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Cover story: 25 Sep 06 / Vol. 23 No.12

Back to nature in the western
forests of Thailand
  By Dararai

Humans are meant to live in harmony with mother nature. The more they become attached to materialism and riches in modern civilization, the farther they are from nature. Among those who neglect this inborn instinct, there rises the need to get back to the soothing embrace of verdant mountains and refreshing wind.

A pond surrounded by green vegetation
is found on the trekking trail.

As for salaried people who lead a city life constantly struggling with rush, pollution and stress, a sensational remedy for them is to return to natural surroundings. Close your eyes and flash back to your last recreational vacations. If they are so vague for it was a long time ago, let me escort you to the western forests of Thailand in Tak Province.

Even though it is a big province in the North bordering Myanmar, Tak is often bypassed as people head for the more popular Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai also in the North. Nevertheless, Tak's serene beauty, especially that of Thi Lo Su Waterfall, its famous tourist attraction, has steadily won travellers' heart. New comers are drawn to this veiled terrain by word of mouth.

Thi Lo Su Waterfall stands majestically
with white foaming water all year round.

All in all, Tak Province is proud to present its numerous natural treasure. But allow me to deal only with its Umphang County (district) where Thi Lo Su Waterfall is located.

Introduction to Umphang
Umphang has a mountainous topography. It is the largest among the eight counties of Tak Province. A large number of Karens have been inhabiting here for ages.

In the old days, Umphang was a west garrison town under Uthai Thani Province's jurisdiction. It served as a passport checkpoint where Burmese merchants entered Thailand. These merchants kept their travel documents in a bamboo section with a lid. These documents were called "umpha" in Karen, which later was changed to Umphang.

To get to Umphang
Just a thought of visiting Umphang is a challenge because you are required to go through the 1,219-curve asphalt road meandering into the thickly forested mountainous area. This may cause you a severe motion sickness, so after fastening your seat belt, take a pill immediately as a preventive measure. My suggestion is to travel at night to let yourself sleep while the car is crawling the path like a snake.

The impressive scenery along the
Mae Klong River

From Bangkok, drive along Highway 1 (Phahon Yothin Road), pass Ayutthaya, Angthong, Chainat, Nakhon Sawan and Kamphaengphet provinces and you will reach Tak (Distance 425 km). Then, turn left onto Highway 1090 (Maesot-Umphang), the 1,219-curve road. It takes about 6 hours to finally get to Umphang. A total distance is 668 km.

Thi Lo Su Waterfall

art of Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, Thi Lo Su is a limestone waterfall with a height of 900 m above sea level and a width of 500 m. Thi Lo Su in Karen means a waterfall with a loud noise. Its water source comes from Klo Tho Stream supplying water for the waterfall all year round but the water will be more plentiful in the rainy season. Situated in the embrace of charming luxuriant vegetation, Thi Lo Su is the most beautiful waterfall in Thailand and is ranked among the six most beautiful waterfalls in the world.

The upper leap of Thi Lo su

Here, white foaming water jumps down the sheer cliff. And since Thi Lo Su faces east, rainbows will appear when water spray reflects the sunlight at a perfect angle. The air is real refreshing. You can swim to your hearts' content in its large pond with pleasant cool water. Camping is allowed in the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary.

To get to Thi Lo Su, you can sail along the Mae Klong River and disembark at Tha Sai point. Then, continue travelling on a pickup for about 45 minutes to arrive at Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary. After that you are required to walk to Thi Lo Su Waterfall for about 45 minutes. However, automobiles cannot access the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary in the rainy season (June-October). During this period, you have to walk right from Tha Sai to the waterfall which takes about 3 hours.
Thi Lo Re Waterfall

Thi Lo Re, part of the East Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, means rainbow waterfall as in the morning, rainbows appear in the area. The water jumps down the 80 m high cliff amidst the greenery. It can be reached by dinghy sailing along the Mae Klong River. You are recommended to be there not later than 10:00 a.m. to be able to see the rainbows.

Thi Lo Cho Waterfall

Thi Lo Cho Waterfall
It is not far from Thi Lo Re. The name means the rain drop waterfall. It comprises two levels. The upper level gushes from the sheer cliff while the lower one flows down to the Mae Klong River. The water bursts into drops looking like those of rain. You can go there by trekking or dinghy sailing.

The refreshing cool morning at Doi Hua Mot

Doi Hua Mot Hills

The topography consists of a 30 km limestone mountain range. Early in the morning, you can stand on one of its tops to watch the romantic sunrise and to admire the panoramic view of the puffy sea of mist shrouding the surrounding hills. Plants on the hills are mostly cyad and wild flowers which will abundantly bloom in the rainy season carpeting the hills with their colourful flowers.

Routes to learn the Karen ways of life
Palatha Karen Village
This is an old Karen village of Umphang. Here, elephants are still domesticated as vehicles. The villagers proudly wear their traditional costume and do the weaving themselves.

Paedotha and Umphangkhi Karen Villages

Set in the verdant forests, these villages provide you with authentic karen lifestyles. Home stay services are available if you would like to intimately learn their way of living. If you prefer camping, you can bring a tent by yourself.

Paddling the dinghy along the
Mae Klong River

Routes for shooting the rapids in the Mae Klong River

Umphang-Thi Lo Su
Start your sailing at Umphang town, paddling along the stream past beautiful nature and take a break at Thi Lo Cho Waterfall. Then continue rowing to a hot stream and Takhobi Rapid where white water flows strongly. Let yourself be lulled by the sounds of nature. You will disembark at Tha Sai point. After that, travel on a pickup for about 45 minutes to arrive at Thi Lo Su Waterfall.

The luxuriant forests along the
Mae Klong River

Palatha Karen Village-Thi Lo Re
Begin your adventurous sailing at Palatha Karen Village, you will pass Leketi which is a large rapids stretching for a few kilometres. Then the dinghy will take you to Khon Mong Rapids whose level of difficulty is about 3-4 as the water gushes past rocks. Alongside scenery is so pleasant that you might not notice that you are right in front of Thi Lo Re waterfall.

These two routes are only examples of shooting the rapids in Umphang and the western forests of Thailand. Click the links below for more details on shooting the rapids:
Shooting the Rapids in the North of Thailand : Part 1
Shooting the Rapids in the North of Thailand : Part 2
Shooting the Rapids : What to know?

part from shooting the rapids, Umphang offers you several trails to trek both on foot and on elephant back. Another recommended activity is camping at the East Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary where you can study nature along its forest trails and watch wild animals at night. Consult an authorised travel agent to arrange your personalized trip and activities. Besides, please conform with the rules and regulations of each place.

After soaking yourself in the waterfalls and vitally charging your energy amidst mountains and forests, it's time to get back to real life. It is glad to know that such a pristine nature still remains for us to experience in our lifetime. And it will be a great relief to learn that every traveller bears in mind the preservative conscience when going to any national park or wildlife sanctuary so as to be assured that nature will remain intact no matter how long time passes. Then, whenever life is unbearable, you can be sure that nature is out there to be your refuge.

For the correct pronunciation of romanized Thai words, see
Romanization System of the Thai Language.

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Thaiways : Bangkok, Thailand / Ear & Hearing Aids Center
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