Trekkers in search of an alternative to Pai and Chiang Mai will find some excellent options in the Umphang area, which also boasts some of Thailand’s best whitewater rafting.
A typical one-day program includes rafting on the Mae Khlong River with stops at a small hot spring and Thi Lor Jor Waterfall on the way to meet a pick-up for the ride to the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary camp, from where it’s a three-kilometre hike to the stupendous Thi Lor Su Waterfall.
Also known as Sai Fon ("Falling Rain") Waterfall, Thi Lor Jor features angelic sheets of water freefalling directly into the river from a vast section of cliffs and caves. Rafts cruise behind, around and directly under the falls over an exciting half-kilometre -- be prepared for a shower. We felt that Thi Lor Jor made the rafting worth the extra expense as compared to going straight to Thi Lor Su by pick-up.
Two- to four-day trips might include rafting to Thi Lor Jor and Thi Lor Su plus camping, homestays in traditional Karen villages, longer treks and elephant riding in the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary. The longest and most expensive trips often culminate at the impressive Thi Lo Re Waterfall; note that rafting day trips to Thi Lo Re can also be arranged in the Karen village of Ban Pa La Tha, 25 kilometres south of Umphang.
Around a dozen tour companies offer a range of options in Umphang town. Boonchuay and Trekker Hill are two of the more dependable outfits that frequently cater to foreign travellers. Umphang House offers the usual rafting and trekking plus a one-day program focusing on bathing and swimming with elephants. Just north of Trekker Hill, Napha Tour focuses mainly on rafting, while the long-running Max One Tour is another good all-round option. You’ll also find tour companies associated with Tu Ka Su Cottage and Phu Doi Campsite.
Prices start at around 2,000 baht per person for a rafting day trip to Thi Lor Su and rise to around 8,000 baht for four-day trips. There’s generally a minimum of two guests and the per-person prices drop for larger groups.
Travellers who prefer to keep things independent can go to Thi Lor Su Waterfall and camp and hike on their own. Another option is Doi Hua Mod, a series of viewpoints and hiking trails located around 10 kilometres south of Umphang on the way to Ban Pa La Tha.
Boonchuay Tour (BC Adventure Tour) Prawatprawin Rd, Umphang. T: (081) 379 2591;(055) 561 020
Max One Tour 59 Moo 6, Umphang. T: (055) 561 063-4. http://www.maxonetour.com/
Napha Tour Prawatprawin Soi 2 (behind Trekker Hill), Umphang. T: (055) 561 295
By David Luekens
Last updated on 30th May, 2016.