A week after my first trip to Umphang, I went down there again. My Spanish friend Carmen wanted to go, and we hoped we could find a way to get to the waterfalls this time, the ones for which Hans and I had refused to pay $15.
Just over halfway to Umphang, on the side of the highway, is Umpiem Mai refugee camp, with a population of around 15,000 refugees from Burma. On the other side of the border near here is where a lot of the recent fighting between SPDC, DKBA, and KNLA forces has been.
Carmen and I tried to visit the camp but smiles weren’t enough to get us in. Still, we could take photos from the road!
The refugees are not allowed out of the camp by the Thai government, but they can walk out onto the highway without a problem. There’s a checkpoint to stop them from going up to Mae Sot, though they could walk a very long walk to Umphang if they had a good reason.
We met a couple of young boys walking past as we took photos of the camp, so we let them use our cameras for a bit to teach them how, and they were really happy at the chance. They’d never held a camera before, and you could see in their facial expressions how proud they were to be trusted with something like a camera. Here’s a shot of one boy, taken by another boy:
We made it safely to Umphang and I called my friend Praew, who works there (but was out of town the previous week), and she invited us to a late office Christmas party that evening, which was really fun as we got to meet a number of aid workers from different organisations and countries, mostly locals of course, and there were games (such as the balloon stomping game from a previous post) and LOTS of amazing food.
The next morning, we got up early, barely managed to start up our bikes in the freezing cold (yes, it gets cold in Thailand – it was below 5 degrees Celsius and humid), and off we went to the Thi Lo Su waterfalls. The ride was painfully cold for my hands, and there was a tremendous fog on the road so we couldn’t go full speed, but the road was familiar so it was no problem to get there.
We arrived at about 830am and the gate man wouldn’t let us take our motorbikes in, same as last week. So we went to the ticket lady and she said a truck would come by eventually and we could figure out a price. Only a few minutes later, a guy with a pickup truck full of Thai tourists showed up, and after a lot of haggling we managed to convince him to let us ride in the back of his truck (the Thai tourists were comfortably seated inside) for 50 Baht each (CAD $1.50). Nice!
Riding along the bumpy 25km road in the forest (which we eeeeasily could have done on motorbike, but it was nice to let someone else drive for once)
The falls were really nice; we had to walk a while to get to them, and they were quite picturesque. Mostly we just sat in the sunshine in front of the falls warming up, relaxing after the 25km bumpy ride sitting on the hard bed of the pickup truck.
We both had to be back in Mae Sot the next day, so after the waterfalls we had a quick bite to eat and we were off on the highway back to Mae Sot. Here’s Carmen on her shiny red bike on one of the high mountain sections of highway:
All-in-all, a successful trip #2 to Umphang!