Elephant riding, bamboo rafting in Umphang
It is an incomparable adventure that I wish to share with you today in presenting the national park of Umphang, one of the most beautiful region of Thailand classified World Heritage by UNESCO. A lot of green activities are possible like trekking in an amazing environment, bamboo rafting and elephant riding. In anyway I will keep a very good souvenir of my four-day stay in this magnificent place of dream situated in the province of Tak.
The starting point of this journey was Mae Sot a city situated at the Burmese border in the northwest of the country where I arrived with my companions after a one-hour flight from the capital. A mini bus was waiting for us for a 164 kilometers drive on a sinuous road in the mountain, named "The road of death" because of the guerrilla conflict that prevented in the past all circulation, but is hopefully without any danger nowadays and let us time to admire the nature before arriving to Umphang for dinner. The silence of nature reminded us that it was time to sleep and we spent the night in a charming bungalow very close to the Huai Mae Klong.
Early in the morning, we were ready for a three-day trek in the national park that started with the descent of the river by rafts made of bamboos. Sailing gently southwards to join Ta Sai, we fully had the time to admire the green strands of the river. For people who might have an apprehension, the descent of the river is perfectly without danger and every raft is always framed by 2 local helmsmen. After a while, we arrived at Ti Lo Jo, a splendid cascade flowing out of a cliff with stalactites and stalagmites covered by ferns. The group enjoyed bathing in this place before taking the rafts for the second discovery not far from there. On the sides of the river where we stopped to have lunch, we saw small geysers springing by intermittence and we relaxed in a source of hot water. The descent to Ta Sai is full of beautiful sites like Phaluat, a very high precipice with a different variety of trees on its top and also hives of bees.
After our arrival in Tai Sai, we went for a short healthy walk of about four kilometers towards the jungle to Ti Lo Su waterfalls. This little walk during the first day, where each one can go his speed, is a manner for the guides to judge the participants' level of fitness, in order to adapt the difficulty of the trek for the following days. At the end of the day, we admired Ti Lo Su the most spectacular waterfall of Thailand that is also the sixth larger in the world with ninety-eight distinct cascades and 400 meters width. We arrived at the end of the day trip, dined there and slept overnight under tents.
After a very refreshing early bathing, our group was then ready for a walk of a few kilometers out of the footpaths through the jungle. From Ti Lo Su to Khota, we had the time to ask all questions to our guide Bounchuay concerning the fauna and the flora of the place, and also take some photos. The villagers' way of life in Khota is very close to the nature, with their hands they grow rice and weave cotton. They also raise elephants that are essential for their transportation in the jungle. We started from there to trek in the jungle on the back of the elephants. The animals and their mahouts allowed us to discover impenetrable places by other means, rocking us from the left to the right then the back to the front on a long distance. We were also in charge of taking care of our own animal in giving him food and bath in the river during the mid-day. We became then more intimate with our pachyderms that continued their heavy walk through spectacular vegetation, awaiting our camp for the night. We had the opportunity once again to take care of our elephants, after they had taken care of us during all day on during this long journey in the forest. It was then time to sing songs and tell stories under the stars before sleeping.
Early morning the third day, after a copious breakfast in the jungle, we left by elephant riding to Pahlatha, a Karen village. There, we abandoned our elephants to their mahouts, and after having observed the way of life of some natives and conversed with them, we got settled for the night in traditional bungalows on the sides of the river. After the dinner, we discovered the traditional Karen songs with our guides around a campfire.
The following morning, after a short trek in the jungle, it was time to return to Umphang by local vehicle, then Mae Sot, where our journey ended.
None of my friends has been disappointed by this environmental and adventurous journey that allowed us to discover this exceptional sanctuary and also share the life of the Karen and their elephants.
Published on 5/20/01