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Trekking and forest camping in Namtok Pliew national park - Chanthaburi province
(21 - 23 January 2005)

View from a hill-top near Makot ranger station It was a weekend escape from the dusty filthy smelly Bangkok of multi-storey concrete jungle for two nights. I was thinking about going to a national park on the eastern seaboard since the middle of the month. I made calls to some national parks including Khao Chamao - Khao Wong and Pliew waterfall. I told them that I would like walking and camping in the forest - not at the camp site with facilities. I asked if there was a guide there to walk with us. Everyone who picked my calls answered the same - that it was not possible to walk far into the forest or climb to the peak of the mountain and camp in the jungle. However finally someone at Namtok Pliew national park said that we could go to a ranger station in the park and there it might be possible to do camping in the forest but not far from the station.

On the Friday afternoon (21 January) as soon as we finished our office works we took a taxi to Ekamai eastern bus terminal on Sukhumvit road. We took an evening air-con bus to Chanthaburi. After the three and a half hours ride we arrived at Chanthabury station at 1 AM on Saturday. We directly went to a small hotel for the nigth stop.

In the early morning of 22 January we went back to the bus station for breakfast and found a taxi cab there to take us to Namtok Pliew national park, a 14 km drive to the east or about 20 minutes. The park's headquarters area was found to be very clean and things were well organized. The forest was lush and green. There were however many visitors including a large student group from a local school. We talked with the staffs of the park for possible jungle walk and camping somewhere. We would not camp at the Pliew waterfall site; it was too crowded. However as a little girl I was in a disadvantage. They did not believe that I could walk and camp in the jungle. At the end of the talk we were offered a car ride to Makot waterfall station on the north-eastern part of the park. After a hot drink and a snack at a small restaurant we left for Makot waterfall. Makot waterfall station had road access from highway 3277 but there were no regular bus to go there. At that time they did not charge the visitors entrance fees.

A section of Makot waterfall We wanted to climb the 900 meters high Mab Wa Krok mountain that we knew from our map. However the forest there was not that easy. There were lot of plants with thorns, and the slopes were steep. Wildlife population especially the large mammals was very small, and only very few people had walked deep into the jungle. Thus there were no clear trails in the forest.

So after the lunch which we had to get out to buy at a village, we together with two staff guides walked up only to a hill viewpoint. The two guides went ahead with knifes and cut tree branches to make our way. It was not a long and steep climb, but it was not easy since every direction you turn there were thorns, and the forest was thick with many species of plants. At a place we had to walk down a slope where there were dead loosen bamboo that made us fall freely. We heard birds but never saw other animals. After an hour of cut and walk we reached to a highland viewpoint from where we could see the Makot station and its entrance road. It was beautiful and rewarding experience.

We continued to Makot waterfall stream. There was still some water flowing even though it was quite a dry period in Thailand after the less than usual rainy season. The stream originated at high elevation and formed a number of falls on its way to the lowland. It was a nice little waterfall with lot of rocks and stones. Both sides of the stream were thick forest and rock wall. We saw schools of fish (Pluang-Hin) swimming non-stop against the current. The strong current swept some fish over to lower ponds. Some fish found refuge between the rocks where the water was somewhat stagnant and thus they did not need to struggle alot.

We walked down along the stream and enjoyed rest times at two levels of the river. Finally at about 3:30 PM we arrived back at the ranger station. After a short rest we went to clear a spot near the stream for camping. The place was about 300 meters from the station and was in the middle of the jungle. We managed to clear the ground just enough for two tents. We pitched our tents - about 30 meters from the stream, and started to build fire for cooking. The staff guides helped us find fire wood, clear the space and build the fire. They used a piece of bicycle inner tube to start the fire. Dead wood and fallen branches were planty and we were happy with the location.

Cooking in the forest Our jungle camp Full moon through the jungle

We quenched our hunger with instant noodle. We boiled the canal water in our small aluminium pot. The dinner was delicious as we were very very hungry. Becaue our bottled water was not enough we had to boil some more canal water, and cooled it down by placing the pot in the stream. The taste of the water was no difference from the bottled water. For the shower we used a rest room at the ranger station. There were public toilets there too. So it was half jungle camping - half enjoying the basic facilities.

The stream of Trok Nong waterfall When the night fell we were hungry again, so we continued to boil more water to make hot drink to eat with breads. Even though it was close to the full-moon day (Monday the 24 January was the full-moon day) our camp was almost pitch dark after the sunset. We had to keep the bonfire, and then we sat and talked and listened to the sounds of insects and the water flowing pass stones in the stream. From the thickness of the trees we could see the moon far away in the space. Occasionally there came fire-flies, and sound of lizards. From a distance a last call of a monkey came. The night was one of my best nights in the forest. In the begining it was warm, but later it was getting cool but not cold. I was fallen into sound sleep only to wake up at 6:30 AM by the noice of my friend building the fire again for our breakfast.

The morning was lovely. The water kept on flowing, plants were green and moist again; it was not hot but just fine. I could feel the thin nature smell of freshness in the air. Birds and insects were singing again. After the morning toilet we sat for our breakfast of hot drinks and breads. After the breakfast we put out the fire, sprayed water on the hot wood, and tried to make the place look like no one camped last night. Then we took down the tents, packed the things up and walked to the station.

Two of the staffs sent us on their motor bikes to Trok Nong waterfall station which was located to the south of Makot station. The access road to Trok Nong station was longer than that of Makot station, from highway 3277. Coming together with the park's staffs we were not asked to pay the entrance fees. There was a large group of students camping there and no one was free to walk together with us to Trok Nong waterfall. One officer explained us in the office the trails in that part of the park. He said we could only walk up to Klang waterfall. Beyond that there was no trail to continue to Trok Nong fall.

Nevertheless we left our stuff at the office and left for the walk. The trail was clear. We walked along the stream for a distance and then entered the thick forest. There were bamboo, some bananas, and other plants both large and small, tall and short. After an hour walk we arrived at Klang waterfall. We took a rest for drinks and photos. The forest, the stream, and landscape were similar to those at Makot station. After a short rest we decided that we gave it a try to go further to see if we could get to Trok Nong waterfall which was another kilometer away. We pushed ourselves through the thick growth of plants, somethimes walking on all four. After a few minutes we discovered that it was impossible to go ahead without getting stung by the thorns. We moved through the bamboo and thorn trees and arrived at a section of the stream. It looked like a waterfall or a white water, but it was definitely not Trok Nong since we knew we were not more than few hundred meters from Klang waterfall. We took a stop there and looked around for a possible trail to go further. It seemed that the only possible way was to cut the plants to make trail. We did not have a knife and a good map. So we thought it was enough; we backed off and walked back.

Sunset view from Laem Sing cape Koh Chula near Laem Sing cape - at sea

We made a small mistake by taking an easier landscape to get back to Klang waterfall. In a few minutes we were lost! We did not find the way we had come. We were wandering around for sometime, but by instinct we managed to keep ourselves within the hearing distance of the stream. We tried to walk on the stream but failed because rocks and boulders were too large for us to climb over and leap. After nearly an hour in the thorn jungle we finally found by accident the way we had come. When we got back to Klang waterfall we took a drink and then headed back hungrily to the station.

The lighthouse at Laem Sing - Chanthaburi An hour later, at 1 PM, we were back in a small restaurant at the station for our lunch, with smelly bodies. We made a call to the taxi cab we used yesterday to come and pick us. After the lunch and a cool shower we came back to Chanthaburi bus station, bought the tickets for Bangkok in an evening bus and then off again to the south of the city to visit a lighthouse. The only lighthouse in Chanthaburi province was located at Laem Sing at the mouth of Chanthaburi river. It was under the management of Royal Navy Hydrographic Department. People wishing to visit can contact the navy in Bangkok.

The people at the lighthouse were very friendly. They offered us cold water to drink. They explained us about the lighthouse; its history, working system, and interesting places around. We had a nice sunset from the cape viewpoint near the lighthouse. The weather was not very clear though. If it had been clear we could had seen as far as Koh Chang in the south-east, the officer said. Close to Laem Sing cape there was a small island at sea called Koh Chula. We took pictures of the island and the sun setting at sea beside Koh Nomsong island. The officers were very welcoming and visitors could come and learn about lighthouse there.

On the way back to Bangkok in the bus that night I was thinking that next time I would ask my male friend to make phone calls to the national park so that we might get "Yes" to enter into the deep jungle and camp there. For now it was OK, I was tired and I really enjoyed the trip.

No no, this was not mine. My friend's hand - two days after the trip

Map of Namtok Pliew National Park
1 = Headquarters
2 = Pliew waterfall
3 = Trok Nong waterfall
4 = Makok waterfall
5 = Klong Narai waterfall

Sai (09 March 2005)

Salawin river, Mae Hong Son province, northern Thailand
Hike & Hilltribe village homestay to Salawin river, Mae Hong Son

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