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16-02-09, 05:04 PM #1Forum Member
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Useful Info About Um Phang / Ti Lo Su Waterfall
Just came back from a fun trip to Um Phang / Umphang (4-5 hours south of Mae Sot), home of the largest waterfall in Thailand, Ti Lo Su (Tee Lor Su, many spellings).
I noticed that nearly all the info on the internet about Um Phang is incorrect, or at least incomplete as concerns the typical backpacker traveler. Here's some pointers:
- Um Phang DOES have two banks and at least one ATM. You don't have to bring cash any more.
- The road from Mae Sot to Um Phang is indeed very windy and steep but it is PAVED and in excellent condition. I took it real slow and did the trip in 6 hours. Most typical bikers would take 4-5 hours. It is an incredibly beautiful road; you feel like you are floating above the mountains. It is not for motorbike beginners. It is comparable to the road to Pai from Chiang Mai. If you leave Um Phang early in the morning, say 7:30am like I did, there will be few cars but you will freeze your butt off--beware!
- There are regular song teeows (pickup truck taxis), more than 8 per day, between Mae Sot and Um Phang. If you go the day before you can reserve the front seat. You may have to buy 2 tickets to avoid getting sandwiched and that is 100% WORTH IT! Just a few 100 baht and you can enjoy one of the most beautiful rides in the country without puking or being compressed against anyone.
- The whole town is 100% set up for large groups of Thai tourists. Everything is oriented around them. Unlike other towns like Pai, Um Phang never had a farang tourist boom: it's always been Thais, and Thais come in huge, noisy groups. If you come as a lone traveler, you will be disappointed to find the cheapest tour to the Ti Lo Su waterfall is 1600 baht (typically more like 2100 baht) and you must find other travelers to share the trip yourself. This might be possible on weekends (though on Thai holiday weekends there will be way too many tourists so avoid that too) but it's very difficult on weekdays. We saw one backpacker get here and leave the next day since she could not afford any tour!
- Guesthouses are nearly all set up for large groups, with large rooms and lots of annoying loud distractions like Karaoke. We got a "600B" room for 275B at Garden Huts on a quiet weekday, but still had to hear the karaoke place across the road occasionally. I saw there was one guesthouse called Trekker Hill that seemed to be far away from all Karaoke (but I could be wrong). All the other places I saw were in the Thai Tourist Danger Zone.
- You CANNOT ride your private vehicle all the way to Ti Lo Su waterfall unless it is a 4x4 or high-clearance pickup or SUV. They do not allow motorbikes or other private vehicles past the point where the paved road ends and the rocky, steep 21-km dirt track begins. Instead you must wait at the entrance for one of the local vehicles, who may charge anything from 250B to many 1000B to bring you to the waterfall and back. That 21-km trail takes even expert local drivers about 1 hour to traverse; it's in bad shape in places. So, overall, there is not a strong benefit to driving to the waterfall entrance (unless you get lucky and can hitchike or pay a small amount of gas money). You might as well book a tour from Um Phang and get transport from there.
- You can ride a motorbike to the wonderful local hot springs, but the dirt roads leading there (one from the Ta Ko Bi cave entrance, and one from the highway leading from Um Phang to Pa La Ta) are very dusty and difficult. I would recommend that you pay for a boat tour going from Um Phang via the rainbow waterfall Tee Lor Jor (which is amazingly beautiful; I liked it better than Tee Lor Su since I've never seen hundreds of meters of raindrop curtains before. The morning rainbows made it even cooler) to the hot springs, and tell your tour guide (when you book) that you want to spend a long time soaking in the hot springs. Say specifically how long you expect to soak in the hot springs: the typical Thai tourist seems to spend about 5 minutes soaking, and "long" would mean "1 hour." When we farangs told them we wanted to soak for say 3 hours, they thought we were crazy. Good to be specific so that they can arrange the truck to pickup at the right time without pressuing you to go.
- Normally their standard "package"/"program" is Um Phang -> rainbow waterfall Tee Lor Jor -> hot spring -> Tee Lor Su waterfall -> truck back; but this is quite compressed for one day, especially if you like to soak like we do. So I suggest you split that package into two days if you can afford it.
- Here's some pix of Tee Lor Su in the dry and rainy seasons:
"A section of Thi Lor Su waterfall in wet season"
- Here is the only useful (read: to scale) map of the greater Um Phang area that I could find:
You can see that the dry season road to Tee Lor Su is very long and windy.
- The hot spring I mentioned is not marked on this map, but it is located along the river, south of Ti Lor Jor and less than 1km north of Pha Luad (one "pier" where they take the tourist rubber rafts out of the water and drive tourists to their next stop). The nasty dirt road from Takobi cave (which is also not on this map: it is a totally separate road than the nasty dirt road that goes to Tee Lor Su) splits near its end: one single-track fork goes to the hot spring, and the other truck-sized fork continues south to the Pha Luad boat take-out place. The other way to the hot spring begins on the paved road between Um Phang and Baan Palata and descends a very steep dirt kilometer or so; that road also forks two ways: the north fork goes to a high viewpoint overlooking Ti Lor Jor waterfall (but this is not a good way to see Ti Lor Jor as you cannot see the rainbows or the curtain of water hitting the river) and the south fork goes to the hot spring.
- The hot spring itself is amazingly un-ruined. Thais have a nasty habit of concreting, paving, and tiling over hot springs, removing all sense of any natural aesthetic and completely defeating the purpose of the hot spring (they call it "progress" and "development;" you might as well soak in a tub with a hot water heater). This hot spring is just a natural pool with a rock/dirt floor located a few meters from the river. So you can soak hot and then go jump in the cold! There is even a small tributary hot spring just at the river's edge where you can lay in both hot and cold simultaneously! It's not clear to me whether the main hot spring gets flooded in the rainy season or not (the small one certainly is). So not sure if you can go there in the rainy season.
- As far as which tour company to choose, I went with an obviously small-player company called Saeng Tour because the tour guide began his sales pitch by telling me I could also go to the hot springs on my motorbike, by myself without his boat services! It is so refreshing to be in a place where the profit motive has not yet completely suppressed good will. The tour company behind the website above also might be honest: they give you a good map and lots of details including some that allow you to go by yourself.
Last edited by Khun Don; 16-02-09 at 05:12 PM.
16-02-09, 09:51 PM #2
17-02-09, 08:34 AM #3Forum Member
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17-02-09, 07:40 PM #4
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