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Below: Other Andaman Coast Destinations - Best of the Rest

Ao Nang - Phanom Bencha National Park

"Phanom Bencha Mountain" means "mountain praying on five pionts" in Thai and is aptly named for its atmosphere of peace and sernity. Huay To Waterfall, with its five-tiered cascades and pools, is the park's most popular attraction; the cascades are located a short and lovely walk from the parking area near the park entrance gate. Huge emergent trees tower 40 metres above the lush cool green of the surrounding forest and are accompanied by the soothing sounds of songbirds and cicadas.

A footbridge crosses the creek just before reaching the first of the five tiers of plunging water and it provides the first good vantage point from which to view the falls. It is possible to sunbathe on a little sandy beach at the base of the crystal clear pools and watch butterflies rise on the updrafts. There are two other waterfalls of note in the park, both of which are truly beautiful to behold when they are at full force.

Huay Sakae waterfall is close to the park headquarters, accessed along a little-used trail. This is also the best trail for anyone wanting to climb to Phanom Bencha mountain's 1,350 meter summit - an endevour that is not for the casual hiker or the faint-hearted. Only about 20 people a year traverse the park by climbing to the summit and descending down the other side. A National Park guide is required to accompany parties and must be booked in advance.

For a true nature lover it is well worth the effort, however, as one observes the transition from dry evergreen forest to cloud forest and sees ground orchids unique in the world, ample wildlife and vistas of Krabi province which cannot be surpassed. The other bonus of traversing the park is to descend past the third significant waterfall, Yod Maphrao. There is a much easier way to reach this falls from the village of Baan Ton Haa - finding ones way to the back-side of the mountain by unmarked dirt roads and then finding the trail to the falls requires a guide.

Stop press Oct 2009- an elephant trekking outfit has recently opened in the Park and is getting great reviews from customers. The elephant trek takes the visitor through untouched primeval jungle, unlike all other elephant trekking in southern Thailand, except that at Khao Sok. The elephant trekking centre is near Huay To waterfall, so visitors can combine an elephant trek with a visit to the waterfall, and to a nearby cave system.

Prices for a Krabi province's best elephant trek, plus a visit to the waterfall and also to a cave system, including lunch and transfers from Ao Nang, are THB 1,500 per adult and THB 900 per child 2-12 years old.

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Click here for the Ao Nang page and here for other destinations.

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