TheLoneRider
a nomad in search of life's Easter Eggs
Umphang, Thailand

Exploring Umphang, Thailand Feb 10-15, 2020

Exploring Umphang, Thailand

Location: Umphang, Thailand

Heard it on the Grapevine
It was only in Mae Sot when I overheard some travelers talking about this obscure and almost unknown destination in Thailand, 5.5 hours from Mae Sot. They talked about a great waterfall, trekking tours, rafting, river splashes and a lot of nature. It reminded of my previous home in Sagada. It was enough to get me excited and pack-up.Sagada

Getting to Umphang
From the Mae Sot Divisional Market (Burmese Market), I boarded the blue songthao (going to the border) and got off at the Bus Station near the airport (B20, 10 mins). At the bus station, I went to platform #5 Umphang, and boarded the blue songthao (departure times 07:30 after every hour until 13:30, B140, 5.5 hours). The first 2 hours were on flat, the following 2.5 hours were dizzying mountain twists like a pretzel road, and the last hour was still curvy, but not as tight. One boy threw up at all the luggage in front of him, to the chagrin of the passengers! Best to have your Google Map activated when nearing Umphang so you know when to get off closest to your hotel before the songthao reaches its final stop. Better yet, show the driver where your hotel is, and he's likely to drop you off the doorstep.

Leaving Umphang for Mae Sot, go to the blue songthao depot at the Umphang Walking Street (see map). Departures are every hour beginning 06:30 to 13:30, B140, and only 5 hours! It should take you to the market and then to Mae Sot bus station near the airport (I don't really know since I alighted at Robinsons).

Exploring Umphang, Thailand
Thi Lor Su Waterfall

Umphang House, ThailandUmphang House
I first went to The Trekking Hill but it was full. Besides, the B100 dorm room was already replaced by the B350 single room. I tried my luck at the Umphang House and offered a deal - deep discount in exchange for blog advertisement. They accepted and that secured a roof over my head for the next 5 days without breaking my budget.

It's an expanse of land with several wooden pavilions with separate ensuite rooms. The place is clean and well-maintained by its hands-on owner. Rooms are spacious and beds comfortable. There is a common dining area where travelers can meet and get acquainted. Wifi is available everywhere, including the rooms. Mosquitos can be nasty, so bring your spray.

Umphang Museum
Surprisingly, this small town has its own museum - albeit a one room museum, commemorating the visit of the former king. Everything was in Thai. It's too bad. A museum is a good introduction to the world at large what their culture and history are all about, but if there is no English version of the text, that wealth of information becomes limited to the locals only.

Alternative
In hindsight, instead of staying at Umphang proper, I would have gone to the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary and stayed there - an additional 40 km from the town center. That way, I would just be less than 2km away from Thi Lor Su Waterfall (the main attraction of Umphang) and the rest of its natural wonders. However, there is no public transport to the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary. You will still have to arrange your private transport. A way around this is to talk to the hotel owners who are offering tours to Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary. You can offer payment and piggyback on a one-way ride. Do the same going back, or hitch-hike. Locals are friendly, and I didn't have a problem hitch-hiking to the Kao Hua Mod viewpoint.

Ending Thoughts
The main deal about Umphang is really its natural offerings - waterfalls, river rafting, caves and trekking. Beginning at B1500, and reaching B4000/pax for a 3-night tour, it's a little pricey for my meager budget. And, it's not something you can DIY (do it yourself) either. The main waterfall is 40 km away through the forest - you can easily get lost! And even going to the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary is not available through public transport - you either have to join a tour or charter a private transport. But all those who took the tours and came back had a smile on their faces you cannot remove.

I guess I came 5.5 hours all the way to Umphang, spent 5 days, only to walk around town and eat. But hey, that's what a nomadic lifestyle is all about - win a few while still being grateful for the revelation of a new destination (discovering this awesome Karen dish, Gheng Cua Karen, discovering a hidden Vipassana temple), even if the waterfall desires were unmet.

--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
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Next stop: Trekking Kao Hua Mot Viewpoint


Umphang Blogs by TheLoneRider

  1. Visiting the Pasak Vipassana Temple, Umphang, Thailand Feb 14, 2020
  2. Food in Umphang Feb 10-15, 2002
  3. Trekking Kao Hua Mot Viewpoint Feb 11-12, 2020
  4. Exploring Umphang, Thailand Feb 10-15, 2020

Umphang Travel Info

Mae Sot to Umphang (and back) by bus

Getting to Umphang
From the Mae Sot Divisional Market (Burmese Market), I boarded the blue songthao (going to the border) and got off at the Bus Station near the airport (B20, 10 mins). At the bus station, I went to platform #5 Umphang, and boarded the blue songthao (departure times 07:30 after every hour until 13:30, B140, 5.5 hours). The first 2 hours was on flat, the following 2.5 hours was a dizzying mountain twist like a pretzel road, and the last hour was still curvy, but not as tight. One boy threw up at all the luggages in front of him, to the chagrin of the passengers! Best to have your Google Map activated when nearing Umphang so you know when to get off closest to your hotel before the songthao reaches its final stop. Better yet, show the driver where your hotel is, and he's likely to drop you off the doorstep.

Leaving Umphang for Mae Sot, go to the blue songthao depot at the Umphang Walking Street (see map). Departures are every hour beginning 06:30 to 13:30, B140, and only 5 hours! It should take you to the market and then to Mae Sot bus station near the airport (I don't really know since I alighted at Robinsons).

songthao departure schedule, Umphang, Thailand
What to Do in Umphang

The main attraction of Umphang are the multiple waterfalls (Thi Lor Su, Thi Lor Jor, Thi Lor Lay, Se Pala, Pitu Grow), rafting, caving (Tha Kubi Cave), hot spring, and trekking. There's is not much within the town proper. Tour rates usually start at B1500/person and can go as much as B4000/person for multi-day trekking.

Travel Tips for Thailand

How to Get a 60-Day Thai Tourist Visa and then Extend by another 30 Days

    60-Day Thai Tourist Visa

    NOTE: There is no need to go back to your country to get the Thai tourist visa. Any major city with a Thai Embassy will do. Apparently there is also no need to have an invitation from a Thai establishment to justify the visa.

  1. Bring the following to the Thai embassy:
    a) proof of money (bank statement will suffice)
    b) flight booking to Thailand
    c) onward flight back to your country from Thailand
    d) filled-in tourist visa form
    e) 2 passport pictures
    f) hotel booking in Thailand (they didn't ask me for this but better be safe)
    g) passport with at least 6 months validity
  2. After handing over all the documents, they will ask you to come pick your passport with the visa the following day from 4 to 5pm. That's it!
  3. NOTE: after 2 successful attempts, I was already questioned the 3rd time.

    30-Day Extension

    NOTE: When your 60-day visa is close to expiry and you want to extend your stay. No need to leave Thailand.

  1. bring the following to the Immigration Office:
    a) passport (make sure your Tourist Visa hasn't expired yet)
    b) Baht 1900
    c) photocopy of your passport + visa duration date stamp + TM6 card (white immigration card) and sign all the copies
    d) completed TM7 visa extension form (available at the Immigration Office)
    e) one 4cmx6cm passport picture
  2. submit the above to the Front Desk. They will give you a stub with your number on it. Take a seat and wait for your number to be called
  3. when your number is called, your picture will be taken. Then go back to your seat. They will call you again.
  4. when they call you again, they'll give you your passport with your extended visa. That's it!
  5. when there are no lines, the whole process can take only 10 minutes
General Travel Tips
  1. arrive early - in case there is a snag (visa snag, documentation snag, transport ticket snag, etc.), you will have ample time to troubleshoot the problem if you arrive early (to the airport, to the bus terminal, etc.)
  2. put detailed itinerary on the Calendar apps of your smart-phone according to timelines - this is where you do all your thinking and planning. Once written down, you don't have to think anymore while you are on the journey...you just follow the steps. This frees your mind for something else that might happen while you are already en route
  3. avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
  4. power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!

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