We found the falls by accident on a trial scooter run. Scooters, you see, while adorable and environmentally conscious, come with a certain assumed road etiquette here. While in the states it’s common to hear motorists complain about “those damn motorcycles” when a rider passes cars between lanes or in the shoulder, that very behavior is expected here.
Bikers and cars have entered into a road-sharing contract wherein the two-wheeled vehicles must occupy any empty space between the sidewalk and the lane of cars. Scooters must wedge themselves to the very front of any traffic light by any means necessary, including riding between two lanes of traffic. To “take the lane” or operate as a car while driving a scooter would be dangerous, culturally inappropriate, and even rude, whereas it is one of the most important safety tactics in riding any sort of bike at home.
Couple this with driving on the left-side of the road, and it’s understandable that new scooterists practice driving. When Andy and I have a destination in mind, we have an understanding that we might need to stop, turn around, or take a break. A few days ago, we decided to head out in a new direction, towards the mountains, in search of the arboretum or exercise park.
While we saw the arboretum, the speed of traffic made it impossible to slow down and navigate parking — a hellish endeavor in the best circumstances. Turning around on a high-speed road is worth of a whole day of adventure in and of itself, so we kept plodding forward, ascending a very steep hill. We quickly found that Scooty Puff (our little red Honda Click), while lithe and agile in urban traffic, pathetically chugs and putters up hills with two passengers.
Conveniently, the first available turn-off took us straight to a temple surrounded by flower vendors, coffee joints, food carts, and dogs both stray and peopled. We hopped off Scooty for a quick walk up a path leading to some trees. Here we were harassed by ladies selling jasmine blossom wreaths for temple visitors, stepped over puppies and trash bags, passed up all varieties of grubs, worms, and beetles sold as snacks, and found a park full of families picnicking and kids swimming.
Folks rent mats for 10-20 baht, get snacks, and hang out by the rocky pools at the base of a waterfall. Hiking paths wind up and down the falls, some steep, some slippery, some paved in stair-steps. It’s rumored that aggressive hikers can make it all the way to Wat Phratet Doi Suthep, the famous Buddhist Temple on the mountain top, in a half-day.
This sign would have been helpful to see before scaling a very steep ravine.
In the cool, dry season, the falls are still quite active, with vines more green than brown tumbling down rock faces into water. It’s beautiful, but close to the city and urbanity. Places like Huey Kaew falls make up some of my favorite days in any place–waking up with access to coffee and amenities like a clean bathroom, spending time outdoors, with delicious food and drinks available on your way back to an internet connection and a comfortable bed.
One of the reasons I loved living downtown in Austin was because I could jump on my bike and get to Barton Springs or the Greenbelt for swimming, hiking, climbing, and relaxing before getting beers with friends or catching a movie. I missed this most of all when I moved to North Loop. I’m thrilled to find a National Park two turns and short ride away from my apartment. I’m looking forward to watching the landscape change through the hot and wet seasons, searching for wild orchids, attempting to hike to Wat Phratet Doi Suthep, and eventually, when I’m a bit braver, trying out some of those beetle snacks.
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