Most travelers wouldn't get over-excited by yet another waterfall, neither exceptionally tall nor very wide. Swimming in the pool underneath? Well, that's what waterfalls are for, aren't they? In the case of Huay Kaew, however, it's not the dimension or the chance to swim that makes it unique, but the position. It is located on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, within the city boundaries. And while it won't win any prizes for its size, it's a lovely cascade surrounded by greenery. Hop there, grab a Thai coffee, climb the rocks for a view, take a splash, hop back. Or continue to Doi Suthep for a more Buddhist experience.
Huay Kaew Waterfall flows from the mountains to the west of Chiang Mai. Forming a visible border between urban development and wild nature, the area around it is very green, very hilly, and only beginning to resemble a jungle. Or it would, if the authorities hadn't turned it into a recreation ground, kind of an overgrown park. In another town, a place like this would get a label like "lungs of the city" or "a hideaway from the hustle and bustle". Chiang Mai is laid back and full of greenery, it doesn't hustle and breathes with its skin. Still, Huay Kaew makes for a very pleasant afternoon, a short picnic, a walk, and a swim. For a photographer, it could be a good setting for a model shoot.
Numerous stalls near the entrance sell Thai food, snacks, coffee and beer. There's an official regulation prohibiting consumption of alcohol inside the park, but nobody seems to care. If you wish to arrange a small picnic, bamboo mats can be rented for about 20 THB. On weekends, the park gets pretty crowded with Thai students (some of whom bring in beer too), but even on a weekday it's never completely empty. Keep in mind that in the cool season (Dec-Feb) the water may get quite chilly, and in the dry one (Apr-June) there may be too little of it. The rocks leading to the waterfall get progressively slippery as you climb nearer - estimate your fitness level and decide where to stop. Getting up close won't give you a better view, but it feels like a good exercise.
From the North Gate, the red songtaews travel to Huay Kaew when full. The ones passing by will likely only go as far as Nimmanhaemin Rd, about halfway. The ones parked just north of the gate serve tourists headed for Doi Suthep and may try to lure you into hiring them. Unless you have more money than you need (in which case you can simply take a taxi), wait for one of them to fill up. The fair price should be 20-30 THB. If you're in a hurry, you may consider using Grab instead. Finally, since Huay Kaew Waterfall is right inside the city, you can even walk there, combining it with a number of temples along the way. The Chiang Mai Zoo is right next to the waterfall park entrance, too. The distance from the city center is around 6 km. Once there, the entrance is impossible to miss. The cascade itself is a couple of hundred meters inside the park. There's no entrance fee.
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