In the middle of nowhere
If you commissioned a designer to come up with a simple, cheap but charming and user-friendly roadside attraction, he or she would do well to create something as good as Phu Sang Waterfall. It’s perfect. Set just to the side of a little frequented, rural highway a clear, shallow stream flows through a picturesque, narrow valley with a lush jungle-clad, limestone outcrop providing a backdrop. The waterfall, originating from a spring higher up the hill, falls directly into the stream and here’s the masterstroke; the water’s hot because it’s a hot spring!
Between the stream and road are beautifully laid out, and maintained gardens and lawns, and there’s small bridges crossing the stream. Across the road are food and drink stalls which also provide mats and so, after ordering, will serve you in the gardens or on the stream bank. There’s new, spotlessly clean toilets in the car-park, the gardens hadn’t a drop of litter and the shallow stream, with a choice of warm or cool water bathing, combine to make this the ideal picnic spot.
The food stalls also double as minimarts so you can just grab a can of drink and a bag of crisps or have a full sit down meal of fried fish, grilled chicken, laap, papaya salad and so-on, accompanied by sticky or plain rice, washed down with iced beer. There’s fresh coffee available too so an iced mocha in a shady garden sala is another option. If you need to work off a lunch then on the far bank is the start of a nature trail leading up the hill side, through the forest, to the hot springs. It was closed for path maintenance when we visited but looked to be around a one kilometre forest loop with various points of interest indicated on the way.
Phu Sang Waterfall is actually part of Phu Sang National Park, a 280 square kilometre strip of forested mountains stretching along the Lao border in the northeastern corner of Phayao Province, overlapping Thoen district of Chiang Rai.
We visited on a week day and there were still a few other visitors wandering and splashing around plus a few in the restaurants so we can imagine on a sunny weekend it could get rather busy. Lovely spot anyway! The only slight problem with the park – though it certainly keeps numbers down – is that it is in the middle of nowhere! It’s more than a 200 kilometre round trip from Phayao City so we’re not suggesting it as a day out, though it would be much more easily accessed from the district towns of Chiang Kham or Chiang Rai’s Thoen 20 and 35 kilometres distant respectively.
Even better, and which is how we discovered it, is as a stop on a loop down from Phu Chee Fah. After climbing down the mountain route 1093 passes the small border town of Huak and goes right by Phu Sang before hitting the 1021 with its choice of Chiang Rai or Phayao directions. A scenic way to arrive at a scenic spot.
Travel info: Phusang Waterfall is approximately 5 kilometres south of Huak and 20 northeast of Chiang Kham on highway 1093. Particularly on market days there ought to be a few songthaews running between the 2 which will drop you outside the car-park. The park is open anytime but eateries function from mid-morning until early evening.
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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