Drive from Khao Kho to Chiang Mai

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Thailand Fly & Drive – Part 14

Today, we embark on a 450km journey from Khao Kho to Chiang Mai. The route is simple, taking the Route 2196 northwards out of Khao Kho, then westwards along Route 12 until the outskirts of Phitsanulok and then the majority of the route northwest along Route 11 passing through the provinces of Uttaradit, Phrae, Lampang and Lamphun. The driving time is an estimated 6 hours.

It was quite a jam out of Khao Kho along Route 2196 that morning, That’s also the direction towards Wat Pha Sorn Kaew and Pino Latte, so I think that’s contributing to the heavy traffic. Everybody is going there early to take a look and beat the crowd.

Once we get onto the main highway the Route 12, the traffic clears up significantly, and we have a smooth drive.

A Visit to the Waterfall – Kaeng Song

Daddy, I believe we can get through this together!

Little Lioness Cub

Along the Route 12, we hope to drop by a waterfall for the kids to take a look. The Kaeng Sopha waterfall is the biggest and most famous waterfall in Phitsanulok province, and was featured on a Thai postage stamp in its 2007 waterfall series. However, the entrance fees for foreigners is THB500 which is a bit steep, and I am reluctant to pay that sort of entrance fee when it is so much more expensive than the THB20 which the locals pay.

So, we skip Kaeng Sopha and substitute it with a different one, the Kaeng Song waterfall, also on the same route a little further up the Wang Thong River. Slightly smaller in scale, but still interesting for the kids, and best of all, it is free to visit, and also less touristy!

The downside of not being touristy is that the parking area is pretty small. It is impossible to find a parking spot in the car park, so we end up having to park our car along the highway shoulder. There is a long line of cars there and we manage to snuggle ourselves right at the entrance to the place. (the advantage of having a small car!)

Most of the people that visit this place are the locals. They like to spend time having a meal or a drink at these makeshift restaurants along the side of the river, enjoying the scenery and dipping their feet into the moving water.

From this spot though, we can’t really get the sense of the full glory of the falls, we need to take a bit of a hike downstream. It turns out to be a great adventure for the kids.

We first have to cross this suspension bridge>>

It looks safe right? Well, that’s what we thought, until we actually try to walk across. The bridge looks stable with the steel netting and metal plated flooring, but it is really shaky. It moves from side to side with every step, and there are no railings on the side to stabilise yourself. I honestly got quite freaked out while crossing, fearfully holding my two young boys to make sure they don’t accidentally fall off the bridge and get swept away and get washed over the falls. I was about to say, let’s turn back, but amazingly my daughter was the brave one on this occasion. She was walking in front and she turned to me and said, “Daddy, I believe that we can get through this together!”

I was quite impressed by her display of courage, and because of that, we decided to press on and conquer our fears.

After making it safely across, we have to take a short walk through a small village to get to the falls. We are grateful for the English signs pointing us in the right direction.

It was a new experience for the kids, walking through the little village and seeing the chickens roam free with their little chicks. They were excitedly pointing at all the little birds following their mothers and running away, taking cover from us scary foreigners.

The chicks are well camoflaged in the bushes, there are at least 6 little chicks in the above photograph, but they are super hard to locate!

We then have to cross a second bridge to get to the falls. This one is smaller and more rickety, with broken flooring, so the kids have to be careful with their little feet.

After crossing the second bridge, is just a short walk on a sand path to get to the side of the falls. The route down gets rocky, and some of the rocks are not stable, so do be careful to test every rock before putting your full weight on it. Very easy to have a nasty fall here.

All that effort is well rewarded, with a great close-up view of the falls! It might not be as huge as the others, but it is beautiful nonetheless, and a great experience for the kids to have a short manageable walk outdoors along the riverside!

It was an enjoyable trip to the falls. The whole stop took about 50 minutes. I’m glad we persevered and didn’t give up! The kids do not get to do this back home in Singapore, so we are grateful for these opportunities overseas. On the way back, the walk seems easier. As we are crossing the scary metal bridge to get back to our car, we even have to deal with two motorcycles crossing the bridge at the same time, heading in our direction!

After getting back in the car, we press on along our journey. The journey along the Route 11 is smooth until we have to make the left turn into a smaller country road (Route 101) with only one lane going in each direction.

This is where you have to practice your skills in overtaking safely, or be stuck behind slow-moving traffic, and slowing down your trip by quite a bit!

As we near Chiang Mai, some parts of the road are still under construction. Works are being done to construct viaducts over traffic intersections and also to widen the road to having two lanes. Do watch out for traffic signs and use your common sense as you navigate the road diversions as they might be slightly different to the instructions from your GPS.

We arrive in Chiang Mai in good time, with a 6.5 hour journey, including our escapade to Kaeng Song. Such a beautiful city, with the majestic Doi Suthep welcoming us in the background, mysteriously veiled by a blanket of mist.

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