Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

  • where:

    Umphang, Thailand

  • what:

    Hiking, Nature, Beauty

  • why:

    Adventure and Solitude

  • when:

    Year Round

  • warnings:

    Spiders and Mosquitos

  • Geotag Icon Show on map

Umphang is located in North Western Thailand along the Myanmar border, and is home to Karen, Thai, Shan and other minority ethnic tribes. To get to Umphang you fly into the town of Mae Sot and take the 164km winding road through the Thanon Thongchai Mountain Range. This road is the only access from Thailand, there is another road that will take you to Myanmar, but to enter the country you have to leave your passports at the border.

We spent only one day in Mae Sot. Most of which was spent walking around the local market, which consists of several streets lined with shops filled with counterfeit western brand items and other various trinkets. Later that day we went back to the hotel and I called the front desk to order a massage down by the pool. My options were half-hour, hour and a half and four hours. I got a call fifteen minuets later by the masseuse and she suggested my room was a better place. I stuck with the pool and realized why a four-hour massage was an option.

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy MilksWe had hired guides to take us backpacking, so we awoke early the next day and met our ride to Umphang. Marcy didn’t feet to well after the 4 hour trip on a road that is said to have over 1200 turns. When we arrived, lunch was waiting, and we met our guides, who’s names were Mr. Bum Bum and Mr. Dam.

Our first leg of our journey into the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary was down the Mae Klong river stream. Our conveyance was a simple raft made of forty foot bamboo pieces lashed together there was a small seat in the middle with room for us and our backpack. The river slowly wandered through the jungle and limestone cliffs. We saw several species of frog, monitor lizards, birds and could always hear the monkeys hooting and playing in the trees.

We reached our first campsite at about 8 p.m. Mr. Bum Bum and Mr. Dam set up our tent and cooked us a delicious dinner. Both spoke a little English, but our conversation was limited to mostly small talk. Mr. Bum Bum told us that he was forty-four years old; he looked like he was around twenty-one. He also told us he had a wife once, but then she got a boyfriend.

The next day was spent hiking over a mountain. We packed very light because Mr. Bum Bum and Mr. Dam took care of all the food and shelter along the journey which made things much easier, especially for Marcy, in that she could make a quick escape from any of the very deadly looking spiders we encountered while hiking through the forest. The trek took about seven hours, half of which was going up a very steep and muddy incline. Along the way our guides were foraging and climbing trees to collect various plants. They also dammed up a small muddy stream an caught four fish with their bare hands. We were very impressed.

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy MilksThe second night we spent at the Lo Su waterfall camp. The Lo Su waterfall is just a few minutes from the campsite and is very impressive at 200 meters tall and 400 meters wide. Its pools are also a great place to escape the heat. There were a few other travelers staying with us at the campsite that night. There was another American, a French Woman, and a Danish Couple. We spent the night talking and solving various brainteasers that our guides had learned from all the travelers they had met.

On the third day we took another trek to a village located about four hours south of Lo Su. Along the way Mr. Bum Bum asked if we wanted to see a “tarantara” (tarantula). I said sure, why not. So later he found a burrow and dug one out. He set it on the ground so we could get our tourist photo, then picked it up started poking it with his knife till it bore its fangs, then he proceeded to cut off the fangs and threw it in his backpack alive. We looked at him inquisitively. He smiled and said, “good barbecue”.

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy MilksWe arrived at the Karen village at about noon. We learned that the Karen people were refuges from Myanmar. If they ever returned they would be killed, but Thailand didn’t really want them either but allowed them to live in the remote area along the border. We toured the village and the local school, then in the afternoon took a short walk through the rice patties to the river for an afternoon swim. That night Mr. Dam barbecued up the days catch. I ate three legs, which were actually quite tasty. Tarantula was like soft shell crab with sweet chicken meet inside. I looked down and Mr. Dam was shoving the whole abdomen into his mouth before anyone else would lay claim to it. Then came the happy water. I new that the next day we would be traveling by elephant so I was weary of the consequences, but I was assured that with happy water there was no hangover.

I did feel surprisingly fine after the previous nights festivities. Our elephants were brought to our hut, but before we could leave a tree had to be cleared that had fallen in a neighbors yard. A might bull elephant under the direction of his handler proceeded to let out a great roar and smashed the tree into small pieces. After this impressive spectacle we mounted up and began our journey back to Mae Sot. After about an hour I couldn’t take the elephant ride anymore. The wooden baskets we sat in were extremely uncomfortable and kept jabbing me in the ribs over and over. Mr. Bum Bum and Mr. Dam were running along side us with another guide who was with the other American we encountered a few days before. The American was gone and his guide seemed like he was on mushrooms. At one point he stripped down and began to make mud puddle angles. Anyway, I jumped down from the elephant and ran through the forest with these three.

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Umphang, Thailand

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

7 Eleven, Umphang, Thailand

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Umphang, Thailand

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Umphang, Thailand

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Umphang, Thailand

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Umphang, Thailand

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Umphang, Thailand

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Tee Lor Su Waterfall

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Umphang, Thailand

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Mr. Bumbum and Mr. Damn

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Mr. Bumbum Jungle Man

Photography by Eric Scott and Marcy Milks

Umphang, Thailand