Thailand's best wild swimming spots

Thailand might not be known for its clear lakes and water sources but there are plenty of places where it's safe and fun to go for an invigorating dip

(THE NATION/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - With the sun still shining brightly and the rainy season running late, there's little more rewarding than finding a secret pool and cascades in the woods, stripping off and plunging in, or diving into a jade-green lake surrounded by sheer canyon walls.

Unlike the hotel pool, wild swimming comes with an aura of something slightly naughty, a little bit scary and wonderfully invigorating. And fortunately for those who love to take an alfresco dip, Thailand's secluded wild has plenty to offer.

Here our take on the six best places to take the plunge.

Hangdong Grand Canyon, Chiang Mai

A young traveller enjoying a plunge at Hangdong Grand Canyon, Chiang Mai province. PHOTO: THE NATION/PHOOWADON DUANGME

The so-called "Grand Canyon" is actually a huge abandoned quarry that was discovered by backpackers out to find a cheap thrill. This rain-fed quarry lake, which is more than 30 metres deep and boasts a sheer wall of earth, in fact has plenty more to offer more than a cheap thrill. Deep and still, the Grand Canyon is a fine place to enjoy a freefall plunge. If springing off the earth platform gives you cold feet, get hold of a rowing boat and enjoy a gentle dip instead.

Kwai Noi River, Kanchanaburi

This is one of the best wild swims and it's also within easy reach of Bangkok. Most weekenders come here to enjoy rafting along the wild stretch of river with its chalky banks and clear water. Alternatively, you can swim downstream at the Sai Yok Yai waterfall. The fall - which boasts a picturesque 10-metre cascade that drops directly into the Kwae Noi River - is one of the best places for a dip.

Wah River, Nan

Weekenders at Wild Wah River tend to swim even when they would prefer to stay dry. PHOTO: THE NATION/PHOOWADON DUANGMEE

When it comes to epic white-water adventures, little can match the wild Wah River in Nan province. Adrenaline junkies and private groups typically take three days to move through the water in the wildest section of the Wah River, with the journey kicking off in the remote rainforest near the Thai-Laotian border. You have plenty of chances to swim in the wild Wah (even if you'd prefer not to) as the rapids are prone to flipping your boat over every now and then. Camping along the river is part of the unique experience and the water is crystal clear if on the cold side.

Erawan Waterfall, Kanchanaburi

Weekenders swimming along the cascades of Erawan Waterfall in Kanchanaburi. The waterfall - where crystalclear water gushes into hundreds of pools - is one of the best natural spots to swim. PHOTO: THE NATION/PHOOWADON DUANGMEE

Named after the triple-headed elephant Erawan, the mount of Indra in Hindu mythology, the area is a kind of living museum, preserving the flora and fauna of a tropical rainforest. The centrepiece, however, is the Erawan Waterfall where seven cascades sweep down in a rush of white water over the course of two kilometres. No matter how many times you've been before, it's always hard to resist stripping down to your shorts and plunging in. To escape the crowds, you'll probably have to hike to the higher cascades. Erawan Waterfall is one of the best natural spots to swim. The crystal-clear water gushes into hundreds of pools and there are no jagged rocks to worry about thanks to the limestone geology.

Thee Loh Su Waterfall, Tak

Thee Loh Su Waterfall, Tak Province, is the country's largest and widest waterfall. PHOTO: THE NATION/PHOOWADON DUANGMEE

You will find one of the most amazing waterfall plunge pools in Thailand in the western mountains of Tak province. Billed as the country's largest and highest waterfall, the cascade rumbles 250 metres into the Mae Klong River. The 450-metre-wide falls create many chalky lagoons - big and small - of jade-green and clear water. To avoid the crowds, visit the waterfall on a weekday and pitch your tent at the office of the wildlife sanctuary.

Bang Pae Waterfall, Phuket

Bang Pae waterfall is a cascade that sweeps through the evergreen forest of Khao Phra Thaeo National Park. Visitors come here to stay away from the tourists on the western coast. It's quite a hike from the entrance to the waterfall in the jungle, but the sight of the water rushing down 10 metres from the higher overhang stone to the plunge pool makes the walk worthwhile. You can "go exotic" and take a refreshing dip in the drop pool, which makes the infinity pool at a boutique hotel look like a fish tank.

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