Death Highway To Umphang

Rod Page

Ol'Timer
Jan 7, 2010
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Goran - looking forward to your report on this one - one of Thailand's best, an area packed with history & treasures. There will be many wishing to join you, certainly follow in your foot-steps.
 

Goran Phuket

Guest
Apr 2, 2008
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Phuket
www.bmwoverlander.com
Goran - looking forward to your report on this one - one of Thailand's best, an area packed with history & treasures. There will be many wishing to join you, certainly follow in your foot-steps.

Rod, it looks as 5th of February 2017 is the D-day, can't wait. If everything goes according to plan we should come back with one helluva story.

Thanks again for posting this brilliant report, it is NAT GEO material.
 

Rod Page

Ol'Timer
Jan 7, 2010
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Goran - your somewhat flattering comments compelled me to revisit the post, not so much to study the text but to revisit such a wonderful outing.
Rhodie, who is a far better (indeed internationally recognised) writer & adventurer than most I know, makes a good point in stating that the area is rich in history. I regret greatly that I did not stay longer (nor find the time to return before Vietnam called) to explore in greater depth a number of potentially excellent outings from Umphang ............. I hope perhaps that you'll find time.
Cheers & safe riding.
 

Big_Dave

Ol'Timer
Apr 21, 2016
124
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Malaysia
Rod I am curious as to just how much has changed in this area in regards to the border situations. I am heading off next week for a 6 week ride covering this area and am very keen to get into some of the more remote "adventurous" areas. I remember trail riding around Mae Sai in the late 80's and there were numerous cases of people straying into Burma and getting shaken down by Burmese troops....didnt stop us though! Are there areas that are still as unguarded as in your original pics?
 

Rod Page

Ol'Timer
Jan 7, 2010
823
72
28
G'day Dave - it's some time since I rode out that way (I headed to Vietnam in 2011, living in DaNang for over a year before moving to Bora Bora after 18 months where I still live).

In any case a recent exchange of correspondence with Goran, backed by numerous photos that he took, would indicate little has changed in any significant way. This is not all that surprising given that the hill-tribes are nomadic & don't 'recognise' international boundaries (which in itself is an interesting topic in that the boundaries in the area concerned have not yet been recognised by both Thailand & Myanmar). THe tribal members continue to cross 'at leisure' as they have for centuries (or in case of being attacked by the Myanmar military junta) for trade, ease of passage or shelter as the case may be).

Head down & have a look, know your limits, your surroundings & all will be well....one thing is for sure you'll enjoy the ride immensely & the area is packed with history, with interest with opportunities for adventure.

All that remains is a trip report!
 

Big_Dave

Ol'Timer
Apr 21, 2016
124
56
28
Malaysia
G'day Dave - it's some time since I rode out that way (I headed to Vietnam in 2011, living in DaNang for over a year before moving to Bora Bora after 18 months where I still live).

In any case a recent exchange of correspondence with Goran, backed by numerous photos that he took, would indicate little has changed in any significant way. This is not all that surprising given that the hill-tribes are nomadic & don't 'recognise' international boundaries (which in itself is an interesting topic in that the boundaries in the area concerned have not yet been recognised by both Thailand & Myanmar). THe tribal members continue to cross 'at leisure' as they have for centuries (or in case of being attacked by the Myanmar military junta) for trade, ease of passage or shelter as the case may be).

Head down & have a look, know your limits, your surroundings & all will be well....one thing is for sure you'll enjoy the ride immensely & the area is packed with history, with interest with opportunities for adventure.

All that remains is a trip report!


G'Day Rod, thanks for the reply. I am very much looking fwd to this ride. Living in Malaysia gives me the opportunity to spend a great deal of time exploring Thailand.....my normal SOP is get lost AF and find cool shit. This will be our 26th ride in 4 years and having a real affinity with the Burmese from backpacking there a number of times years back will just make it so much better. Cant go too crazy as I have my Malay Princess on the back and road tyres in the wet season put the stoppers on extended off road stuff.

Trip report...standby!
 

DavidFL

Administrator
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Jan 16, 2003
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Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
Whilst researching that potent concotion of those things that interest me & the potential for adventure I kept coming back to the Telakhon Rishi Sect at Lae Tong Ku. With our departure for Vietnam set for 15th September, 2011, it became 'now or never', come 'high water or hell'.

The village of Lae Tong Ku lies to the south of Umphang down past Poeng Kloeng. Its home to the Karen Telakhon Rishi Sect, unique in Thailand, who worship a devine rishi who lives in the village amongst them. The sect eat only wild animal meat taken directly from the jungle & are distinguishable in wearing their long hair in topknots. Access to the village is extremely difficult even in the dry season. Given my time constraints & being the wet season, I was compelled to walk in to the village.

A (Karen) guide is ESSENTIAL for many reasons. The village lies in the World Heritage listed Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sactuary, the largest wildlife corridor in SE Asia, where access is prohibited without a difficult to obtain governmental authorisation; the Thai Army & the Border Patrol Police (BPP) will not be 'happy' either for you to enter the area without first getting their clearance also. The sect is extremely devout & any criticism of their beliefs or obstacles put in its way can meet with violence - as recently as the 1990's the sect was rumoured to have been behind the attack & killing of members of the BPP & forrestry officials trying to enforce hunting restrictions in the area. If that's not enough, tracks in the area are not 'clear' & the jungle is full of tigers, elephants, bears & poisonous snakes.

My research would indicate that Wachara, the owner of Tamilla GH in Chiang Khong, was probably the first 'outsider' to trek through the area. Christian Goodden holds he was the first farang in the area in the mid 1990's, yet when he tried to return in 2001/2002 he was prevented from doing so by the unstable & highly dangerous situation in the area generated by fighting between the Burmese & rebel ethnic armies. Futhermore his interpreter during his first visit had been murdered within Thailand on the paths Christian had taken supposedly by the Democratic Karen Burmese Army (DKBA). Wachara, an avid & experienced adventurer, reportedly found the trek 'hair-raising' & had often been struck with fear. A slightly different path exists today, but an unwary traveller could quickly find himself over the border in Burma; not a good position in which to find oneself in today's climate of war being waged there between the junta & ethnic rebel armies!

To be frank, ultimately the only way to proceed is to get access to a good guide & to just set off with total responsibility firmly on your own shoulders; this is not a trip where the normal bounds of preparation can be applied. The trek is an extremely arduous one of only 10kms yet which will take around 4 hours. Carry as little as possible - mosquito repellant, sun cream, water, betadine, diarrhoea tablets, toilet paper, torch.....&, remembering the tribes own diet, take some instant noodles!

Having just read Brian's useful & informative post - https://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/showthread.php/38695-Sangkhlaburi-Guided-Tours - I have decided to add this to my Umphang post. In reality I had been in touch with Jack concerning my planned visit to Lae Tong Ku & the Telakhon Rishi sect. There was considerable heavy rain in the area at that time, just before I was due to head to Vietnam, making access by foot impossible. Undaunted Jack had organised with the village chief for me to be transported into the village by elephant! Problems with communications, rain & a lack of time meant that I never undertook the trip as planned. I post this piece of information though as a further recommendation for Jack & to show his determination to 'get the job done'.

I'm adding this to my Umphang report as many will now consider undertaking this trip from north to south & the ride down to Umphang makes simply for a sensational start (or finish) to the adventure.

Lae Tong Ku was visited by these guys
Sangkhla Buri to Umphang, 2 day ride through the jungle...