Wednesday, October 20, 2010

No sunny rainbow

Umphang district is synonymous with waterfall fame, at least in Thailand. Literally located at the end of one of Southeast Asia's most twisting and winding roads (just over 1200 curve's until the next district of Mae Sot) national tourists flock here, not to experience the torturous road, but to visit Thi Lo Su, claimed to be Thailand's 'largest' waterfall (height 200m, breadth 400m, see blog entry on Waterfalls of Thailand). Wikitravel adds that it's among the worlds six most beautiful waterfalls.

As apparently the final 40 km of road from Umphang village to the waterfalls are closed during the rainy season (visit took place early October 2010) visiting the waterfalls is not a lightly undertaken mission, an offer my son was not willing to give.

Heading into the wild.

So we opted for second best, rafting down Mae Klong river (which is another reason Thai tourist flock to here outside of the rainy season). Though Thi Lo Sur wouldn't be on the cards, a delightful hot spring (see Soaking in Siam) and the undisturbed wilderness would. And there's the sensation of floating on the raft below a waterfall, the waterfall called Thi Lo Jau (Thi Lo Cho or Saifon) Both translate (from Karen and Thai) as rainbow.
Apparently once the sun shines early morning you can see a rainbow. Despite this info and the urgency to get there early, the sun wasn't shining so no neat pictures of the rainbow. But no need to worry internet guarantees that somewhere there is the picture perfect of the waterfall and rainbow in one.

Because of the remoteness of Thi Lo Jau, boat is the only option in getting here and the only option in experiencing the falls as it is located in a canyon like setting: both banks of the river are steep rocks. Boats / rafts leave from just outside of Umphang village and in season combine a visit to Thi Lo Su, while out of season one needs to walk (3-4 hours) and add an overnight stay. In the rainy season though, after a total of 5 hours, you and the raft are brought back the 25+ kms to Umphang.

World of waterfalls has beaten me to posting this on their blog, much better photo's too.

Another similar fall.

There are more waterfalls along the way, some bigger some smaller. This one (see photo's below) on a side river has it's own name, Mor something.

Elsewhere in and around Umphang, besides the two waterfalls above there are the waterfalls of Le Tong Khu,
Thi Lo Rae, Sepla (Se Pla or Ze Pala) and even Thi Cha Na Ta.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A lot of Calamus

Heading south from Mae Sot towards Thailand's wild west capital of Umphang, there are a few opportunities to visit some waterfalls. One of which is the often visited Pha Charoen waterfall located in the national park of the same name.
However as one also has to return via the same road there's another opportunity to visit a waterfall in the same national park without everybody being stressed out about yet again a waterfall.

Pa Wai (or Ba Wai) waterfall is well signposted off the Umphang - Mae Sot highway no. 1090 though the distance from the highway is not the announced 9 km rather double. Access is south of Phop Phra district around km 40.

Apparently the name of the waterfall is derived from the plant of the same name (Calamus Caesius, rattan, see also below).

There aren't many facilities other than a toilet and a shelter, though there are a couple of makeshift bridges.

In reality the stream falls over a great many steps amounting to a fall of around 40m.
As the steps are small and wide there are many trees in-between giving the area something special, though there is no big pond at the bottom of the falls, there are a number of steps to splash around in.

On the other side there is a deep sink hole (see photo above) where a part of the stream falls in, only to reemerge at the foot of the cliff. there is also a cave for those visitors fortunate enough to have a torch on them all the time. And a large tree at the bottom of the cliff.

The official Thai Department of National Parks website there is this about the waterfall:
'Bawai [Pa Wai] waterfall is a 100-step limestone waterfall, originating from Huai Wai with the flowing water throughout the year. The Waterfall is situated in virgin forest consisting of medium-sized/large plants. The Waterfall is called “Bawai Waterfall” because there are a lot of Calamus Caesius within the area'.

'To admire this waterfall, one must walk from its ground floor to the upper level. Then, go further for around 30 m, visitors will see a channel of about 10 m wide where flowing water falls and disappears under the mountain base. The waterfall originates from Pa Wai Creek where water flows all year round and many rattan plants grow. It is therefore named ‘Pa Wai’, which means a rattan forest'.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Naming an extensive national park (855 km2) according to just one of the included waterfalls reaps up dreams of a magnificent and all-encompassing waterfall.

So when heading to Pha Charoen (Pa Charoen) waterfall we were expecting just that. The waterfall can hardly be missed and entails no extra effort if you heading on highway 1090 between Mae Sot and Umphang, Tak province, Thailand.

Located a km from the turnoff (km 37) the biggest surprise is that one can enter this national park free, though one does need to sign something.
The parking area looks well-equipped to contain those many visitors eager to see the name-giving waterfall of this national park. The foot of the waterfall has been transformed into a park, complete with fitness track. And the bottom of the fall is certainly picture perfect but would I name a national park after this waterfall?
No, not really. Though very nice, it's not so extraordinary. In all there are 97 steps as the stream tumbles down 50 m (
source) apparently, didn't count them myself.

We continue upwards along the side of the fall looking for a more discreet dipping place. Along the way there are some enticing pools but we seem to have adopted some youth whose day needs spicing up in the form of tagging along with foreigners. Beyond the lip of the fall, the stream still continues to drop, less in height but with bigger pools. But our bodyguard doesn't loose sight of us, so we return an illusion lighter. Other time other place.

Beyond the lip

Pha Charoen National Park contains more waterfalls such as Pa Wai, Saifa, Huai Tapu-kor, Nang Chron and Taralak (or Thararak).

World of waterfalls includes this waterfall as well with roughly the same sort of blog entry as above but with more photo's and a video, and complaints about visitors walking in the picture. It's funny but from many photo's on the web, it seems that this waterfall is visited more for ecstatic reasons, nowhere do we see people splashing around.

View downwards

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Couple of waterfalls

Lan Sang waterfall.

Located nearer Tak town than Taksin Maharat National Park (see also entry on Pang Ah Noi waterfall) is the national park of Lan Sang (sometimes written as Lansang). Just 17 kms along a gradually climbing towards the foot of the mountains road in the direction of Mae Sot (Highway 105).

As always there's a significant entry fee (~$US 7), but with the added benefit that the aforementioned Taksin N.P. is included in the same price if visited the same day.

Once past paying the road continues onwards along the Lan Sang stream for another km until one reaches a carpark. By then one could have already visited the Lan Lieng waterfall.
At the carpark there is also an information kiosk and after some search a toilet, oddly that they built two toilet structures next to each other.

A short amble gets you to Lan Sang waterfall itself. The waterfall is a small series of 5-10m drops between a rocky gully. Some good pools for splashing but as this is easily accessible it might be a little too public for my (and wife's) exhibitionist behavior. Or so it maybe construed. Careful.

Instead we notice the nearby signboard which mentions a number of waterfalls along the same riverulet but more upstream. All seem within an hours walk (the furthest, Pa Tay (Pha Te) is only a little more than 2 km away) and my wife and I decide to tackle the track to the next fall. The track alongside the stream is narrow and beginning to be overgrown. About 30 minutes up is Pa Pueng, the destination. This fall is much more open and is actually the stream going along a 20m slope rather than a real fall. Nonetheless a great place to hang out naked.

Pa Pueng waterfall during rainy season (October 2010).

On our way back we discover a much more worn track which though longer takes just the same amount of time. Once back we discovered we were just a short distance from the next waterfall Pa Noi.

More photo's of Lan Sang here and here.

This website provides a good insight:
'Legend has it that while leading an attack on Chiang Mai, King Krung Thon Buri became separated from his troops. In the dark forests, his soldiers were forced to wait for daylight to search for their beloved King. ' That night, a strange light appeared in the sky and the soldiers heard the King's horse whinny in the distance. They followed the horse's cries until dawn, when they came across their King mounted on his trusty steed. This site was aptly named "Lan Sang", the "Dawning Ground"'.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Taksin Maharat National park is not commonly known for it's waterfalls. There's the tree which it's claimed to be Thailand's largest (of it's sort; 16m in diameter, 50m high and 700 years old) and somewhere in the park is also a natural rock bridge.

Visiting the tree known as Krabak tree (Anisoptera Spp., an endangered tree species) though has the added value of also visiting the Pang Ah Noi waterfall, which is situated a km downstream.
The fall is rather non-descript though, simply some of water crashing 20m along a rock face. That said there are a few nice pools (along the stream not necessarily under the fall), but the jungle here is pretty intense. On our visit (October 2010) leeches (literally) were out in full force and though they're not the kind of creatures to permanently damage you, the remainder of the day was very bloody. In all the trek to the tree and waterfall is a nice 1,5 km triangular trek, not too complicated or strenuous, but rewarding and devoid of people.

Pang Ah Noi, with the emphasis on 'noi' (Thai for small)

Taksin Maharat National Park is located in Tak province, lower northern Thailand and the park was initially named after the tree until someone saw the light. There's this description:
'Taksin Maharat is a rugged mountainous park, often swathed in cooling mists. Thanon Thongchai mountain is a major watershed area. Evergreen forest and pine forest cover the upper hills, with deciduous and dipterocarp forest in the lower elevations. Wildlife includes serow, sambar deer, barking deer, golden cat, wild pig, and bear. Visitors can enjoy cool fresh air all year round. The nights can be chilly during the winter in the months of November till February'.
The park (and tree and (possible other?) waterfalls) are easily accessed from the Tak - Mae Sot highway 105, the national park entrance being 26 km up (elevation 1000m) the road from Tak.
Possible to combine with Lan Sang National Park which is nearer Tak town. The entrance fee to both is the standard fee for entrance with the possibility of getting 2 (National parks) for the price of 1!

The Krabak tree after which the national park was initially named.

Elsewhere on the internet is another visit blogged here (more on the natural bridge) and here (for birders).
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