I Tong, Kanchanaburi

Discussion in 'Central Western Thailand Road Trip Reports' started by CraigBKK, Aug 25, 2014.

  1. CraigBKK

    CraigBKK Ol'Timer

    This weekend trip almost didn't happen. I was tired from not sleeping well through the storm of Thursday night and Friday afternoon saw enough heavy rain in Bangkok to make me leave work mid-afternoon with the intention of going home defeated by fatigue and the weather.

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    Whilst waiting at the lights on the Rama IX and Ekamai junction I noticed that the sky was clearing. By the time I was turning on to Soi Phrakhanong I had decided to stop making excuses and get riding!

    Due to my late change of plans, I found myself having to drive along Rama IV and Sathorn, which were both congested with traffic by 15:30. Once I reached Petkasem Road about 16:00 the traffic was surprisingly light and I after two short stops I reached Kanchanaburi town just after 18:00 and Sai Yok an hour later.

    The previous week I had visited the Phutoey area on a two day trip, zip lining and kayaking

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    I had seen a sign for 'Sam's Jungle Guesthouse' and searching on the internet showed that rooms were available here for 500฿ a night. However, when I arrived at around 19:30, the large gates were locked shut. Fortunately, 'Nongchanok Guesthouse', signposted along the turnoff road, was situated only 20 M from Sam's so I decided to try there. At 800฿ the bungalows were more than I had intended to pay, but the one I was shown was new, had all the usual amenities (including a urinal, always useful after too many beers) as well a having a nice veranda and large glass windows on three sides, giving it an unusual character.

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    The staff was friendly and helpful and offered me freshly boiled sweet corn as I hadn't eaten since lunch. I decided on a simple beer dinner and someone rode to the local shop to buy a few bottles for me as they had none in stock.

    The following morning I left at 07:00 and was eating breakfast in the PTT petrol station outside Thong Pha Phum an hour later. I knew from my trip here two months ago that this was the last petrol station before Pi Lok / I Tong (the village uses both of these names interchangeably) although there are small shops selling fuel along the side of the road. I filled up my standard CRF tank here and just made it back the following morning without needing to refuel en route.

    On the way to the T junction for the I Tong turning I detoured a few times, following tracks that would take me down and along the edges of the flooded valley caused by the Vachiralongkorn Dam. The scenery around the lake is spectacular; villages of floating raft houses set against a backdrop of rolling hills. It's fascinating watching the local people taxiing around the lake buying goods in long-tail boats.

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    This track I followed...

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    ...until it reached a watery dead end.

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    Instead of turning left to go directly to I Tong at the T junction as I had done on my previous visit, I turned right towards the shores of the lake. My OSM map as well as Google Maps showed very little information for this area so it was really a case of following the road to see how far it could take me.

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    If you ride straight the road leads on to a track, passing through a strong flowing river and out to grassy, open meadows punctuated with small tree stumps and grazing buffalo. I came across one herd peacefully bathing in the lake, which unfortunately dispersed by the time I positioned myself close enough to photograph them. The looks of indignation suggested they weren't best pleased.

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    The road to I Tong is as winding as it appears on the map. What the map fails to show are the pot holes that litter many sections. On the way to the village there are a few official viewpoints. I had taken photos from this one, the first and largest at the end of June without even knowing that the lake was viewable as it was raining and the mist over the hills was that thick. There are toilets and camping is available at this viewpoint.

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    The second viewpoint at KM 19, although not as dramatic, has good panoramas of the hills that form the Burmese border.

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    At this time of year the Jokkratin waterfall is both powerful and picturesque and worth the 3 KM detour off the main road. It is set within a national park and the entrance fee is 200฿ for foreigners. I showed my Thai driver's licence and paid the Thai price of 40฿.

    I Tong is a strange place. It's not difficult to see why, situated on the Thai/Burmese border in the middle of hills and jungle. Isolated, the village has an Indian hill station atmosphere, created in part by the Burmese in their sarongs as well as the mist that envelopes the tops of the surrounding hills. It also rains a lot. Most of the people you meet in the streets are Burmese and you don't hear much Thai spoken. At the weekends the village attracts groups of Thai tourists although there's really nothing to see, it's all about getting there.

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    I reached the village around 15:00 to find the group of Thai big bike riders who'd shattered my peace at the first viewpoint, parked up along the small road that holds the village's restaurants and guesthouses. I'd left before them but had visited the waterfall en route. The Ducati Monster, new Versys (x3) all fitted with metal panniers and top boxes (for a day trip!) and the HD would have found it difficult visiting the falls as the 2.8 KM track leading to the entrance was red, rocky and muddy. They seemed content enough however having reached I Tong, and were merrily taking photos of themselves beside their big, clean machines.

    The 'Ban Tor Mai Guesthouse' is not particularly good value. The damp rooms, set in Disney style tree trunks, are overly cramped due to their cylindrical nature. Contact the restaurant opposite for a room. They will try and charge you 600฿ for a single room but the price is negotiable. On my previous trip I paid 400฿, this time we agreed on 500฿, as they said it was the weekend - fair enough.

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    I'd recommend taking a look at the home stay, just down the street. I have no information about the place but worth checking out, alternatively there is a camp site on the road to the border checkpoint.

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    Food at the restaurant opposite the guesthouse is ok, with an extensive menu, especially considering you're only 500 M from the Burmese border. There are a few restaurants to choose from in the village as well as one or two coffee shops; fuel is also available for around 50฿ a litre.

    On my previous trip I was not permitted to cross the Thai border checkpoint that lies just past the village. On this occasion however I was allowed to park my bike and walk the 300 or so metres past the checkpoint to the small hill offering great views of Burma. There is a gas pipeline and refinery situated on both sides of the border. On top of the hill are two flag poles, one flying the Thai flag, one empty. Presumably this is for the Burmese flag.

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    Leaving I Tong around 07:30 and after a few coffee and refuelling stops I arrived at the Honda dealer on Soi On Nut at around 15:00. This trip had taken me over 4,000 KM on the CRF so I popped in for an oil change. Price for two bottles of engine oil, filter and seal = 355฿
     
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  3. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Nice report and pics..

    Another gem not far out of the hustle and bustle of the big smoke.

    Do you have the GPX file you can overlay on Google Earth?

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  4. CraigBKK

    CraigBKK Ol'Timer

    Exactly, Kanchanaburi is a great province with lots to explore and not too far from BKK. Google Map with track overlay added.
     
  5. CraigBKK

    CraigBKK Ol'Timer

    I was up exploring the northern parts of Kanchanaburi over the weekend. Here's some additions to the previous trip report.

    Muddy track on the left about 200m after the I Tong / Ban Rai T junction. Didn't go to the very end, leaving that for another day. Forestry staff at the office where I turned back told me the track only leads to Ban Pong village (we'll see). This is as far as I got.

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    The water has risen on the Khao Laem lake. Below are the two end point with dates and a photo of me at the current end of the track.

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    I intended to stay on a raft Sunday night but they were all booked out to Thai fisherman until early evening so I ended up in a regular room. I stayed at the Phae Rimkhuean Resort, which I can't recommend due to the ant's nest that I discovered in one of the pillow cases. Rooms were overpriced 800-1000THB. If you want to stay in the area in order to explore the lake and national parks try VIP Rafts.

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    I spent Saturday night up in Sangkhlaburi: P Guesthouse as usual. Lee's still rocking it at the biker friendly 'Blue Rock Bar' on the same road as P Guesthouse, close to the temple. He serves up cold beers and hearty homemade food as reasonable prices. He's just bought a new PCX with the LED headlights, damn those things are bright!

    After visiting the Three Pagoda Pass Sunday morning on my way down to Thong Pha Phum, I tried to visit the Takhianthong waterfall close to the border. It is currently closed due to strong flowing water and the bridge across the river collapsing.

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  6. mikehohman

    mikehohman Ol'Timer

    Hey, thanks for sharing. Kanchanaburi kicks ass... Loved your vid too.

    Mike
     
  7. CraigBKK

    CraigBKK Ol'Timer

    Thanks Mike, I've enjoyed watching your videos on Vimeo too.

    I agree, Kanchanaburi is the nearest (in both senses of the word) place to Northern Thailand we have from Bangkok. I'll be back up there in a few weeks time unless the expected heavy rains make the trip unviable.
     
  8. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Beautiful pics & good report. You guys have some gems right there on Bangkok's "door step." Good stuff.
     

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