One of the best day trips I undertook from Chiang Rai during my time there, has got to be a visit to the Kuhn Korn Waterfall, the tallest waterfall in Northern Thailand. It’s an easy cycle, the scenery on the way is beautiful and the waterfall, hidden in the lush jungle is quite picturesque. On my visit, I included cycling through the nearby Singha Park and visiting a miniature zoo (free entrance!). If you are looking for an active day trip that can be done independently, this is for you.
– Practical information –
Chiang Rai can be visited year round, but the most pleasant time (little rain, sunny days, not too humid) is December – March. Avoid travelling in late March – early April as this is the period when farmers illegally burn down patches of forest to clear for farming, which wraps the area in a stinky blanket of smoke. I visited in mid-February and even though this was at the end of the dry season, the waterfall still had plenty of water to show for.
200-400B for a decent mountain bike and whatever you spend on supplies and food on the road. Entrance to the Sigha park, zoo and waterfall? All free.
Starting with the good news: I would definitely grader this cycle at ‘beginner level’, so no training is required. Even though the roads are in good condition, I would advice picking a decent MTB over a city bike. The last couple of miles (on the way there) are uphill and you don’t want to ruin your day by being cheap when picking out your wheels and having your bike run a flat tire on a small rock or pothole. After walking and asking around for a bit, I found out that Fat Free has the best bikes in town.
– Money –
– Sunglasses & sunscreen –
– closed shoes –
– swimsuit & towel –
– a bottle of water –
– sugary snacks to fuel yourself during the ride –
– possibly insect repellant in the rainy season –
I didn’t find insect repellant necessary in the dry season. Take into account that the last few miles have zero road shops or stalls, so the last stop where you can buy cheap water is Victoria village. Also, do not expect any changing rooms at the base of the waterfall, I decided to cycle in my swimming shorts to save me the hassle.
– The itinerary –
Roundtrip: 4-5 hours cycling + 1 hour of hiking. Add another hour for the Singha Park loop and time spent at the waterfall. Add time for breaks and to spend at the waterfall itself. Navigating to the falls is very easy. Kuhn Korn is situated 30KM South-West of Chiang Rai and all you need to do is heading out on Route 1211 and follow the signs to the waterfall. After 15 KM you’ll see the Boon Rawd Farm on your right (you’ll see the signs a couple of miles out) which is where the entrance of the Singha park is. Follow the scenic route through the park that takes you to the zoo in about 5 KM, from where you can either finish the scenic route that takes you back to the entrance of the park or do what I did and use your internal compass (and a little help from google maps;) ) to take a short-cut back to the main road. Continue along Route 1211 until you hit Victoria village, where you turn right onto Route 1208 (again, the signs clearly indicate this is the way to the waterfall) for the last 9KM, uphill. After 5KM you turn left onto Route 1384 for the final 4KM climb.
You park your bike at the entrance of the forest park from where it is a 1400M hike through thick and lush jungle up to the waterfall. The way back is just backtracking. First, you breeze through the 9KM long descent along Route 1208, until you turn left onto 1211 to head back into town. Consider stopping for a late lunch at the organic restaurant Huean Arharn Baan Café, (3KM after being back on Route 1211) which serves delicious food from its own organic garden on a perfect terrace overlooking a little pond and rice-paddies beyond.
The first 20 KM are nearly flat after which the road starts to incline, growing steadily steeper until you hit the entrance of the forest park. The last 4KM can be a bit tough, but keep in mind that on the way back this is all going to be downhill (and it’s too late to give up now anyway;) ).
Singha park & zoo
Entrance: free. The first stop on the way to the falls is the Singha park which is easily recognisable by the giant Singha lion that is situated at the front of the park. This area was formerly known as the Boon Rawd Farm, where they farmed barley for the famous Singha beer (Singha is the main beer from the Boon Rawd brewery) and which was not open to the public. This all changed when the company decided to transform the area into a sustainable tourist attraction which became the beautiful Singha park that opened its doors in 2012. The park is a large stretch of hills covered in tea fields, strawberry fields and flower fields. There are also a couple of fruit-orchards dotting the scene and the park hosts a miniature zoo with zebra’s, oxes and giraffes.
Even though the park is not overly exciting, rolling over the smooth hills on a mountain bike is fun and the scenery is really quite pretty. I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of the park, and it contrasts really well with the otherwise rough rural scenery along the route and the lush jungle hike at the end. If you want to do the full loop, calculate in a whole hour, a bit more if you want to include some photo stops along the way.
Kuhn Korn waterfall
With its 70 meters, the Kuhn Korn waterfall is the tallest of its kind in Northern Thailand. It is not a delicate nor elegant waterfall with bright blue waters and multiple levels to have a dip but rather just a robust jet of water thundering down from the peaks of the canopy onto black rocks below. The rush from the water is so violent that it causes strong winds to blow from its base, which can be felt even when standing more than a 100 meters away.
From the entrance of the Kuhn Korn forest park, it is a pretty steep 1400 meter hike through the thick jungle and bamboo forest. Flipflops are probably not the best idea. When I visited there was a whole class of scouts visiting too, but other than that is not very crowded. There are no shops or stalls at the waterfall base.
– Eating and sleeping –
I must admit that I am one of those persons that get really cranky when running on fumes. After having cycled for about 50 kilometres, having hiked for a couple more, and having spent quite some time playing with my new young boy-scouts friends on the rocks at the waterfall base I started to get pretty cranky. When the initial rush of the descent on the way back was worn off, my travel buddy was getting increasingly annoyed with me complaining. When we found Huean Arharn Baan Café it was probably almost literally, a lifesaver.
Both the restaurant as well as the host of Huean Arharn Baan is awesome. When they saw us arriving by bike we were immediately offered free bananas and water to replenish some calories while waiting for our food and fruit shakes to be prepared. All food is grown on their own organic farm and tastes incredible. Although I cannot deny that, being inches away from starvation, I wasn’t particularly picky at that moment.
After our meal, we suddenly realised that we needed to get our bikes back to the rental shop before 6 PM. Considering I had already booked my boat trip to Luang Prabang the next morning, handing in the bikes the next day wouldn’t be an option. When I remembered that I used my passport as a deposit for the bikes I got quite anxious. But there again was Huean Arharn Baan to the rescue. When I explained the situation they immediately called the rental shop to tell them we would we a bit later: problem solved.
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