UMPHANG

Introduction
Umphang, a district of Tak province, is locateed on the western border of Thailand and Myanmar. The area is very mountainous, and there is only a route entering and leaving from Maesot district.
Eevery part of Umphang is a centre of ecotourism : for example, major water sources can be found here. It is also part of a World Heritage Site.The way of life of the Karen hilltribe people, who keep elephants as a means of transportation, can be seen in Umphang district. These people live close to nature. Consequently, they have helped in the establishing of the ecotourism business ; for example, trekking, rafting, elephant ridding, nature watching and Tee Lor Sue waterfall biggest in Thailand, etc. As such, these activities help to make this area a potential for ecotourism.Umphang is one of eight districts in Tak Province, locate on the bank of Meaklong river, 249 km.from Tak province. It is next to Phobphra dictrict, in the north and Kanchanaburi province, in the south. Kampaengphet, Nakhonsawan and U-thai Thani province, in the East and Myanmar is on the west.Umphang is the largest district of Thailand with an area of 4,325,383 sgkm. Plenty of dark forest and it’s the original of Maeklong river, 97% is mountainous, only 3% is plant.

Backgroud
Umphang, the main district on the route to and from the western border of Thailand and Myanmar,was originally inhabited by Karen hilltribe people. Later, the Thai people migrated from the north to come settle here permanently. It is also a place where the Myanmar have come to sell goods in Thailand. The border authorities in spect the documents for the Bermess to cross the border. In the past, the people carried the documents in a bamboo container to help protect them from the rain as well as were and tear while travelling for many months in the forest. When they come to Umphang the Bermess would then open the container to show the documents for inspection. This document know in Karen language as "Umpha" was later changed to "Umphang". The people finally come to settle at Ban Kui Leto, Tambon Mae Chan.
Umphang district is divideed into 4 parts called Umphang, Mae Klong Mai, Mae Lamung and Mae Chan. Most of the population is made up of Karen hilltribe. There are some large villages ; for example, Ban Palata, Ban Klota, Ban Mae Chan, Ban Tipochi and Ban Letongkhu.

Topography
Umphang district is the largest of a districts in Tak province that is locateed on the lifeside of the Mae Klong river. In the south-west of the province approximately 243 kms. from Tak. The total area is approximately 4,325,383 square kms. or 2,703,365 rai, and it is the widest district in Thailand. The north connects to Phopphra district, Tak province ; the south adjoins Sangkhaburi and Sri Sawai district, Kanchanaburi province ; the east connects to Klong Lan and Klong Khlung district, Kamphaeng Phet province as well as Latyang district, Nakhonsawan province, and Ban Rai district, Uthai Thani province ; the west is part of the border with Myanmar.
The whole area of Umphang is made up of undulating mountains. There is dense, thick forest, which is also part of a World Heritage Site ; Thung Yai Narasuan and Huai Kha Khaeng. There are areas that are flat valleys and river basins. This area is the main source of many rivers and streams ; for example, Mae Chan, Huai Mae Lamung, Huai Klotho, and especially the Mae Klong river that is found to feed the western part of the country.

Climate
There are 3 seasons similar to other parts of the north. The hot season is from March - May, and the maximum tempereture is approximately 39 C. The rainny season is from June - October. Umphang district receives a lot of rainfall because of the high mountains and the dense forest. The highest amount of measureed rainfall is 299.2 millimetres in July. The cool season is from November - February. The minimum temperature would be 2.5 C. during December.

The Forest
This part of the country comprises of high mountains ; there fore, there is dense forest, which has a total area of approximately 1,914,494 rai. Also of importance in this area of rainforest is the many various apecies of life. The forest and wildlife in Umphang, which adjoins Thungyai Narasuan and Huai Khakhaeng forest, can be preserved in accordance with a declaration that it is a very important conservation area.
This forestland area is part of the western Forest totalling an area of approximately 5.5 million rai and is the widest area in Southeast Asia. Therefore, The forest of Thungyai Narasuan and Huai Khakhaeng have been declared as World Heritage Site. The remain forestland is a buffer area that contain the source of the Mae Klong river, which originates in the Westerb forest.
Most of the forest is virgin mountain forest comprising of Evergreen Forest and Deciduous Forest which is interspersed with teak, Iron Wood, Queen's flower, Dipterocarps, etc. Some of the species of plants are well know and can be found through out the area ; for example, bamboo, and teak is found on the banks of the Mae Klong river. Orchid Tree is found on the 2 sides of the road to Ban Palata. Cycas and Phoenix Plam are found on the mountaintops. As well as these, There are orchid, wildflower, and many species of ferns ; for example, Vanda coerulea, Dendrobium Spp., Slipper orchid and Maiden hair fern.

Wildlife, Brids and Aquatic Life
There are many species of wildlife of the Southeast Asia element ; for example, monkeys, langurs, hornbills, tapir, as well as elephants, bears, tigers, seladang, deer, etc Additionally, there many endangered birds such as the 'White-winged Duck' at Lakato swamp. The Mae Klong river can be considered as a source of many kinds of rare freshwater fish.

Advice For Visitors To Umphang
Umphang district is fills with places of beautiful nature. Most of its area is vulnerable to destruction. The most suitable type of tourism for Umphang is an adventure tour. It is necessary for travellers to be aware of an to help preserve the environment of this tourist attraction.
During weekends and holidays, many travellers enjoy their trip to Umphang, especially to see Thee Lor Sue Waterfall. However, there have been some problems : an over-population of tourists, management of waste, insufficient amount of toilet facilities, and damage of road access.
The Royal Forest Department, the Umphang District Administration, the Umphang Ecotourism Club, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand [ TAT] have jointy set up the Coordination Committee on Umphang tourism promotion and preservation, and have drawn up the measures to protect the natural environment as described below : -

1. Tourist who wish to visit Umphang District Administration ought to be well-prepared by making contact in advance and learning about travel information. Since most tourist attractions are located in the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, please seriously observe the regulations.
2. With regard to motor vehicles, it is suggested not to travel by car or van to reach the Thee Lor Sue waterfall because the rough and step road is too dangerous to drive on. Vehicles which cause disturbing noise and pollution are absolutely not allowed to enter the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary.
3. To visit the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary of the Thee Lor Sue waterfall, tourist have to seek permission in advance. A permission from can be obtained from the Umphang Ecotourism Club. Each enter will be stamped by the Royal Forest department . Since this is not an area for tourism, you are allowed to visit only as a nature observer.
4. Due to the limitation of the carrying capacity of the Wildlife Sanctuary or the Thee Lor Sue waterfall, the Royal Forest Department, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Umphang District administration, and the Umphang Ecotourism Club have jointly controlled be number of tourists who wish to spend an overnight stay. For each night, 300 people are allowed to stay on the banks of the Thee Lor Sue waterfall and 100 people on the banks of the Mae Klong river. Tourists are required to express their wish only to the Umphang Ecotourism Club, so as to properly control the number of tourist. For a one day trip, travellers are allowed to visit at a fixed time.
5. To maintain natural conditions and tourist attractions in Umphang District , the Coordination Committee on Umphang Tourism Promotion and Preservation will proceed with the improvement of tourist facilities, the repairs of the road to Thee Lor Sue waterfall, and the cleaning up campaign. In this connection, the committee would like to request your contribution of 10 Baht each to support its activities. Donations can be made at the club or passed through your tour operators.
6. Tourists are suggest to consider only the service of licensed tour campanies who are registered in accordance with the Tourist Business and Guide Act B.E.2535. Or else, your trip may be cancelled because an illegal tour operator is arrested.
7. For your safety, please do not make used of the services of unlicensed guides and illegal tour operators. This will help to eliminate any disadvantages for tourist. If you see or are affect by such an incident, please inform a coordinating officer at the Umphang Police Station, so that appropriate action can be taken.
8. To keep the water in the Mae Klong river and the Thee Lor Sue waterfall clean, tourists are requested to abstain from using foam of food containers and plastic drinking water bottles, specially with in the Sanctuary area. Tourist are not allowed to leave any undecomposed rubbish. Any undecomposed rubbish must be taken out of the area. .

Protective measures for the tourism of Umphang are jointly designated by the people involve with the tourism of Umphang with their hope to preserve the natural environment,and set an example of Eco-tourism in Thailand. All success lays in every tourist’s hand, Let’s start today, “Travelling the Umphang Forest with consciousness of its value.”
With best wisher today from the COORDINATING Committee on Umphang Tourism Promotion and Preservation.

Tourist Regulations
Situated in the conservation zone for natural resources, the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary is an area of abundant forest land in the west, from which two areas of forest land : Thung Yai Naresuan and Huai Kha Khaeng, a World Heritage site, have originated. To visit this preservation area, tourists should seriously observe the following rules :

1 Before entering, tourists must seek permission by submitting an application from. The Royal Forest Department reserves its right to allow/not allowor to suspend its permission.
2 Do not bring any weapons or equipment for hunting when visiting the sanctuary.
3 Do not bring any explosive devices, fireworks, poison, or any other substance which may harm wildlife in the sanctuary.
4 Do not do anything that will cause fire.
5 Do not make a disturbing noise, or do anything the may frighten wild anlmals.
6 Stay and pitch a tent in the area as permitted.
7 Do not paste any announcement or advertising sheets, or leave any written message in the sanctuary.
8 Use the entrance and exit ways as provided by the authorities.
9 During the night [from 6.30 p.m.-6.00 a.m.] tourists are not welcomed at the Huai Nong Luang Forest Guard Unit. Tourists who do not plan to stay overnight should depart from the Sanctuary Office before 5.00 p.m.
10 Tourists who spend an overnight stay and visit the Thee Lor Sus waterfall have to leave the waterfall by 5.00 p.m.


Umphang is regarded as one of the best places in Thailand. Its geography and remoteness in the northwest has left intact the largest and richest tropical forest area in Southeast Asia. Its boundary adjoins two wildlife parks and three wildlife sanctuaries, with a wealth of wildlife including elephants, monkeys, gibbons, bears, barking deer, giant flying squirrels, monitor lizards, tigers and other wild cats. Bird life is astounding with over 200 species recorded in the area.

Rafting along the Mae Klong river is nothing less than spectacular with amazing scenery, dramatic cliffs, many waterfalls (including Thee Lor Sue waterfall – reputed to be the sixth largest in the world with 98 distinct cascades), hot springs, caves and a myriad of wildlife. The virgin mountain forest boasts sections devoted to tropical evergreens, mixed deciduous and deciduous dipterocarps. Orchids hang high in the air and after the rainy season (October) the ground is carpeted with wild flowers and ferns.

The fragile nature of this area has prompted concerns about negative environmental impacts. There is little infrastructure in place to cope with the demands of mass visitors. The Royal Thai Forestry Department and the Tourism Authority of Thailand together with the Umphang Ecotourism Club therefore carefully regulate the numbers who are allowed to stay overnight in these spectacular surroundings.

There are no souvenir shops, no ice-cream kiosks, no litter bins and hopefully no signs of man’s presence whatever. One of the conservation strategies has been to replace cutting bamboo for rafts with modern self- bailing rubber boats specially designed for white water. Elephants are employed to carry camping gear, food etc. and the aim is to leave the area untouched and intact.

On this trip we encounter up to grade 3-4 rapids, which means no massive standing waves but plenty of fun and some quite technical drops. However it’s not all action as we float gently along stretches of calm waters in between the rapids allowing us to admire the wildlife, especially birds, the pristine jungle, waterfalls and limestone karsts.

The best time to come is between July and February. We enter very remote areas, camping by the river and eventually making a long trek with elephant support back to our base. Quite a tough trip but acceptable for any reasonably fit person. Our experienced raft men and guides prepare the campsite and cook for you. Camping gear and food is rough in (by elephant) so as not to disturb the surroundings. If you are a nature lover, in reasonably good physical shape and want to travel in a real rural area, off the beaten track, then Umphang is a must.

All meals, guides and accommodation are provided with excellent food at Umphang, Umphang Hill Resort. Umphang Hill is on the bank of the Umphang river and consists of simple wooden houses with basic amenities and mosquito nets.

Riverside camping during our expedition is in tents with food prepared by our guides. Umphang is 670 kilometers northwest of Bangkok and 164 kilometers from Mae Sot. An improved road has made the journey easier but the road from Mae Sot to Umphang is mountainous with many hills and 1219 curves.
Two to five day river trips are available for a minimum of 2 persons.

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