Just off Bang Niang Road, Khao Lak’s main street, a small road across from a nightclub leads to one of the area’s many waterfalls. Located just 7km from town, we contemplated renting bikes and riding to the entrance of the Ton Chong Fa Waterfall hiking trail, but ultimately decided to drive. For one, the weather was unpredictable. It had rained the entire morning and it was highly likely that it would rain in the afternoon. But most importantly, it was just so damn hot and humid.
The Hike to Ton Chong Fa Waterfall
As we drove through mountains and rubber tree plantations, we passed several groups of sweaty cyclists, huffing and puffing their way to the Ton Chong Fa Waterfall trailhead. Sly and I looked at each other in our air-conditioned car and thought, yeah, we made the right decision. Plus, we knew we had a hike ahead of us. One that was sure to be swelteringly hot in the sticky afternoon heat.
We begin our hike at the same time as a group of young Euro backpackers who were insistent on not letting us pass. Sly and I were in no rush, and we kept a brisk, but steady, pace, stopping every so often to take photos. Even so, whenever we “caught up” with the backpackers, they panicked and rushed ahead of us. Uuuuggghhh. This is such a huge pet peeve of mine when it comes to hiking. Deep breath. Deep breath.
The trail to Ton Chong Fa quickly changed from flat to steep and continued on an incline for the next 20 minutes or so. We continued hiking at our same pace, even up the hills. In front of us, I noticed the backpackers slowing down, a few clutching their sides, gasping. In no time at all, they were eating our dust. I’m not going to lie. We were more than a little bit smug when we saw their wide eyes glaring at us as we strode past their bent over bodies. It wasn’t our intention to “race” a group of much younger, waif-like Euros, but since they were dead set on doing so, we considered it a win. Old people: 1, Young backpackers: 0.
Swimming Holes and Spa Fish
Honestly, the trail was not that difficult. Steep in parts, but quick. We arrived at Ton Chong Fa Waterfall just as another couple was leaving, which gave us about 30 minutes or so of alone time before the backpackers caught up (smoking cigarettes, which explained a lot) behind us. In that time, Sly made a beeline for the base of the waterfall to take an ice-cold waterfall shower. I was more than happy to sit and watch on a rock, but Sly convinced me to jump in. As expected, the water was freezing cold, though admittedly, very refreshing after our hike.
On the way to the waterfall, I noticed a bunch of small fish swimming around my legs. When I stopped walking and stood still, they fish gently nipped at my skin. It felt more ticklish than anything, though it kind of startled me at first. It turned out that the pools were filled with Garra rufa, otherwise known as the fish used in fish “pedicures”!
Off the Beaten Path
Several other hikers came and left, perhaps deciding to explore one of the upper pools once they saw us goofing around in the lower pools. Eventually, we were left all alone. Just us, the waterfall, and hundreds of nibbling fish.
When we tired of our free fish spa, we ventured downstream and explored some of the smaller pools. Who knew that in addition to amazing beaches, bustling night markets, and Buddhist temples, that this was also Thailand? I suppose it was pretty obvious given the area’s lush tropical surroundings, yet for some reason, it never occurred to me that we could experience both beaches and waterfalls in just 45 minutes of one another
We could have lounged in those quiet pools the entire afternoon. We kicked ourselves for not bringing a picnic or at the very least, a couple of cans of Chang beer.
COST: 200THB pp National Park entrance fee which can be used to explore the entire park
DESCRIPTION: Located 7 km from Khao Lak’s main road, Ton Chong Fa Waterfall is easily accessible by car, bike, or taxi. Bikes can be rented at several locations in town. While the hike to the waterfall is rather short (about 20-30 minutes), the jungle terrain can be steep and slippery in parts. Water levels may vary according to the season. Ton Chong Fa has one main pool as well as a series of pools above the falls that can be reached by a trail to the side. There are no bathroom facilities or food stalls at the falls. Note: While this hike isn’t too difficult, I would recommend hiking in something other than flip flops.
VERDICT: Refreshing waterfall and a free fish pedicure – well worth a visit if you’re staying in Khao Lak!