Thi Lo Su falls is the sixth biggest waterfall in the world, so it’s pretty amazing that in order to reach it during most seasons, you must take a 4×4 on terribly flooded, muddy roads for hours just to make the 1.5 km hike from the park gates. It’s often nearly impossible to do the trek without a trekking company, as was the case when Allie and I decided to get off Thailand’s beaten path and head to Umphang.
Options for the trek usually include rafting, trekking or elephant riding (very bad, DO NOT RIDE ELEPHANTS), and an overnight stay in a Karen Village (a Burmese ethnic group that has migrated many of their tribes to Thailand). Most agencies will tell you that this is only doable in 3 days, and that to do it in 2 days would be extremely difficult. However, we did it in 2 days and while it was tough, I’ve done much harder treks that I’ve been told were easy! Remember, Thai people can be very lazy!
After visiting a number of agencies, we inadvertently stumbled upon Umphang House, a hostel that also does treks. For 2,500 baht, we got the whole package (minus elephant riding, this is a no-no!) and did it in 2 days, not 3!
We started off the first day around 9 am with the rafting section. Having just finished whitewater rafting on the Pai River, this was a joke. We were not given life jackets nor helmets nor paddles. We just relaxed in the raft for three hours (plus a 20 minute break to lounge in hot springs) while two guides gently paddled us down the river. Although there really were no rapids, it was easily the most beautiful rafting I have ever done. The river was lined with waterfalls and mist, and although we did get poured on for about an hour, afterwards we saw tons of tropical birds including my favorite, the kingfisher, and even heard the occasional gibbon call.
At the end of our float, we had lunch in a small park and then got picked up by a 4×4 truck where we rode in the back for a very painful hour along the deep mud “road.” I hopped off the truck with an achy back and tailbone and we started the short hike to the falls. I know I use the descriptor a lot, but they were breathtaking. My photos really don’t do Thi Lo Su justice at all, but here are a few:
We hiked around the falls to the different levels and swam in a few. The water was cold but refreshing. After about two hours, we were called back by our guide to start the long and exhausting trek to the Karen Village.
I will write a full article about our night in the village, but we had a blast. With thighs burning, we were greeted at the entrance by kids laughing at the river and motioning for us to come play.
We spent the night relaxing on the porch of the bamboo hut in which we would sleep. After making A TON of great Thai food for us, our guide ran next door and bought some “happy water,” homemade banana moonshine, and rolled up some Thai tobacco. We sat back taking shots of happy water with dinner, and although I’m not a smoker, I have to say that laying on that bamboo floor under some truly kick ass stars and smoking fresh Thai tobacco with a good amount of moonshine warming my belly was truly serene.
The next morning we slept in and then headed out for another, even tougher 3 hour trek to the pickup spot. It was hot and buggy and mostly uphill. But it was also the deepest into the jungle that I had been thus far, so it was pretty cool as well.