Read pretty much any guide on Koh Chang or look at any map and there will be a mention of Klong Neung waterfall, Koh Chang’s tallest, which is located in the south-east of the island. What there won’t, or extremely rarely, will be is any photos of it and most description of how to get there include variations on “You have to climb over a huge boulder to reach the waterfall” . True, there is a large boulder but I chose to go around it rather than to try to climb over it as that seemed the less macho but far more sensible option.
I had tried before to find it, a couple of years ago, and found myself on a path by the side of the river that deteriorated and then proved impassable. This time there was no sign of that path – no part worn trail or anything. So I took the direct route, up the river bed.
At one time the National Park decided to run the waterfall as a tourist attraction. On the way to it you will pass by a derelict visitor centre, toilet block and car park and at the end of the road is a small parking area. But given the location and layout of the waterfall it would never be popular with busloads of visitors. When you arrive at the end of the road and park, it is worth walking a short way up the hill on you left to see the amazing view across Salakphet bay. On a clear day to can easily see Koh Mak and Koh Kood in the far distance.
A very overgrown but noticeable trail begins at this parking area. After about 40 metres you will spot three signs in English and Thai, one warning of a ‘Hlippery route’, asking to you keep the area clean and another that just says ‘PIN’ ( I have no idea either) The trail then leads down a step slope to the river. From here you’d expect the trail to continue somewhere, but it doesn’t. So now you go back to the sign and see if you have missed an arrow or can find another pathway by the side of the river.You can’t, so feel free to skip that step.
Having wasted a bit of time, head back to the river. If you want to see the waterfall then you are going to have to walk upstream. If the river is a raging torrent then it is better to call the adventure off at this point. Otherwise start to make your way upstream. You can see that locals have been here before as water pipes have been laid for around two-thirds of the way to the waterfall, these bring freshwater down to the farms below.
Some trial and error is required when navigating the pools, as some are deep and some of the rocks that you need to scramble up are slippery. So you will probably find yourself crossing from side to side of the river several times in order to find s route that suits you. There are a few areas where you will probably need to either pull yourself up on tree branches, make a hold in a small crevasse on a slippery rock face and one section that required me sliding down a gentle rock slope a couple of metres to the river bed as the alternative was trying to go along lichen covered rocks that were like walking on ice. So you don’t need to be super fit, but this isn’t a walk for young kids or anyone not used to a bit of exercise. Dodging the water pipes also requires some effort as in a couple of places it is very tempting to grab hold of them. Don’t. They aren’t designed to hold a person’s weight and you will piss off the natives if you damage their water supply.
It takes about 20 minutes to get to the waterfall. You know you are close when you come to the big boulder that I mentioned at the top of the page. Go around it to the left. It is pretty straightforward to scramble up the rocks. When you reach the waterfall the first thing you notice is that although it is picturesque, it isn’t very big. There is a narrow gulley around 3 metres wide and 15 metres long, where you can swim, at the far end of which the waterfall cascades down the cliff. There are no long drops, the water runs down the jagged cliffside in a zig-zag fashion. You can make out the top of the falls through the ranches of the overhanging trees but it is had to get a view that shows the height properly.
When you are here you will notice that there is no garbage – a sure indicator that barely anyone comes here. And, as you will have been concentrating on watching your feet rather that staring up at the sky it is now worth looking up and around. There are cliffs on both sides the rock faces obscured by all manner of vines, creepers and greenery. There is no noise other than a few birds & insects and the rustling of leaves in the wind. All in all, a nice spot for a picnic.
Head to the south-east of Koh Chang. Just before you reach Salakphet village you will come to a easy to spot junction. Turn right and go a hundred metres or so and take the small road on your right. This leads about 2km through a small hamlet, coconut plantation, fruit fields and rubber plantation to the start of the walk. It is a very scenic drive on a narrow tarmac road with no traffic.
Photos of the walk: