Namtok Phlio National Park, 14 kilometres from Chanthaburi, is named after one of Thailand’s best known waterfalls, which cascades straight out the side of Khao Sabap mountain into a pool below where both people and fish frolic. The waterfall is most impressive during rainy season when the falls are so powerful that mist fills the air as far away as an observation area 100 metres away and dampens visitors’ clothes. Although it’s possible to walk straight down to the shallow pool, views of the falls are partially blocked by trees from every reachable vantage point so don’t expect a perfect frontal photo.
The park is also famous among Thais for a bell-shaped chedi near the falls, which was built by King Rama V to mark the spot where he and the queen courted. Covered in thick, bright green moss, the chedi and surrounding area reminded us a little of the ancient mossy stone temples found in the jungles of Bali. A pyramid shrine nearby was built to hold the queen’s ashes after she drowned in 1876. A rather challenging trail leads uphill from near the stupa and rings the top of the falls.
The park spans some 135 square kilometres in total, mostly unaccessible and comprised of granite protrusions from the surrounding plains. The rainforest has been extensively logged over the years but what’s left along with the regrowth still holds some interesting wildlife, mainly birds including the Siamese fireback, silver pheasant, chestnut-headed partridge and the blue-rumped pitta.
Nam Tok Phlio is one of the most popular national parks in Thailand, filling up mainly with local tourists on weekends, so it’s best to come on a weekday. Heaps of food vendors line the stree directly in front of the park entrance. Expect to see practically every Thai tourist buying large bags of string bean — they’re for feeding the huge schools of fish that teem in the picturesque stream which flows down from the waterfall.
There is no camping near the park headquarters but three bungalows are available; one for 600 baht sleeps eight people and two for 800 baht also sleep eight.
Nam Tok Makok, Khlong Nalai and Trok Nong are three other waterfalls located in the park but are reached from separate access roads along the park’s boundaries. Apparently there is a narrow road connecting Phlio and Trok Nong which would take a day to walk, but good luck finding it — the park office and visitor centre seem fairly tightlipped. Nam Tok Khlong Nalai is half way between Chanthaburi and Nam Tok Philio and requires a 2.5 kilometre walk in from the main road.
How to get there
Namtok Phlio is locted off Sukhumvit Road (aka Route 3) to the southeast of Chanthaburi.The easiest way to reach the park is to rent your own motorbike or hire a pick-up truck taxi in Chanthaburi, which will cost around 400 baht roundtrip.
Otherwise, minibuses leave from the north of Chanthaburi market next to the roundabout and these can take you to the park entrance for 25 baht or to the turn-off for 15 baht, after which it's a 2.5 kilometre walk or hitch to the park headquarters. When ready to go back you will need to walk back out to the turn-off and hail any passing bus headed towards Chan.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 3rd August, 2015.