Unveiling the essence of Asia

Destination Waterfall – Secret Retreats’ Favourite Waterfalls in Asia



Asia is a land of immeasurable variety and contrasts, whatever your interests or whatever your travel goals, the 50 countries and states that make up what is the largest continent on earth offer the traveller countless opportunities. And the landscapes and natural beauty of Asia are certainly one of the continent’s biggest draws. From Himalayan heights to uncountable tropical islands, there is a journey for all seasons in Asia’s boundless landscapes. In this week’s newsletter we want to turn the focus to a few of our favourite waterfalls found in or near some of Secret Retreats’ destinations and share with you some ideas to inspire you to stride out into the nature that surrounds these iconic locations and enjoy the sights and sounds of these wonderful waterfalls.

 Asian countries have countless beautiful waterfalls weaving their way through myriad landscapes. The convergence of majestic mountains and mighty rivers create magnificent waterfalls all around the region. As with staring at the sea, one never tires of looking up at cascading water. The power of nature is evidenced in the smoothed rocks sculpted into curves and bowls by the passing waters, where centuries of time passed are beautifully, almost artistically, marked in rock. The light plays within the spray and mist that shrouds the waterfall, with sparkling diamonds of light and momentary flashes of colour. All this beauty is immersed within a symphony of sound, a song of the earth that inspires reverie in all who witness it. Drink in the ozonated air, enjoy the cool freshness that washes over you almost as if the waterfall is breathing, rejuvenating and cleansing you with each breath. And take a moment to meditate on life, all life, and how blessed we are to live on this beautiful blue marble hanging in space. This to me, is the beauty of waterfalls.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand is spoilt for choice when it comes to waterfalls, and the mountainous north of the country is home to some of our favourites. The ancient city of Chiang Mai is set within a river valley and is surrounded by forested mountains. Within these forests and on the sides of the hills and mountains, waterfalls are to be found. At some, Buddhist temples have been built adjacent to the cascade, setting wonderful scenes for meditation and contemplation as is the case at Pha Lat Temple on Suthep Mountain to the west of the city. Gentle cascades over wide smooth rock pass an enigmatic moss-covered terrace. This forest temple and its waterfall, the Pha Lat Waterfall, has a timeless air that inspires meditation.

Chiang Mai is also home to Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon 2,565m. A beautiful, forested region, it is protected as a national park and attracts visitors, both domestic and international, to its natural wonders all year round. And here, Mae Ya has to be the king of the mountain amongst Doi Inthanon’s waterfalls. Possibly Thailand’s second biggest waterfall, estimates of its size are more than 300 feet wide and over 900 feet tall, it is an impressive sight. The trail brings you to the plunge pool from where you can look up at this steep tree lined cascade. And while you are here, head to the little known Phu Dok Siew Waterfall where the waters seem to gush like a geyser from out of the forest. A good 30minute trek from the nearest parking spot makes this a relatively quiet spot to visit, as with so many waterfalls in Inthanon National Park having easy parking nearby, the waterfalls that require a trek reward their visitors with no crowds or ‘selfie’ queues. While size isn’t everything, who’s got the biggest waterfall in Thailand has not been definitively answered as no surveys have been done. But the close contender to Mae Ya is also in north Thailand, northwest to be exact, in the Umphang National Park of Tak province. Here lies Thi Lor Su Waterfall. A very impressive series of steep thundering cascades within a beautiful forest setting. Estimates put this waterfall to be nearly 980 feet tall and 1,500 feet wide. And beautifully off the beaten path, treks to this waterfall are rewarded with no crowds, and plunge pools where you can bathe and cool off.

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Luang Prabang and Champasak, Laos

Laos, like neighbouring Thailand, has no shortage of beautiful waterfalls and 2 of our favourites are in 2 of our favourite destinations in Laos. Starting in the ancient capital city of Laos, Luang Prabang in Northern Laos, the absolute must see waterfall here has to be Kuang Si Waterfall. This waterfall is picture postcard beautiful, in fact it adorns many of the postcards in Luang Prabang’s shops. Set within forest 20miles south of the city, the waterfall is a series of cascades over 3 tiers with the last cascade an impressive 200 feet drop into an aquamarine plunge pool. There are several pools along the course of the waterfall, always popular with trekkers to cool off in.

From north to south, we now head to Champasak. Located in Southern Laos on the banks of the Mekong River, Champasak is home to a variety of spectacular water-based natural wonders all thanks to its proximity to one of Asia’s great rivers, the Mekong. And our favourite falls are here, right here, within the Mekong itself. Listed as Laos’ biggest waterfall Khone Phapeng Falls are 35,000 feet wide, yes, it is the widest waterfall in the world. The falls are the reason why the Mekong is not navigable to China and lead to the construction of a narrow-gauge railway, the Don Khon Railway, to bypass this stretch of the Mekong. Home also to one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, the Mekong Catfish, these giant fish reach sizes of up to 3metres long. The Khone Pha Peng Falls cascade for more than 6miles and create another of the area’s natural wonders, ‘Si Phan Don’ or 4,000 islands. The force of the falls along this stretch of the river has carved literally 1,000s of islands from the limestone bedrock, creating this unique riverine scenery, truly a stunning sight. Not the highest falls in this list, with the highest drop along the length of these falls at just 70 feet, the sheer scale of this Laos waterfall is what impresses.

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Bali, Indonesia

One of the most popular beach destinations in the world for travellers across all age groups, Bali is romance, natural wonders, incredible history, rich and vibrant local culture and adventure all in one. Over the years, this Indonesian island has charmed its way into its visitors’ hearts through its many beaches, waves and coral reefs, breathtaking volcanic scenery, unique temples and festivals, delicious food and warm hospitality. And the waterfalls in Bali can easily compete with all the island’s other attractions as to what impresses a visitor most during their holidays here. Many of Bali’s waterfalls are off the beaten path and set within the lush, verdant rainforests and deep mountain valleys of the island’s central highlands. But sometimes being on the beaten path has its advantages, and our pick for Bali is one of those times.

Located near the rural, bohemian and arty central Bali town of Ubud, the Tegenungan Waterfall is an impressive cascade. A beautiful spot, set within forest, it is only about 30 minutes’ drive from Ubud, and as such is well serviced both by tourists and tourist services. If you prefer little or no people, come early, the park opens at 6.30am, and is open (chargeable previously at 15,000 IDR p.p.) to 6pm. On the approach to the falls there are cafes and public conveniences – a good place to change if you plan to take a dip – and the facilities and ease of access make this a very family friendly place to visit. The falls are fed by the Tukad Petanu river, and the waters drop nearly 50 feet into a large plunge pool below where you can swim, bathe and even go behind the falls. During the rainy season the volume of water obviously increases, and the falls discharge an impressive force of water, so much in fact that often the lifeguards stop people from entering the plunge pool. Visits to the falls after the rainy season, December through February, are best for crystal clear water and to be sure bathing is allowed. Local tradition has it that the waters of Tegenungan Falls have healing properties, believed to be good for healing sprains and broken bones, and new mothers too often bring their babies here for blessings.

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Sabah, Malaysia

While most visitors arrive in Sabah via the busy coastal city of Kota Kinabalu, the state capital, in less than an hour’s drive you can be in the heart of national parks, wildlife reserves and beautiful nature retreats. Sabah’s landscape varies from scenic coast up into densely forested hills popular for trekking, waterfalls and wildlife viewing. In fact, more than half of Sabah is covered in tropical jungle and the state is home to many reserves and national parks. And let’s not forget Sabah is also home to Southeast Asia’s highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu 4,095m. This Malaysian state of superlative natural beauty stretches across the northern tip of the island of Borneo and is bordered to the southwest by the other Malaysian state of Sarawak and to the south by Indonesian Kalimantan. Popular islands off the coast include Manukan Island, Sipadan and Pulau Tiga which was made famous as the location for the first ‘Survivor’ reality TV show.

A land for curious travellers in search of adventure both at sea and in the jungle, a stay in Sabah makes for a trip of a lifetime, and especially so for nature lovers. Tucked into the dense lowland jungles southwest of Mount Kinabalu, Poring Hot Springs and Nature Reserve is a Sabah resort perfect for relaxation and ideal as your base for exploring and enjoying Sabah’s natural wonders. Our pick of the waterfalls here has to be the Langanan Waterfall in Poring. The tallest waterfall in Sabah, the water drops down a steep rock face of more than 390 feet, fed from water off Mount Kinabalu. On the way to this impressive Sabah waterfall you will pass by the smaller Kipungit Waterfall which is a great place for a picnic. The trek is around 4km along established nature trails through Sabah’s renowned rainforest. After your invigorating trek through the jungle, relax and soothe your muscles with a soak in Sabah’s very own ‘onsen’, the natural springs at Poring Hot Springs and Nature Reserve. Plan your next vacation to explore and enjoy Asia’s natural wonders. Contact the Secret Retreats Concierges and benefit from our insider knowledge on your chosen destination in Asia, and book with the peace of mind that our concierges are on-hand to support you all the way.

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