Mae Sot - Umphang....Riding the Death Highway.

Moto-Rex

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Jan 5, 2008
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Mae Sot - Umphang. Riding the Death Highway and beyond.

According to the Lonely Planet Guide, hwy 1090 that runs south from Mot Sot to Umphang was once known as the death highway due to guerrilla activity that ended in the 1980s.
I'm sure there would still be a lot of deaths on this road now. Not due to guerrillas, but due to road accidents....its a pretty wild ride.
But in saying that I think its one of the best roads Ive ridden. Its tight, twistie and bloody steep, and you get no rest.



In Mae Sot I stayed at Phannu House hotel. Great rooms and good value right in town.
Its next to T Corner bakery, and behind this small grocery store just down the lane.
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Its 164kms to Umphang from Mae Sot. (I couldn't find the 164 post)
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The first 35km or so are like this.......boring.
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The last bit of straight road heading into the mountains
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Then the its all twist and turns for the next 100+ kms
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There's a fair few refugee camps along the way.
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Nice sunny day, and I was dreaming of work.....yeh right.
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Some magic scenery.
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Arrived in Umphang and booked into Garden Huts resort. 400 baht per night.
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Next day headed of to check out the local site sites.

I came across this sign, and road wasn't on the my map or GPS so went and checked it out.
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There doing a fair bit or work on the track.....not to much I hope.
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Beautiful lush jungle most of the way.
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There was two ways through here....one for the trail riders, and one for the freestylers.
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I arrived at the National park and paid the 200baht to get in. There was a sign that said the big water fall was 1.5 km away.
As I started to get on my bike the officer said I couldn't ride to the water fall. I would have to hike....my idea of a hike is walking to the fridge to get another beer.
I told him I would ride slowly, but he said its not possible. So as I had already paid, I started my hike to the water fall, wearing MX boots and pants, in 38 degree heat.
One advantage of wearing big heavy boots was the protection they would give against king cobras, particularly seeing it was cobra mating season.....but the down side was if I needed to flee a tiger, the boots, would no doubt hinder my escape.

I soon worked out why I wasn't allowed to take to bike.
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Finally made it to the water fall.
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Lots of lizards.
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This one let me get right up close. I was going to touch it, but not knowing the spiecies, decided against it. Riding back to umphang on the dirt track with a severed finger would have been difficult.
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Back up the track and on to the tar road that heads south to the Burmese border at Ban Poeng Kloeng
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Looking over into Burma you can clearly see the place is a complete mess.
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Next day it was back up the Mae Sot.
The hwy with the mountains that divide Thailand and Burma in the back ground.
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Moto-Rex
 

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HTWoodson

Ol'Timer
Apr 20, 2009
170
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Beautiful photos Rex. The waterfall looks so inviting, you didn't take a dip?

Do you have a grid for the Phannu House? I never can find a decent place to stay in Tak.
 

dirthonk

Ol'Timer
Jun 21, 2006
408
1
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Awesome pictures rexy, i havent ridden that highway yet, thanks to your report i reckon im gonna head down there as soon as i get back from holiday. fantastic stuff!
 

TonyBKK

Ol'Timer
Dec 27, 2007
3,854
11
38
Nice One Rex!

Been wanting to hit that road for a long time- hear it's awesome!

Great pics- thanks for sharing!

Happy Trails!

Tony :happy5:
 

Rhodie

Ol'Timer
Mar 5, 2006
847
3
18
Great ride report Rex.
The 1090 is a cracking ride and a different experience both directions.
Glad to see they allowed you to ride the road to the waterfall.
There's a scam if you lodge in Umphang to get you to hire a 4x4 to the waterfall.
TiLoSu is spectacular in October/November.
 

Auke

Ol'Timer
Nov 10, 2003
665
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HTWoodson wrote: Beautiful photos Rex. The waterfall looks so inviting, you didn't take a dip?

Do you have a grid for the Phannu House? I never can find a decent place to stay in Tak.
Phannu House is located at N16 42.822 E98 33.730 and is just behind a minimart so you won't see the GH frpm the road. It is close to the Ban Thai GH which is located at N16 42.800 E98 33.586 Both guest houses have free WIFI. Both are located on the Intharakhiri Rd. which is the road which runs more or less parallel to the main road to the Mae Sot bridge to Myanmar.
 

Moto-Rex

Moderator
Jan 5, 2008
939
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SilverhawkUSA wrote: Nice report Rex. For what is claimed to be the biggest waterfall in Thailand; it looks a little disappointing. Lack of water? What was your impression? :think:
Sorry for late reply, Im still on the road.

Its fair to say the water fall wasn't as big and spectacular as I thought it was going to be. Considering everyone in umphang from the noodle shop lady, to the resort owner raved about how good it was, and that I shouldn't miss seeing it. Its really was nothing special at all. There was differently no thundering roar coming from the trickling water falling.

The dirt ride to and from the National Park was good, and even the walk to the water fall along the elevated path was pretty good too. But if I had booked a tour in Umphang to the water fall and had to sit 4 hours in the back of a four wheel drive to see it.....well then I would have been a little more than disappointed.

dirthonk wrote: Awesome pictures rexy, i havent ridden that highway yet, thanks to your report i reckon im gonna head down there as soon as i get back from holiday. fantastic stuff!
Being a snake lover you love it down there Dirthonk. In three days I seen more snakes on the road than I've seen in two years riding here. Even seen a 10 foot burmess python that had been run over by a car.

Moto-Rex
 

Moto-Rex

Moderator
Jan 5, 2008
939
282
63
Rhodie wrote: Great ride report Rex.
The 1090 is a cracking ride and a different experience both directions.
Glad to see they allowed you to ride the road to the waterfall.
There's a scam if you lodge in Umphang to get you to hire a 4x4 to the waterfall.
TiLoSu is spectacular in October/November.
Your right Rhodie, the road seems completely different riding to and from Umphang. Riding to umphang was far better on the KLX for some reason.

Theres lots of water falls, villages etc around Umphang, but they don't make it easy for an independent traveller and I think deliberately so.All most all attractions have either no sign, or the sign is only in Thai text. Its also imposible to get a decent map of the area.
I was refused entry into the "World heritage Thung Yai wildlife sanctuary" by an armed guard with he's finger literary on the trigger.
The GPS showed the track went about 10kms further on. Thinking it was the bike that was the problem, I asked if I could walk in and have a look, but was told to get lost.

I wonder Rhodie,... if I was a paying customer in the back of a 4 wheel drive from Umphang, if things may have been different.

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The no go area.
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Moto-Rex
 

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mikehohman

Ol'Timer
Sep 16, 2009
159
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Nice report and some cool pix. Thanks for that!

When Rob and I came thru there in Feburary, coming north from Sangkhlaburi, they refused to let us on the road to Thee Lo Sor Falls. Impressed that you got thru. Rhodie is right on about the scam... For the Thung Yai NWS, we got a permit to enter the park, and I think as long as you have that, they ought to let you in. You can apply for it and get it at the Forestry Department. We got ours at the office on the road from Bangkok to Kanjanaburi. When we entered the park, they even had pre-printed receipts for people and vehicles...
 

Auke

Ol'Timer
Nov 10, 2003
665
0
0
Moto-Rex wrote: [quote quote=Rhodie]
Glad to see they allowed you to ride the road to the waterfall.
There's a scam if you lodge in Umphang to get you to hire a 4x4 to the waterfall.
I was refused entry into the "World heritage Thung Yai wildlife sanctuary" by an armed guard with he's finger literary on the trigger.
The GPS showed the track went about 10kms further on. Thinking it was the bike that was the problem, I asked if I could walk in and have a look, but was told to get lost.

I wonder Rhodie,... if I was a paying customer in the back of a 4 wheel drive from Umphang, if things may have been different.
Moto-Rex
The Thung-Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary is closed for tourists and you need to have a permit to enter.
The sanctuary is not open to the general public, but permission may be given to researchers, naturalists and education groups for specific purposes. Some 400-500 visitors come each dry season. Permits can be obtained from the Wildlife Conservation Division in Bangkok, or from the Chief of the Sanctuary.

So, even if you would have been a paying customer in a Tourist 4WD I doubt very much they would let you in.

Guess the reason that you could drive up to the Teelorsu WF at this time in the year is that there are not that many tourists in the rainy season and even less so during the week so the tour operators may find it difficult to "fill" seats in a 4WD.

Maps are available but you will have to ask around. Boonlum Tours provided this map below.
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Boonlum's map

This map (in Thai and English) I got quite some time ago from Shinji (sorry, the map is not clear as it had been scanned and printed a few times).
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Franz

Ol'Timer
Jun 28, 2007
1,660
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Rex as always beautiful pictures and a perfect trip report. I wouldn't have left that waterfall & pond until soaked to the bones after a long dip......55555.....rgds, FR
 

captain_bob

Active Member
Jul 19, 2008
44
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0
That's shocking to see the falls so low in July(?) but it has been the driest year in decades. I went there in January a few years ago and it was fairly gushing. Normally that 25km road is a total mess June-Oct but looks pretty sane now. Thilawsu is claimed to be the "most beautiful" in Thailand (not the "biggest" which is Mae Surin falls near Khun Yuam) but pretty lame by world standards unless you grew up in Nebraska. Heck just a few minutes off the highway from my native Seattle the Sonoqualmie Falls beat the crap out of anything Thailand has to offer. To think Thai tourists make the long trip to Thilawsu every year is kinda silly, but the drive there is more of a highlight, especially on two wheels! Thanks for the pics.
 

SilverhawkUSA

Ol'Timer
Mar 15, 2003
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www.daveearly.com
captain_bob wrote: That's shocking to see the falls so low in July(?) but it has been the driest year in decades. I went there in January a few years ago and it was fairly gushing. Normally that 25km road is a total mess June-Oct but looks pretty sane now. Thilawsu is claimed to be the "most beautiful" in Thailand (not the "biggest" which is Mae Surin falls near Khun Yuam) but pretty lame by world standards unless you grew up in Nebraska. Heck just a few minutes off the highway from my native Seattle the Sonoqualmie Falls beat the crap out of anything Thailand has to offer. To think Thai tourists make the long trip to Thilawsu every year is kinda silly, but the drive there is more of a highlight, especially on two wheels! Thanks for the pics.
I guess it all depends on how one defines it. Thilawsu is most often recognized as the "largest waterfall in Thailand". Mae Surin Waterfall seems to be known as the "tallest single tier waterfall".

The Tee Law Su Waterfall is the highest waterfall in Thailand and one of the highest in Asia.
http://worldinfozone.com/facts.php?country=Thailand

These terrace waterfalls are Thailand's largest at an estimated height of 400 meters and a width of 300 meters during the rainy season. They are also considered by many to be Thailand's most beautiful. The falls are part of the Um Phang Wildlife Sancuary. http://www.squidoo.com/Worlds-Amazing-Waterfalls#module52013931

Surrounded by national parks and wildlife reserves, it is one of the least accessible district in Thailand. Nevertheless, it has one major tourist attraction, Thi Lo Su Waterfall (???????????), the largest waterfall of Thailand.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphoe_Umphang

Thilawsu Waterfall - the Black Water Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Thailand. Its height is about 200 meters and total width 400 meters. http://www.westernforest.org/en/areas/um_phang.htm

Nam Tok Mae Surin (Mae Surin waterfall): A single jet of water leaping off a cliff face and plunging gracefully onto the rocks 100 meters below, Mae Surin waterfall is one of the tallest and most beautiful single tier waterfalls in Thailand. The fall can be viewed from the hills across the valley, or you can hike down the hills for a closer look. On the way to the waterfall, there are Karen and Hmong hill tribe villages as well as the famous Toong Buat Tong, or fields of wild sun flowers, which bloom for two weeks only in the month of November. http://www.trekthailand.net/north37/index.html

The most popular attraction in Mae Surin Waterfall is the single-level waterfall which cascades down 100 metres from an overhanging cliff. http://www.hotelthailand.com/bymountains/thenorth.html