I hugged the side of the road as cars and motorbikes zoomed past me. I was used to riding a scooter now in Asia, but I still refused to go much faster than 60kph, even on a main road like this one. I felt my wife’s fingers dig into me each time a truck or bus went past, the force of it making it feel like our little scooter would fly off of the road.
We had only been on this main highway outside of Chiang Rai for a couple of kilometres, visiting Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple) in the morning. With the rest of the day to spare we had decided to visit one of the waterfalls in the area.
Before too long I spotted the sign to Khun Kon Waterfall, and as soon as I turned onto the more minor road, our scooter journey instantly became more peaceful.
The small bituminised road twisted and turned through small villages and farms with bright green rice fields and mountains in the background. Little roadside stalls sold random fruit and vegetables, and the odd dog or chicken darted off the road when we got near.
Eventually the road began following the course of a crystal clear stream, and I knew that that would probably lead us to our destination. The sign that read “National Park” confirmed that we were in the right place.
The villages and rice fields were now replaced with green tropical rainforest and banana trees as the road steadily climbed in elevation. Crossing the stream for one last time, it was time to park our scooter and rely on our feet to take us the rest of the way.
The muddy trail took us across the stream several times, remaining fairly flat, before proceeding high above the creek under the thick rain forest canopy. The trail was only a few kilometres, but having not planned to go hiking today, we were tackling this walk in our flip flops, so the odd steep slope made things a little harder than usual, particularly in the muddier parts.
We passed a couple of other travellers on the way, but otherwise had the trail and the forest to ourselves, walking underneath tall stands of bamboo and the rainforest trees above. The hot humid air made me sweat a lot, and I was looking forward to getting to the waterfall.
Eventually I could hear that familiar roaring sound that only a waterfall can make, and I knew that we were almost there. When we did get there, there was a huge group of people – part of some adventure tour group – that were just packing up to leave. We couldn’t have timed it better. Within five minutes we had the waterfall all to ourselves.
The huge volume of water from the recent rains thundered down over the cliff, creating a beautiful cool refreshing spray that was instant relief from the heat and humidity. The trail led down the slippery steps to the creek and pool below, but I was content just to stand there in the spray, enjoying this amazing place that we were in.
Visiting Khun Kon Waterfall was a spur of the moment decision. We hadn’t planned on visiting it. We didn’t even know it existed until we looked at a map when we were at The White Temple. Our day had turned into a full day of scooter riding through the beautiful countryside of Northern Thailand, sightseeing and hiking. It was a wonderful feeling of freedom and adventure. When you travel, try not to plan too much. Be flexible. You’ll be surprised at what you discover.