• Barry

Camping in Mae Moei National Park Tak Province, Thailand

Around one hundred kilometers North of Mae Sot lies Mae Moei National Park, the park is named after the Moei River which forms part of the Thailand/Myanmar border. For this reason the population in this region has a very high percentage of Burmese people (Yes weirdly Burmese is still the correct term), the reasons behind this are a story in their own right and not something I feel qualified to go into. Suffice to say that almost the entire village of Mae Salit which lies at the entrance to the park seemed to have Burmese origins.

Leaving the Number 105 main road you begin climbing into the mountains, sometimes gently and at other times via multiple hairpin bends, or switchbacks. After a round 8km you reach the manned entrance to the National Park, this small section of the park is also where all of the main facilities are for tourists and campers. Once past this point the road continues into the mountains for quite some distance, I rode around a further 25km through to Ramoeng village, where the road suddenly became very steep. Although at this point it was still a concrete surface I felt that this was as far as I wanted to go, locals carried on up the mountain seemingly without a care in the world.

This stretch of road offers some great views across the park particularly in the winter months when the early morning offers the chance to see a sea of mist in the distant mountains below. I believe there were four official viewpoints looking out over some stunning mountain scenery. Another viewpoint down near to Mae Salit overlooks the Moei River and again offers views of the mist but this time over the village and the river. Even without the mist sunrise and sunsets are a photographers dream, particularly as you will possibly be the only person there to witness them. I rode the bike around 7km from my tent to reach my viewpoint of choice and although riding in the dark is not something I feel particularly comfortable with here in Thailand, the main thing to watch out for appeared to be the roaming cattle.

The campsite itself had both good and not so good aspects to it, although the good far outweighed the bad. Entrance to the park is 200 Baht which similar to other parks allows you five days entry and you can enter and leave the park at will, 20 Baht for the bike and 30 Baht per nights camping brought my three night stay total cost to 310 Baht. The camp-spot I was directed to was behind the entrance point and as I was the only person camping there I had my choice of anyone of the dozen or so spots. These were excellent and consisted of an area that was really a parking bay for an RV along with power, although unfortunately most of these power points did not work. Each spot could quite easily fit a car and a couple of small/medium size tents. I was also greeted by the friendliest dog I have met in Thailand, or possibly anywhere else for that matter.

The site had a small shop where you could buy essentials but to buy anything more than snacks or soft drinks you would have to leave the park and head to Mae Salit, so I tended to eat once a day in the town and buy snacks for the evening, the food was good but not what I have become accustomed to in Thailand, no doubt this was due to the Myanmar influence. Fuel for the bike was delivered via a hand-pump and this was my first experience with this type of pump but was something I would get used to on this trip, another pump which I had seen before was a vending type machine where you would put your money into a slot and it would automatically deliver the amount of fuel you paid for. Both of these options would cost a premium of around 30% on the normal gas station price so wherever possible it is best to fill up before leaving the major roads or towns.

The bathroom facilities were very clean but basic, with cold water torture machines that the Thais call showers available. Bungalows were available for rent and these looked quite modern and large, the cost of these I am unsure about as I never enquired. The road running through the park is quite well used and some care needs to be taken when riding due to the wildlife and cattle, there are also semi-regular small convoys of lorries which run through the park day and night but the drivers of these trucks seem very professional.

Apart from the mountains the other major attractions in this area are waterfalls, unfortunately as I visited in the middle of a very dry spell there was little in the way of water flowing and the falls I did see were a trickle. Days were warm but not uncomfortably hot and being this far North and at altitude the nights were surprisingly cool, in fact after the first night staying here I went down into the village and bought myself a sleeping bag the following morning, although this was not really needed just yet, I felt that things might get even colder as I headed further North and also higher (this premonition turned into reality). As most of my interest was focused on early morning, during the daytime there was not really much to do except explore the surrounding area. The park has plenty of outstanding scenery and the area outside the park is also beautiful, it was just a pity it was such a dry period and there was a lack of greenery. There were still lots of nice little creatures to photograph though.

On my second night a large group of Thai 4x4 drivers turned up for the night and suddenly the site was full of tents. Talking to them they said they were heading to where I had turned the bike around and on into the mountains for the weekend. They headed off the following morning and left me and my dog the site all to ourselves again. I was surprised the park did not get more visitors, but from what I have read this is most often the case. The park is pretty remote and the only access appears to be from the road that runs almost parallel to the Myanmar border, so anybody wanting to visit would need their own transport. I really enjoyed my three nights here and found plenty to entertain me, this camping was starting to grow on me.

On leaving the park I headed the short distance to Mai Saraing and spent three nights there before heading in country towards Doi Inthananon and Thailand's highest peak. Coming soon.

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