Road Trip – Phuket, Thailand to Sangkhla Buri, Thailand
Well it surely was supposed to be a long drive all the way to Sangkhla Buri which was almost 1000kms from Phuket, but then it promised to be very scenic. Sangkhla Buri was the north western border town in Thailand sharing the border with Burma. The famous three pagodas pass is here. Well I will tell more about Sangkhla Buri in the Travelogue -3 and focus now on the drive. The route was Phang Nga – Ranong – Prachuap Kiri Khan – Phetchaburi – Ratchaburi – Kanchanaburi – Sangkhla Buri. It was simple head down Highway 402, turn into Highway 4 till Ratchaburi where 4 branches off towards Bangkok and we need to join 323 and then it was a straight drive on it all the way to Sangkhla Buri
So we did leave early. Around 8AM. Headed straight out of Phuket on highway – (). Having had a hearty breakfast, we decided to drive all the way not stopping for anything. But that plan was shortlived as my friend immediately felt the pressure and needed to stop! So stop we did at a road side restaurant which promised to have a restroom. Quickly took some quick bites and juice and soon headed back on the road towards Sangkhla Buri. Well little did we know that this would prove to be a really long drive, thanks to all the detours the route had to offer. We headed to the first signboard pointing to a waterfall. It was a detour for sure. After a short bit, there was no proper road and was just a mud track. But not to be discouraged, we continued and headed to the clearing which seemed to be where we can park and head to the waterfall. We just did that, headed towards a path which we thought headed to the waterfall and it indeed did. But not anything to be greatly impressed by, also it was the stream which lead to the waterfall rather than the waterfall itself, which didn’t interest us much, but we did stick around for a while just to enjoy the nice feeling of feeling one with nature. We then headed back to the highway only to take another detour when we spotted another beach signage! Again it was a beautiful beach and we enjoyed thoroughly being the only ones at the beach. We quickly ate some biscuits and chips we had packed as lunch and headed back out on the highway.
This time the detour was indeed a long and winding one. The approach to the place was short and we had park and take to our feet. We crossed a stream which we found to be coming from the roaring waterfall ahead. We headed out on foot, not even faintly equipped for a trek – what with one of my friends wearing crocs for footwear. We headed uphill and found at one spot, what we were pursuing – the large waterfall a great distance away. It was marked as 700m from where we saw it. We continued to steep uphill trek to reach our chosen destination. In some 200-300m we saw that the path had been blocked out by a stone wall and fencing but then it was for a short distance and we could go around it. So that’s what we did went around it, found an abandoned loo (as what we thought it to be), plantations to one side, people spraying pesticides there and none of them even faintly acknowledging our presence there. From there all we could see was the forest becoming denser a small and growingly sparingly used trail with some faint yellow arrows pointing in some general direction we wanted it to point. Feeling a bit lost, we were contemplating turning around back to the car when we found 2 dogs who had been sometimes following us and sometimes leading us all this while leap up and lead us deeper into the forest. We did follow them a good distance before 2 of us felt that it was just a futile attempt as we were just going further and further deep in the forest and the sound of the roaring waterfall was almost not anymore present telling us we were headed the wrong way and just exhausting ourselves in a new country and unpopulated jungle. The other two coaxed us to head deeper, and we did do that till better sense prevailed and we reluctantly made our way back to the car.
On the way back we were back in our elements building up stories about how the place was a mica extraction zone and why they shut it for public access and all that bullshit. In retrospect, it was fun and maybe we should have had the guts to go a bit deeper and check it out. But we neither had the time or the equipment to do that. Maybe the next time we hit the road and are able to spot the same place, which has a slightly better probability than falling debris from a satellite hitting us, we decided to surely try it. Got back to the car and headed back to the highway. This time we just didn’t want to stop anymore at any waterfall, but then one just captivated us, it was a really big one, the waterfall big enough to be spotted from the highway itself. We then decided to take the quick detour, but this time not waste anytime. It was a national park and we did go in, enquired and was told the place closes by 6:30PM so we need to be back in an hour and half. So we headed out and were disappointed when we found that the waterfall broke off somewhere between the height we saw it at from the highway and the ground and was a far more relaxed one inside the national park. While a couple of us decided to take a dip, we just sat and wasted time, spotted a huge spider and had a photo op with our new found eight legged model and headed back to the highway.
Along the way there is a part where the road almost runs parallel to the border with Myanmar and it is hardly 2kms to the border from this highway at places like KraBuri, Nam Chuet. It was soon dark and it was late when we headed out and decided to stop by Kanchanaburi for the night, but we were around Prachuap Kiri Khan and it was about 3 hours away. Thailand’s smaller towns, pretty much like India, shuts down 10PM and there will be no one out on streets, not even cops. So we didn’t want to be stranded and decided to stop at the next bigger town we hit around 10PM. It was Cha Am as Pran Buri was missed somehow. We found a nice little place there and crashed for the night. We headed out at 8AM to Kanchanaburi and then to Sangkhla Buri. We didn’t stop anywhere except for a quick breakfast at a 7-11 along the way to Kanchanaburi the next big town. After we hit Kanchanburi and got some currency exchanged we headed off on the new highway to Sangkhla Buri.
We did stop at a couple of waterfalls at Sai Yok and saw an engine used in WWII at the same place. But made far fewer stops and made steady progress towards Sangkhla Buri. We had to reach the other side of the valley to reach our destination and it was just 4PM and hardly 60+kms to go, but we did underestimate the tough terrain and the rains that welcomed us to this border town. We drove the general direction to road went in and depended on the on-off GPS signals we were getting. We got to a dark and small town, much smaller than we had expected it to be. It was dark as it had no power. Even the streetlights were out.
It was two days, 1000kms but still the view and the experience made it feel like it was not such a big deal.