If you are staying in Krabi town or Ao Nang beach, the many travel agencies around offer about ten different daytrips, ranging from elephant riding at Khao Phanom Benja National Park to kayaking in the mangroves to snorkelling on Ko Bida. However, you can do most of these daytrips on your own if you are brave enough to ride a rented motorcycle – and save about 50% of the costs.
The “Unseen Thailand” campaign popularised the two natural wonders I am writing about today. They are about 20 kms off the main road connecting Krabi and Trang, and not accessible by public transport. The problem is, the road is being widened now, and there is lots of dust, and heavy traffic squeezed into narrow lanes for over 30 kms out of the 50 as you head south from Krabi. Very scary. But then in the town of Khlong Tom, you turn left, following the signs to Hot Waterfall and Sra Morakot – and you find yourself on one of these narrow country roads I love so much when travelling in Thailand: plantations, small villages, mountains, orchards, hardly any traffic, kids playing, dogs running around. Ok, dogs are not my favourites, but they are part of the package on dusty rural roads.
The Hot Waterfalls, above, are not very spectacular as waterfalls – maybe about a metre and a half in height, which actually makes an excellent jacuzzi. This is the place to be if you are an expat missing your bathtub: you can lie in the hot water (40-42 degrees), and pretend you never heard of Thai-style showers. There are about 8 large tubs, each can easily accommodate five or six people.
The rocks connecting and dividing them are not slippery, so you can move from one to the other, climb up or down the waterfall to the cooler swimming pool below, or just try all of them and pick the best pool. Kids like to swing on the trees overhanging the pleasant, shaded area, to plunge to the pool – and to make fun of farang women’s tiny bikinis (no, not me!). Due to the high temperature and the mineral contents, which are clearly posted (some nitrogen and fluoride, with very little copper and lead, no stinky sulphur), you are only advised to soak for twenty minutes.
The pools are an easy short walk away from the entrance, where there are several small restaurants and shops selling the usual simple Thai lunches. Tickets are 90 baht for foreigners, 20 for Thais or those who can ask for a ticket in Thai. A few tour groups came here late morning, after which local Muslim ladies dominated the pools, soaking their feet and trying to manage some naughty young boys diving into the pool.
However, it was not crowded, I loved the relaxed atmosphere, and the whole experience was one of my favourites around Krabi. Definitely recommended if you are looking for a safe and fun place with kids.
Sra Morakot, or Emerald Pool, is a further ten kilometres away. Actually, on the way, I saw two more “hot waterfall” signs, only in Thai, but we did not check out those – probably they are smaller but free, along the same stream. Emerald Pool is a much larger area and is also a huge favourite with the locals, entire families are out there having a picnic and learning to swim.
It is a national park, with entry fees 100/200 baht for foreigners (children/adults) and 10/20 baht for Thais, a copy of my work permit went a long way here. Food shops are only outside the park so make sure you have enough water and snacks with you before you buy your ticket.
When you enter the park, you can choose between two paths leading to the Emerald Pool: one is a red dirt road, also used by park vehicles, which is 800 metres, shady and level, the other is a platform walk crossing bridges, pools, thick bamboo forests, winding on for 1400 metres. If you take the former, there are several nature trails branching off, leading to more remote parts of the park, if you are into short jungle walks, this seems like a perfect opportunity. The platform walk is easily manageable even for lazy people like me, or small kids, and it is very spectacular.
There are several ponds with different colours, due to the calcium carbonate content of the water as well as the diverse algae and bacteria that make each of them a slighly different shade.
You can only swim in one pond, Emerald Pond itself, at the end of the trail.
It is about the size of an average swimming pool, 1.5 metres in depth, and quite slippery around the edge – funny to watch people trying to get into or out of the water. So, do be careful. At one end, there are some small waterfalls, jacuzzi opportunities again. The water is a much more pleasant 25 degrees or so, cooler than you would expect in the summer heat. If you are not a fan of salt water in the sea, this is the place for you – this water makes your skin extra soft and healthy. Just be careful with the sun! Only parts of the pool are in the shade. Again, a very relaxing, beautiful place to spend an hour or two – well, slightly less if you are rushed by a tour guide. There are lots and lots of lizards if you keep quiet and don’t rush! This one was huge.
I think Tiger Cave Temple, Hot waterfalls and Emerald Pool together make an excellent daytrip – you can climb the 1238 steps to the top of the cliff before it gets very hot in the morning, then ride across some countryside to relax in a shady hot pool, and wind down doing some walking and swimming in the afternoon. Without the road construction, it would be my idea of a perfect day in Krabi province.