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1,219 curves to Umphang to experience the beauty of nature

1,219 curves to Umphang to experience the beauty of nature

Preeyanoot Jittawong

Umphang is a mountainous region on the Western border of Thailand that is choc-a-bloc with natural tourist resources like forests, rivers and waterfalls. The most impressive of these is Thee Lor Su, the largest waterfall in Thailand and the 5th largest in the world. The beautiful forests and winding rivers make Umphang a nature-lovers’ paradise; and the area is located on the Thai-Burmese border.

The route to Umphang is “sky-high”. (Photo by Compass)

The district used to be populated by the Karen tribe, who were later replaced by Thai people who named the area “Umphang”. This word is from the Karen Language; loosely translated, “Umpha” means “to show passport before traveling to Thai-Burma”.

Visitors to Umphang have to drive a sinuous mountainous route containing 1,219 curves. This goes by the name of the “Sky-high Route”, because it passes through the Thanon Thongchai mountain range, affording travelers breathtaking views of unrivalled beauty.

Visitors will see bountiful forest after arriving in Umphang district, where the water sources of several rivers are located. These include the headwaters of the Mae Klong River, that tourists favor to take canoeing or bamboo rafting trips, and to enjoy seeing the beauty of nature along the river banks. These rafts will take the visitor floating gently downstream, a trip that usually takes around three hours, passing under sheer cliffs where caves have been discovered containing ancient dishes and bowls, before arriving at the Tee Lor Jor or Sai Rung Waterfall.

This waterfall is very spectacular with its shimmering water spray reflecting the sunlight, causing rainbows to arc gracefully over the cascade. The stream flows down through a gorge edged by moss-covered boulders that creates quite an impressive sight. Tourists like to moor their canoes and rafts at this point to take souvenir pictures before continuing the trip to Takhobi, a smaller stream, where they then stop to relax at a hot spring. The temperature of the water at this hot spring bathing point is now adjusted better than in the past, when one had the choice of either emulating a freshly cooked lobster on one hand or a brass monkey on the other.

The leisurely voyage then continues, passing Pha Pueng Cliff, where large beehives used to be found in the past, but these days only the remnants of these hives are left, the bee population having been decimated by frequent forest fires. Chanpha Trees in great numbers are to be found here, this species of tree being prohibited from being cut down and taken from the forest. One more interesting cliff is Pha Luad Cliff (blood cliff), so named because of the orange-red mineral flowing out from the cliff. People of the Karen tribe like to take this red mineral to mix with alcohol believing it to add energy. Who knows, perhaps this was the origin of the Bloody Mary?

Tourists will fall in love with the natural beauty of the scenery along both sides of the Mae Klong River. The area abounds with wildlife, and the patient naturalist will see deer and monkeys as well as examples of many of Thailand’s exotic birdlife, making nature-watching one of the many attractive things to do in the forests of Umphang. Nature’s beauty is still carefully maintained in Umphang, because the people who live in this district love and nurture their environment and welcome like-minded tourists who wish to come and share the experience.

These fun- and nature-loving tourist are preparing to begin an adventurous trip.

Local guides, like this one, won’t steer you wrong.

Bountiful forests abound along Mae Klong’s river banks.

It’s a spectacular setting when the rafts pass by the caves.

The river banks are steep.

It’s time for a relaxing break at the hot spring.

Our intrepid crew stops at Sai Rung Waterfall to take photographs.

The natural beauty is definitely worth a photo or video.

Sai Rung Waterfall.