the jungle trees.

At one point on the trail we came to a tree that was completely adorned in brightly colored women’s dresses. Mai explained to us that these dresses had been placed there as a token of thanks to the tree spirit Ta Kien Tong.

She told us that many Thai people ask this goddess for help or for blessings in their lives. When she responds by giving them what they requested, they show their appreciation by bringing her a beautiful dress.

Appreciative people said thanks to the tree goddess Ta Kien Tong by giving her a beautiful dress

The many dresses on this tree were placed here in thanks for blessings and good fortune that had been granted by the tree goddess, Ta Kien Tong.

The trees in the jungle are wonderfully gnarled with lots of exposed roots, and one had a fabulously twisted vine growing up its trunk.

Vine on a tree trunk

A twisted vine climbs the trunk of a tree.

Some vines are so strong they make a natural swing.

Swinging on a vine Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Our guide Mai enjoys a brief swing on a jungle vine.

As we ascended the hiking trail from one level of Erawan Waterfall to the next, we found beautiful surprises at every turn.

Top waterfall in Thailand Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Each tier of Erawan Falls was different.

The water was so clear in some places that we could see fish swimming just below the surface.

Fish at Erawan Waterfall Kanchanaburi Thailand

Fish were swimming at the base of the falls in some places.

The aquamarine pools were so inviting…

Turquoise pool Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Gnarled roots of the jungle embrace the rocks in a turquoise pool.

Favorite waterfall in Thailand Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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The jungle was filled with unusual plants that we didn’t recognize and we saw some magnificent flowers too.

Exotic tropical flower Erawan National Park

Exquisite!

Perhaps the most wonderful surprise for me came as I turned a corner in the trail and looked up to see this image right in front of me:

Erawan Falls National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

We rounded a bend to see this view!

We crept closer, tip-toeing between the exposed and curving tree roots.

Stunning Erawan waterfall Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Again, we saw fish swimming near the edges of the turquoise pool.

Most beautiful waterfall Erawan Falls Kanchanaburi Thailand

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This was just too gorgeous — time for a selfie!

Travelers at Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

Two very happy campers at Erawan Falls!

The trail had switched from pavement to well packed dirt a while ago, and we were glad to have sturdy trail running shoes rather than flip-flops to hike in. Now the trail suddenly headed straight up a long set of stairs.

Stairs to waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand_

A long staircase climbed up the hill to the next tier.

And at the top was another stunning pool surrounded by ancient trees with wonderful claw-like roots.

Swimming pools Erawan Falls Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

What an exotic place!

I moved a little to one side, and again, I was blown away by the beauty of Erawan Falls.

Cascade at Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

We loved the endlessly changing cascades and pools.

We were now at Level 6 of the seven levels of the waterfall, and we paused to take stock. We had more hiking planned for the afternoon, and it was already very late in the morning.

It had taken us over three hours just to get this far, because we were so busy taking photos.

Sign for 6th level Erawan Falls Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

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The seventh level of Erawan Waterfall is where the three namesake falls — the trunks of the three headed elephant — can be seen. However, because there hadn’t been much rain lately, Mai said they didn’t have much water.

Our cameras were already bursting at the seams with all the photos we’d taken, and the hike to the seventh level would involve some scrambling to reach, so we opted to turn around at this point and head back down.

What a shock it was to see how crowded the trail had become at the lower levels and to see all the people swimming in the pools. The gentle spirit of stillness and solitude we had savored all morning was gone. But the pools sure looked refreshing!

Swimming at Erawan Waterfall Erawan National Park Kanchanaburi Thailand

A few hours earlier we had been alone at this spot!

As we hiked back towards the parking lot, we were surprised to see a warning sign for a cobra!!

Cobra sign Kanchanaburi Thailand

We’ve never seen an animal sign like this one before — yikes!

We didn’t see any snakes, but the flowers were lovely.

Beautiful flowers

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At this point, we had completed only half of our first day of tours with Mellow Adventures, and we had a lot more in store!

There’s more info and more links for Erawan National Park, Kanchanaburi and Mellow Adventures below…

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More info and links:

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Waterfalls we have seen in our travels:

National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Blog posts from our visits to these majestic places

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Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi – A Ride Through Thailand’s Countryside

January 2017 – Our stay in Bangkok, Thailand, was filled with exotic sights and sounds, and at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market we got a peek at a way of life that had been uniquely Thai back in the days when the city was built on canals. But it was a train trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, about 75 miles west of the city, that made us feel like we were beginning to see the “real” Thailand.

Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

Thonburi Station in Bangkok, Thailand

The train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is a 3rd class train that leaves from the Thonburi station in Bangkok. The station and the streets around it were absolutely teaming with people, as it sits alongside a huge market where anything and everything was for sale on a vast array of tables and carts.

Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

Passengers wait for the train to Kanchanaburi

Tickets for the three hour train trip were just 100 Baht each, about $2.85 US, but we’d made the mistake of showing up without any notes worth less than 500 Baht. To our surprise, the ticket booth at the train station wouldn’t accept a 500 Baht note for 200 Baht worth of tickets.

So, I ran off through the market, passed by an ATM that was out of order, and finally found a lady selling juice from a cart who had an apron filled with bills of all denominations. Fortunately, she understood enough English and sign language that when I waved a 500 Baht note at her she figured out what I wanted. In no time I was back at the train station ticket window with exact change. Phew!

Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

A train conductor and a station guard exchange paperwork through the train window.

There were quite a few “farangs” (foreigners) waiting for this train, as it is a popular trip for tourists to do. But all the other trains at the station were loading and unloading throngs of locals who were going about their daily business.

The Kanchanaburi train finally arrived, and we hopped on board. We hadn’t been sure what “3rd class” would mean, but it turned out to be just like the commuter rail trains I used to ride as a kid years ago, except the windows were all wide open.

Inside Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

The train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is “3rd class” but we found it clean and comfortable.

As we headed out of Bangkok, the train narrowly missed hitting the corrugated metal rooftops of endless rows of houses, and we got a peek at the backside of Bangkok, as is so common when you take a train somewhere. We saw what amounted to being the “other side of the tracks” in some very poor neighborhoods.

Houses by window Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

The train skims past corrugated metal rooftops in Bangkok.

Once we got out of town a ways, we began to see classic Asian sights out the windows.

View from train window Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Buddhist monk on motorbike Thailand

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Views from Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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We stopped at quite a few train stations along the way. Several stations were very ornate with uniformed guards standing watch, and most were decorated with memorials to the beloved deceased Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej who had died in October, 2016.

Train station Bangkok to Kanchanaburi train Thailand

A train station we stopped at on our route from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

During our stay in Thailand we saw thousands of memorials to the king, often with photos of him either as a young man who appeared to be very studious, or as a middle aged man dressed in all his royal splendor and regalia.

Train station Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

A train station decorated with the black and white ribbons memorializing the recently deceased King of Thailand.

In general, when we walked on the streets, we couldn’t go 50 yards without encountering a memorial of some kind, and in a car or on this train the billboards and roadside shrines appeared several times per mile.

Thailand King Memorial

Memorials to King Bhumibol Adulyadej were everywhere in Thailand.

After about an hour, we stopped at one train stop and a group of vendors got on board. They walked up and down the aisle selling foods of various kinds.

Food vendor on the Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

A food vendor offers munchies to travelers on the train.

Each vendor took a turn in each train car, waiting for the vendor ahead of them to finish walking through the car before strolling down the aisle themselves.

Food vendor Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Meanwhile, out the window, the ornate rooftops of temples and other buildings appeared between the trees.

Window view Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Thailand views Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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In the seat in front of us, a little boy was as fascinated with what he saw out the train window as we were.

Looking out train window Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

The things we were passing were fascinating, and not just to us!

His sister hung her head out the window too, and we got such a kick out of watching these two adorable kids taking in all the scenery and pointing and commenting on it.

They were loving the train ride as much as we were.

Kids on Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Their mom let them take shots out the window with her cell phone and then she got some pics of the two of them. We couldn’t help but take photos of them too!

Boy with cell phone on Kanchanaburi train

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After a while, the little boy peeked over the top of the seatback at me, put his hands together and bowed his head in the Thai expression of respect. I was touched and told his mom her children were very beautiful and she gave me a huge smile.

Playing on the train Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

These kids were so adorable we got pics and so did their mom!

She and I tried to tell each other where we were heading, though, and our attempt at conversation was hopeless. I think she said they were going to the mountains, and I tried to tell her we were going to see some waterfalls. But sign language and giggles only go so far.

Little Thai boy

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The train ride took us out into the countryside, far from the chaos of Bangkok, and soon we began to see the rural sights of farms and farmers tending their fields. Some of the farmers were tilling the land by hand.

Farming in Thailand Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

We passed lots of farm fields and farmers working.

Farming in Thailand Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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Thailand farming Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

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We passed a row of trees that was so perfectly lined up I just had to take a photo. I didn’t realize at the time that these trees were rubber trees. A few days later I would see these trees up close, each one holding a small mug-sized cup to catch the sap.

Rubber trees in Thailand

Rubber trees.

We also passed a cemetery filled with pointed shrines for deceased loved ones.

Cemetery in Thailand

We caught a brief glimpse of a cemetery with lots of tombstones.

In no time, the trip was over. The three hours had zipped by, and we had arrived in Kanchanaburi.

Kanchanaburi Train Station Train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand

Kanchanaburi Railway Station

An agent came to the train and greeted all the foreigners as we got off the train. She asked each of us where we were staying and assigned us to a cab or tuk-tuk to get us there. We were staying at the Bure Homestay which is just a few kilometers from the train station.

Peering out the window of the cab, the town of Kanchanaburi seemed very inviting. We loved the fish that adorned the tops of all the streetlights.

Kanchanburi Thailand city street

Out on the streets of Kanchanaburi

Streetlight decoration Kanchanaburi Thailand

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As we wandered around the town we noticed some very cool buses that were two stories tall and were painted up in wild colors and said “Mr. Beer” on the side.

Mr Beer Bus Kanchanaburi Thailand

There are many ways to travel in Thailand!!

We poked our heads inside one of these buses and were amazed to find that the entire first floor of the bus was a bar! The two bar tenders greeted us warmly, although they seemed to be a few sheets to the wind themselves, and we got a chuckle as we realized there are many ways to get around Thailand.

For us, the 3rd class train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi was a great way to go, and it felt very authentic and made for a very pleasant three hour ride.

Mr Beer Bus Kanchanaburi Thailand

Welcome to the Mr. Beer Bus!

But taking the Mr. Beer bus could always be another option!

There are a few tips for taking the 3rd class train from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi below:

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Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – Bangkok or Disney’s Epcot Center?

January 2017 – On our first days in Bangkok, Thailand, we got a huge kick out of everything we saw around us, because it was so familiar yet so different. We went to the 7/11 store (yup, 7/11 is huge in Thailand and can be found on every street corner) and we picked up one of every kind of beer they had in the cooler.

Beer in Thailand

A selection of Asian beers!

The beers are decidedly a lot lighter than we’re used to consuming at home, but what fun it was to sample such a wide variety. Three of them were named for large cats, from Leo beer to Singha (which refers to a mythical lion in Thai folklore) to Tiger beer (originally from Singapore)!

Lay potato chips are also easy to find everywhere, and what an interesting way Pepsico has modified the familiar red and white label on the bag to give it a Thai twist.

Lay Potato Chips Thailand

Same same, but different!
(the chips themselves are identical)

Mass market food products are a part of most cultures nowadays, but we wanted to try to get a little deeper than that in our introduction to Thailand. However, uncovering the “real” Thailand proved a little elusive at first.

In the olden days of a hundred years and more ago, Bangkok was a city of canals. “Floating markets” held aboard open boats were commonplace. However, since then, most of Bangkok’s canals have been filled in to make way for traditional roads and wheeled vehicles.

There are still many floating markets to be found, but they are a bit contrived as they are intended more for tourists to experience a touch of the bygone Thai culture than for Thai people to peddle their wares to each other.

Longtail boat floating market Bangkok Thailand

Mark gets in a longtail boat for a tour of a floating market

I searched high and low for an “authentic” floating market, and found one called the Tha Kha Market just outside of Bangkok that seemed like it would fit the bill.

Longtail boat damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

All smiles as we started down the canal.

We hopped in a cab to make our way out to this unusual sounding market, but were alarmed when we drove right by the signs for “Tha Kha Market” and arrived at the parking area for the known-to-be-touristy Damnoen Saduak Floating Market instead.

I chastised the driver for taking us to the wrong place, but he kept insisting this market was better, especially for photography. In the end we relented and hopped in a longtail boat and were piloted along a canal system.

The jungle was thick, and the ride was actually very cool.

Longtail boat canal damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

We cruised down the canal through dense jungle vegetation.

We passed the homes of people who live on these canals.

House Damnoen Saduak Floating market Bangkok Thailand

A different kind of waterfront life.

Then we arrived at our first “store.” A series of shops stood right on the water’s edge, tucked under a wide corrugated metal roof overhang, and vendors sat in each stall.

Shopping Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

The first of many canal-side shops.

Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Get your “spicies” here!!

Negotiating is a natural part of shopping in Thailand, and we’d heard that the standard patter is to ask the price, counter what the vendor says with something outrageously low, and then accept his counter if you want to buy the item.

Shops damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Negotiating is part of the fun and part of the deal!

We had come to this market with photography in mind, however, and we weren’t looking to make any purchases.

Our pilot slowed down a little as we passed each shop, and we admired the many items but simply shook our heads “no.” After all, we wanted our luggage to be able to meet the extremely stringent international weight guidelines on our flight home!

Damnoen Saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Trinkets, souvenirs and keepsakes of all kinds were for sale.

But in the days that followed, as we talked with other tourists around town, we realized that lots of people come to Bangkok specifically to shop, and many go to these floating markets hoping to score a deal.

Ironically, we found that the asking prices on many items at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market were ten times higher than in other places!

Sandals for sale Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Need some sandals??

We were surprised to see a monk out shopping too!

Buddhist monk shopping Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Shopping in Thailand might be a religious experience for some!

We had arrived at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market very early, but soon we began seeing boats filled with other tourists.

Tourist shoppers Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

A boat full of happy shoppers passed us.

We joked with each other that we were a long ways from home and never would have seen something like this if we’d gone to Quartzsite for the RV show as we have so many times in Januaries past! Even with inadvertently getting caught in a tourist trap, we were having a blast!

Woman vendor damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

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Besides trinkets sold in the shops along the sides of the canals, many vendors were cooking things in their boats and selling various edible goodies to passersby.

Woman cooking in boat damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Some vendors cooked delicacies right on their boats.

Boat selling produce Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Food of all kinds was for sale.

Beautiful tropical fruits and veggies were on full display.

Fruit for sale damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Fruit for sale!

Women at damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Veggies too!

As the morning wore on, the canals became busier and busier as vendors and tourist boats passed each other continuously.

Lady Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Coconut drinks.

Veggies for sale Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

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It was a little early for a beer, but some tourists imbibed as they floated along.

Beer for sale Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

A Singha beer for you??

Of course, the display of traditions from long ago was just a show, and modern life lurked just out of sight.

On the cell phone damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Sometimes even the best displays of tradition include a fast-forward to the modern era.

Vendor on cell phone damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

A quick Facebook check between sales.

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market could easily be a showpiece at Disney’s Epcot Center, but experiencing it on the outskirts of Bangkok gave it a certain kind of realism.

And what fun it was to immerse ourselves in an event that hints at a lifestyle lived long ago.

Tourists damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand

Slipping through the jungle on the canals was truly wonderful.

Little boy Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

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As we putted back to the parking area in our longtail boat, we passed some men holding jungle critters for us to see up close.

Furry animal Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

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Snake charmer Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok Thailand

Snake charmer.

As our taxi driver took us back to Bangkok, we passed signs for the Tha Kha market, the slightly more authentic floating market that I had originally wanted to go to. I tried to find out from the cabbie exactly why he hadn’t taken us there but couldn’t really understand his response.

Damnoen saduak floating market Bangkok Thailand longtail boat

The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was a very fun excursion even if it wasn’t particularly authentic!

When we returned to our hotel, I asked the concierge about the Tha Kha market. I pointed out its location on the map and he called over some colleagues to discuss it with them. In the end, they all agreed that the Tha Kha market had been closed and there was nothing there to see any more.

Whether the Tha Kha Market is truly closed — or whether we were taken to a more touristy market in hopes we’d buy a few things — the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was a great spot for photography and made for a memorable morning.

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One Day in Bangkok – A trip on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat!

January 2017 – When we moved off our sailboat and back into our trailer three years ago, the main reason we ended our sailing cruise of Mexico was that we’d found exotic travel to tropical destinations was a lot easier by airplane than by boat. Many of our dream destinations were hard to get to in a sailboat!

Boat on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

River views from the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand

Yet, the last exotic foreign destinations we’d visited were all in Mexico during that cruise. We hadn’t made good on our promise to ourselves to get on planes and fly to cool places!

So, last week we hopped on an airplane and flew to Bangkok, Thailand. We will be touring around the country for a month.

If you haven’t looked for Thailand on a map lately, it is located in Southeast Asia, bordered by Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Burma (Myanmar):

Southeast Asia Map

Southeast Asia

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is very close to the Gulf of Thailand, and a long skinny portion of the country drops south between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea:

Thaland and Cambodia Map

Thailand

This was all news to us when we started thinking about going to Thailand a few months ago, as the only thing we knew about the country was that everyone we’ve ever talked to who’s been there absolutely loved it.

RVers we met in Montana last summer told us about the many happy winters they’d spent visiting Thailand, and a loyal reader of this blog who has lived in Thailand for 10 years encouraged us to throw caution to the wind and check it out.

So, I jumped into researching places to go in Thailand and came up with a four week plan that will hopefully introduce us to many beautiful facets of this country.

Of course, the first hurdle to all of it was getting through 28 hous of travel door-to-door. When we stepped off the plane in Taipei after 13 straight hours in impossibly tiny seats (the width of the seats, from armrest to armrest, was the length of my forearm from elbow to fingertips), we were bleary eyed.

But how exciting it was to realize we had actually arrived in Asia!

Welcome to Taipei

We landed in Taipei, Taiwan, for a layover – We’re in Asia!

Once we finally got out on the streets of Bangkok, stumbling all over ourselves from lack of sleep, we were instantly caught up in the vivid sights and sounds and smells of downtown Bangkok as scooters, buses, tuk-tuks and intrepid bicyclists jammed the streets around us.

It felt like we were back in Mexico, except the writing on the signs was totally different!

Bangkok Thailand Road Sign

Thank goodness for the hints in English!

Thai menu in Thailand

What would you like for lunch?

We’ve been told that Thailand has two seasons: Hot and Hotter. We were there in the Hot season of January, so the daily highs were a balmy 90 degrees with 70% humidity, quite a change from the cool and dry Arizona desert climate in mid-winter.

Street vendor Bangkok Thailand

A Bangkok street vendor grins at me as he walks by

The locals were all cool as cucumbers, though, and motorbikes lined up at every Intersection as if they were at the startling line of a race.

Motorbikes line up at intersection in Bangkok Thailand

Motorbikes lead the pack in Bangkok’s notorious traffic.

Street vendors were selling food and drinks of all kinds and exotic smells filled the air.

Street Food Bangkok Thailand

We found street food everywhere in Bangkok

Bangkok is known as Krung Thep (กรุงเทพ), or the City of Angels, just like Los Angeles. But an aspect of its soul may be closer to Las Vegas’ Sin City.

I found myself humming the 1980’s son, “One Night in Bangkok” and looked up the lyrics and YouTube video only to learn that it was written for the musical “Chess” and talks of the irony of a nerdy international chess tournament being held in this city of sensual pleasures.

A hundred years ago or so, Bangkok was considered the Venice of the East, as it was built on a canal system and everyone got around town by boat.

On our first full day in Bangkok, we wanted to get an overview of the city as it looks from the water. So we took the Skytrain from our hotel to the public boat pier on the Chao Phraya river near Saphan Taksin station. Mark made his way through the many buttons on the Skytrain ticket machine, and we joined the throngs that travel through Bangkok by train everyday.

Getting train ticket in Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok’s Skytrain is super easy to use.

Chao Phaya Tourist Boat is a hop-on-hop-off ferry system that is just 150 Thai Baht (about US $4.50) per day. Perfect! Within moments we were out on the water.

Boats and buildings Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

The Chao Phraya river runs through downtown Bangkok

Boats of all kinds were zooming up and down the river. There was so much boating action that the water was choppy from all the wake!

Boats on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River is busy!

But the sights — oh my. Between the temples and highly ornamented buildings on the shoreline and the exotic boats plying the water of the river, we knew we had arrived in another world!!

Boat and temple Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

We loved the classic images that surrounded us on the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat ride.

Boats seen from the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat Bangkok Thailand

What a great scene!

Thailand is a monarchy, and the much adored King Bhumibol Adulyadej (formally crowned King Rama IX of the Chakri dynasty) who ruled the Thai people for the last 70 years just died in October at age 88. Images of him, his 65 year old son who will replace him, and his wife are absolutely everywhere.

From splash screens across Thai websites to shrines in front of businesses built in his memory to billboards on the highways to the black pins and black clothing that many Thai people are wearing for a year of mourning, the sadness of this man’s passing is ever present.

On the Royal Thai Navy Headquarters building we saw portraits of the royal family.

Royal Navy Headquarters Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Portraits of the royal family at the Royal Navy Headquarters.

There were all kinds of unusual sights to be seen all along the river’s edge.

Sighting on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

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In the distance, we saw the spires of the Grand Palace appear over the rooftops.

Boat and Grand Palace Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Grand Palace spires peak over the roofs.

We got off at this stop to explore a little. As we made our way from the pier to the main street, we passed a creative display of bicycles hanging on a wall.

Bikes on a wall Bangkok Thailand

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The throngs of tourists surrounding the enormous city block that makes up the Grand Palace was intense.

It was a Saturday, and thousands of people filled the streets in all directions. Many were Asian tourists led by a strident person out front holding a flag high in the air to keep the group together.

A passing Buddhist monk caught my eye.

Buddhist monk Bangkok Thailand

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The Grand Palace was built in 1782, and the spires of its many buildings in the complex rose above the high white wall that encloses the palace grounds.

Grand Palace spires Bangkok Thailand

Peaks of the Grand Palace

Mark and I had to laugh as we snapped endless pics. Two days earlier we’d been boondocking in Arizona. Now we were in Bangkok!

Tourist at Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand

OMG – We’re in Thailand!!

In order to approach the entrance gate to the Grand Palace, we had to show our passports and walk through a metal detector and get wanded. From there we moved into a massive line outside the gate to buy tickets.

Ornate rooftop Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand

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Grand Palace views Bangkok Thailand

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There is a strict dress code for visitors to the Grand Palace — elbows and knees must be covered — and even though officials would lend us cover-ups, our hearts weren’t into touring the palace just yet. There was still so much to see on the river.

Ministry of Defence Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand

Ministry of Defence at the Grand Palace

So, we made our way back to the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat at the pier where a breeze on the water made the sultry heat bearable.

Up ahead, a public ferry boat passed us as we approached one of the modern suspension bridges that crosses the Chao Phraya River. These boats are just 40 Thai Baht (about $1.15 US) for a point-to-point ride, and we saw a few foreigners (“farangs”) taking these ferries. But to us, the few dollars more for an all day hop-on-hop-off pass on the tourist boat was worth every penny.

Boat and suspension bridge Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

A public ferry boat is dwarfed by a towering suspension bridge.

Compared to the public ferries which were packed, there were no lines at the piers for the Chao Phraya Tourist Boats. The wait for a boat was never longer than a few minutes, there was always plenty of room on the boat, and we could listen to narration about what we were passing on the shore.

Lots of room on Chao Phraya Tourist Boat Bangkok Thailand

The “hop-on-hop-off” tourist boat wasn’t crowded and we never had to wait long to catch it.

As we floated along the river, we loved the juxtaposition of the old style boats, the historic Thai temples and the modern highrise business buildings.

Temple and highrise building reflections Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Reflections: Old meets new and East meets West.

Tourist Boat and suspension bridge Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Views from the river in Bangkok.

Temple and boat Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Getting out on the river is a great way to see the shore.

Lots of people live on the river’s edge, and we passed a few housing blocks where laundry was hanging out to dry.

Houses on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Houses along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River

The Chao Phraya river is very dirty, and a few large patches of leaves and debris floated past.

Debris and Houses on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, though, and we noticed an egret standing in the middle of one debris pile.

Egret in trash on Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

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There are dozens of ways to get out on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, as many of the big city hotels offer their own tours for their guests and private longtail boats offer tours not only on the main river but onto some of the smaller canals too.

Longtail boat Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Tourists can take rides on longtail boats and float up some of the smaller canals.

These private tours can cost as much as 1,600 Thai Baht, or about $45 for an hour of driving around. For us, the Chao Phraya Tourst Boat with its all day hop-on-hop-off service was a much better deal!

Longtail boat Chao Phraya River Bangkok Thailand

Longtail boats offer private rides.

Getting out on the water in the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat is a great way to get an overview of Bangkok.

Longtail boat Bangkok Thailand Chao Phraya River

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The Chao Phraya Tourist Boat makes 8 stops along the river. We started at the Sathorn Pier near the Saphan Taksin BTS (Skytrain) station (station #S6). After getting off the train, we simply walked down to the street level and asked a BTS station official which way to go to get to the pier.

After a short walk to the pier, we walked past the enormous line of people waiting to take the cheaper ferry boat and ignored the many vendors selling expensive longtail boat rides and made our way to the well marked “Tourist Boat” loading dock at the end.

BTS Map Bangkok Thailand

BTS Skytrain map. Chao Phraya Tourist Boat stops at Sathorn Pier next to Saphan Taksin station (S6) on the southern line.

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