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Salween (Salawin) National Park

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Though not as famous as the Mekong, Yangtse or Irrawaddy, the Salween (or Salawin) is one of Asia’s mightiest rivers. Originating in the Tibetan foothills before flowing through Yunnan, northeastern Burma and out into the Gulf of Martaban and Bay of Bengal at Mawlamyine, it is the 26th longest river in the world, stretching an impressive 2, 800 kilometres. A short stretch of it in southern Mae Hong Son province forms the border between Thailand and Burma.

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The Salween and Burmese, Thai border

The Salween and Burmese-Thai border.

Salween (Salawin) National Park is located in the far west of Mae Sariang district, Mae Hong Son, and encompasses the well preserved forested hills along the slopes of the watershed between the Yuam and Salween Rivers. It’s a large national park of more than 720 square kilometres, and was created recently, incorporating parts of the already established Salween Wildlife Sanctuary and Lum Nam Khong National Park. It connects to the equally large Mae Yuam Wildlife Sanctuary to the north and is adjacent to the Nam Ngao National Park to the south, creating a vast area of forest and mountains.

We did say there were a lot of forests and mountains

Forests and mountains: how many can you take?

The topography is a mixture of evergreen and deciduous, and the limestone hills rise to over a thousand metres. Though the park covers such a substantial area, the park headquarters and visitor centre are conveniently located only eight kilometres from Mae Sariang town near Huay Wai village. Cross the bridge and follow the signs. On arriving in the first village — Mae Salap — a left turn continues to Mae Sam Leap while a right turn takes you a few more kilometres up a scenic valley to the well signposted park entrance.

The Visitors Centre

What it says on the sign.

Here you’ll find the ticket booth — it’s 100 baht to enter — plus the park accommodation and visitor centre. Considering what an out of the way park this is, we were surprised by the latter. They have obviously made an effort, with a photographic display of flora and fauna with some English-language explanations, an English-language pamphlet — which many more popular national parks in Thailand don’t have — and a signposted nature trail. The staff still seemed surprised when an actual foreign visitor did turn up!

Park accommodation

Park accommodation.

The two-kilometre nature trail winds through bamboo and dry dipterocarp forest, and you’ll likely see butterflies, birds, small mammal life, petrified wood, termite mounds, lichens, mosses and various flora — the birdlife here is particularly rich. The trail takes you on a round trip up the hill behind the park buildings to the watershed, then back down again to your starting point. There are of course longer treks through the vast park, but you’d need to get yourself a local guide in town or see if you can find an English-speaking park warden.

Sunset over the hills of Salawin National Park, seen from Mae Sariang

Sunset over the hills of Salween national park, seen from Mae Sariang.

The park offers chalet-style accommodation, as well as camping, and several other sites in the park such as Tha Ta Fang on the Salween. They had five large chalets close to the visitor centre each with four rooms, so sleeping up to 12. The chalet went for 1,200 baht per night or just a room with shared bathroom facilities in the chalet a very reasonable 300 baht.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Mae Sariang.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Mae Sariang.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Mae Sariang.
 Read up on how to get to Mae Sariang, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Mae Sariang? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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