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Trek and camp in Umphang, Umphang Kee village to Chong Yen: 17 - 21 Feb 2007

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After two nights luxury of sleeping in a proper bed at home I was back on the road to Mae Sot. The tuk tuk (three wheeler taxi) driver at a Tak market where the bus from Bangkok's new Morchit terminal dropped me rushed me to the bus station to catch the last van to Mae Sot. It was not fruitful since the time was already after 8 p.m. when we got there. (It looked like I took the wrong bus in Bangkok that did not stop at Tak's main bus station)

But then there was actually a van at the bus station. The driver and his wife told me they were now not the regular van, thus I must rent the whole van for 1200 Baht or wait for other passengers to share the cost. So I spent more than half an hour to get altogether 6 people agreeing to pay 200 Baht each for the 1.5 hour drive to Mae Sot - the border town on a Thailand's western tip with Myanmar's Myawaddy.

After securing a small bed room without a private bath at a small guesthouse I went out to look for an Internet cafe at 10:30 p.m. just to miss them behind closed doors. I finally settled down for a Burmese style dinner at a restaurant at 11 p.m.

Early morning before sunrise in Mae Sot
A store opposite a 24 hour mini mart is still running a traditional stand alone grocery and accesory shop. The owners wake up early morning, open the doors, cook breakfast, sweep the floor, and offer morning alm to the monks on daily basic. (Mae Sot at 6 in the morning)

Ban Platha - Karen village - Umphang
Ban Platha (Palata) Karen village - 26 km from Umphang town by the road number 1090. This Karen village is located directly to the south of Umphang, it is on the Mae Klong river eastern bank and usually the starting point for rubber and bamboo rafting trips to Thilor Lay waterfall. Mae Sot to Umphang drive, over 160 km mostly winding road and more than half of its length in the rolling mountains, is a 3.5 to 4 hours trip that makes some people sick. Make sure you have handy plastic bags!

Smokes and flames of a forest fire: Platha to Kotha
After crossing the Mae Klong river by a bamboo bridge at Baan Platha we walked over and down the hills. At this time of the year you come close to forest fires in many places. As a matter of fact lot of places expecially northern and western forests become dotted with fires in dry season approximately from February to early June. Thus jungle trails of some national parks are closed to visitors during this period.

Huay Klotho stream
A green place like an oasis in the hot season jungle. The clear waters of Huay Klotho stream come from the mountains in Thai-Myanmar border area. The stream travels down the varied landscape passing villages and their farms, and creating two major waterfalls (Thilorsu and Kotha) before finally merge into Mae Klong river.

A bamboo bridge over Huay Klotho stream
A bamboo bridge. Before using a bamboo bridge to cross a stream or a ditch, do inspection whether the bridge is safe or whether it needs some repair. Even if you can safely walk over it is a good deed that you make necessary maintenance for people who will use it after you. For example mountain people cut bamboo into thin and long strips and use them as ropes to tie the loosing elements of the bridge.

Husy Klotho stream at our camp
Morning view of Klotho stream at our camp. We spent the first night camping on the bank of Klotho stream. Some of us pitched the tents while others were doing the cooking things and making a temporary jungle toilet. Building fire in the dry season was easy, dry wood catch fire fast, but safety attention was necessary. You must clear the things like dry leaves on the ground around the fire that can catch fire. Fire spreads very quickly.

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