Tak is a northern province covering an area of 16,406 largely mountainous square kilometres. The provincial capital is 426 kilometres north of Bangkok, and is situated on the Ping river basin. To the west, the border touches on Myanmar demarcated by mountain ranges and the Moei River.
Nearby is a staute of King Taksin the Great , a former governor of Tak who mobilized the Thais, and successfully reunited the nation after Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese in 1767. To the north of Mae Sot is the Taksin Maharat National Park , featuring a steeply descending trail to the huge krabak tree, measuring 50 m tall and a girth of 16 m. The park is a haven for bird watching. Another park highlight is the 9-tiered Mae Ya Falls.
Wat Bot Mani Sibunruang in town reflects the Northern influence with its finely decorated Lanna-sytel bot. The temple houses the highly revered Buddha image of Luang Pho Phutthamon.
In mid-19th century, Burmese and Shan merchants from Burma crossed the Moei River to establish Mae Sot as a prosperous market town. In recent years, trade in hardwood and gems have brought considerable wealth to the town, though it has still retained the feel of a frontier town. Because of its location and history, the town has been heavily influenced by the Burmese, evident in temple architecture and market goods. The border market here is a magnet for all travelers.
Among the attractions in Mae Sot is Wat Thai Watthanaram , built in the Tai Yai architectural style with a huge, Burmese-style reclining Buddha in the courtyard. A little further beyond the temple is a bridge that links Mae Sot with the Burmese border town of Myawadi. Clustered around the foot of the bridge is a large market selling odd mixes of Thai, Chinese, and Burmese goods.
Mon Krathing , located 114 km north from Mae Sot, has popular viewing points overlooking the valley and border area. It is particularly beautiful in the early mornings.
The 800-m deep limestone cavern of Mae U-Su Cave lies close to the border and has a stream running through it. During the rainy season, the stream may swell and the caves might be inaccessible. Throughout the year, the cave is damp and slippery. Visitors enter at one point and exit from another, making a steep descent to a trail that leads back to the starting point. Karen villagers regularly travel through this passage from their Burmese villages to work in the rice fields in the village, which is located near the cave entrance.
The Mae U-Su Cave is part of the Moei National Park , established in 1999. Driving on the steeply rising, zigzag road to the camping area and visitor center offers a breathtaking overview of the Moei River. Viewing the sea of mists in the early morning hours is best at Mon Kew Lom viewing point.
The remote town of Umphang takes 4-5 hrs to reach from Mae Sot due to winding and steeply ascending roads, which is part of its charm since the road is one of the most scenic. The village consists mainly of Karen hilltribe people and is surrounded by the lush forests of Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary , rich in bird life, small mammals, many cascades, rapids, and caves. In recent years, Umphang has become a popular place for rafting, hiking, and elephant trekking.
Located in the sanctuary is the spectacular Thi Lo Su Waterfall , one of the country's highest waterfalls and a highlight of rafting on a tributary of the Mae Klong River.
Extending northwards towards Chiang Mai's Hot District, the Bhumibol Dam was built in 1957 to serve agricultural purposes, but later transformed into an electricity-generating source. The Bhumibol Dam and Mae Ping Lake offer a panoramic view, especially in the morning and late afternoon, and a variety of recreational activities, includes cruises, golf and trekking trails.
Taksin Maharat National Park was originally named Krabak Yai National Park, after the name of Thailand's biggest tree. This 37,250-acre national park is located 2 kilometres off the Tak-Mae Sot Highway, some 26 kilometres from Tak city. The mountainous area has several scenic viewpoints, evergreen forests, waterfalls and streams. Accommodation, primarily in the form of bungalows and campsites, are available.
King Taksin the Great Shrine is located on Charot Withithong Road, and is the statue of Tak's most famous native son (1734-1782) and the site of an annual fair from December 28 until January 3. King Taksin was the Thai monarch who expelled the Burmese from Thailand after the 1767 destruction of Ayutthaya, the Thai capital.
Mani Banphot Swamp. This scenic, extensive area in the heart of Tak city, is located near Wat Mani Banphot on Phahonyothin Highway. Inside the temple, a Chiang Saen Buddha image dating from the late 1200s is enshrined.
Khao Tham. Located in Tambon Mai Ngam, this 71-metre rocky hillock, near Phahonyothin Highway, contains replicas of the Lord Buddha's Footprint on the summit. Tak residents pay homage throughout the year, most particularly during Songkran, which marks the traditional Thai New Year each April 13.
Lan Sang National Park is located on the Tak-Mae Sot Highway (Route 105), 17 kilometres from Tak city, and is accessed by a 3-kilometre road. The park contains the scenic Lan Sang and Pha Phung waterfalls. Accommodation is available.
Wat Phra Boromthat & Ancient Tak City. This monastery, located 25 kilometres upstream in Amphoe Ban Tak, is in an area which used to be the former site of Tak city.
There are several ruins in the area, including a hilltop pagoda which was constructed, according to legend, by King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai (reign: 1275-1317) to commemorate his victory in single combat on elephant back against King Khun Sam Chon, the ruler of Muang Shot (currently Amphoe Mae Sot).
Mae Ping Lake Cruises. Popular cruises originate from the Bhumibol Dam to Chiang Mai's Doi Tao edging the dam reservoir, a total distance of 140 kilometres.
Bhumibol Dam. Thailand's largest dam is located some 60 kilometres north of Tak city in Amphoe Sam Ngao, and dams the Mae Ping River. The extensive reservoir forms a picturesque lake that extends northwards to Chiang Mai's Hot districts. Accommodation is available at the dam.
Mae Sot This riverside settlement on the Moei River, facing Myanmar on the opposite bank, and some 86 kilometres from Tak city, is well known for its shopping opportunities, especially for Burmese goods such as cloth lengths, gemstones and decorative items.
Doi Musur Hilltribe Development & Welfare is l ocated on the Tak-Mae Sot route, and is the area where Lahu, Lisu and Hmong hilltribes reside. Hilltribes products are for sale at Km. 29 on the Tak-Mae Sot Highway.
Tha Song Yang
Tham Mae Usu is a cave boasting notably beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, and is located on the scenic Mae Sot - Mae Sariang Highway (Route 1085), at Km. 95-96. It is necessary to ford the Mae Us u stream in front of the cave to gain access. This may not be possible during the annual Rains Season (July through October).
Pha Charoen Waterfall is a breathtaking multi-tiered waterfall located between Km. 36-37 along Highway No. 1090.
This distant district is 164 kilometres south of Mae Sot on Highway No. 1090. There are air-conditioned buses, as well as flights from Bangkok to Mae Sot, from where one then takes the local bus to Umphang. The scenic highway's highest point is some 1,200 metres above sea level. The winding route takes some 4 hours to complete, particularly during the Rains Season or the Cool Season when mountain mists impede progress.
Every part of Umphang is a centre of ecotourism; for example, major water sources can be found here. It is also part of a World Heritage Site. The way of life of the Karen hilltribe people, who keep elephants as a means of transportation, can be seen in Umphang District. These people live close to nature.
There are many types of accommodation in Umphang that provide services for tourism-rafting, trekking, elephant riding, etc.For safety and the protection of personal property, visitors are advised to refrain from using the services of illegal guides and children. Only use the services of the operators who are registered under the Tourism Business and Guides Registration Office. While rafting, please use life-saving equipment at all times for safety.
Major attractions in Umphang are as follows:
Thi Lo Cho or Falling Rain Waterfall is apprximately 3 kilometres from Umphang. The upper falls are located on high cliffs and the tier is narrow, whereas the lower falls are part of the stream of the Mae Klong, falling like rainfall. It is possible to travel all year-round.
Doi Hua Mot is approximately 4 kilometres from Umphang. On the mountaintops, there are no large trees, only undulating limestone hills with clusters of small shrubs growing throughout the area. The top of Doi Hua Mot is the place to admire the " Sea of Fog " in the early morning
Sepla Waterfall is located in the area of Ban Sepla, Tambon Mae Lamung. It is approximately 3 kilometres from Ban Palatha, and is known for its beauty. The waterfall is made up of tiers with a width of approximately 10 metres, and a length of approximately 5 0 metres. The water flows down onto the rocks below, among the greenery.
Takhobi Cave is located in the area of Ban Mae Klong Mai, approximately 3 kilometres from Umphang. Inside, there is a large chamber. It is possible to go through the cave to Ban Mae Klong. There are very beautiful stalagmites and stalactites.
Thi Lo Su Waterfall, l ocated in the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, is regarded as the most beautiful in Thailand. Originating from Huai Klotho, it flows down a mountain valley at a height of 200-300 metres. The falls flow down in tiers surrounded by virgin forest. There is a trail to the waterfall from the wildlife sanctuary office. It takes approximately 15 minutes to walk, and there are places to stop and admire the impressive views from the top. To get there, follow a small road off the main road from Umphang for 27 kilometres. Visitors must follow the set route, or raft and walk through the forest. Vehicles can enter between November to April only.
Loi Krathong Sai , Thailand's lovely annual "Festival of Lights" on the full moon night in November, is celebrated in a unique manner in Tak. Local people thread together their krathongs, which are then launched simultaneously and appear as lighted necklaces on the Ping River.
Taksin Maharachanuson Fair. Celebrated annually from December 28-January 3 at the Taksin Shrine and provincial sports field, the fair features religious ceremonial processions and displays, and nightly folk entertainment.
Hotels and accommodation
- Central Mae Sot Hill Hotel : 100 Asia Road, Mae Sot [(66 55) 532-602-8]
- Duangkamol : 298 Inthakhiri Road Amphoe Mae Sot [Tel: 0 5553 1699, 0 5554 2648, 0 5554 2649, 0 5553 1378] : 250-450 baht
- First : 444 Inthakhiri Road Amphoe Mae Sot [Tel: 0 5554 6051, 0 5554 6409] : 180-450 baht
- Maesod Hill : 100 Asia Road Amphoe Mae Sot [Tel: 0 5553 2601-8 Bangkok Tel: 0 2541 1234 Ext. 2225, 2226] : 960-1,650 baht
- Pornthep : 25/4 Amphoe Mae Sot Amphoe Mae Sot [Tel: 0 5553 2590-4 Fax: 0 5553 2596] : 550-1,500 baht
- Racha Villa Resort : 307/1 Phahonyothain Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5551 2361-2, 0 5551 2475-6 Fax: 0 5551 3051] : 250-650 baht
- Siam : 185 Prasat Withi Road Amphoe Mae Sot [Tel: 0 5553 1176, 0 5553 1376, 0 5553 1974] : 220-600 baht
- Sorakan Rittiron Resort : 29 Asia Road Amphoe Mae Sot [Tel: 0 5553 1596, 0 1211 0438 Fax: 0 5553 3916] : 550-2,200 baht
- Suan Kamon Resort : Mae Sot-Mae Ramat Road Amphoe Mae Ramat [Tel: 0 5553 2616, 0 1226 4307 Fax: 0 5553 1103] : 500-1,500 baht
- Suansin Garden Resort : 8/7 Phahonyothin Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5551 1102 Fax: 0 5551 1864] : 500-700 baht
- Thawichai Land Resort : 457 Inthakhiri Road Amphoe Mae Sot [Tel: 0 5553 1287, 0 5553 2337, 0 5553 1569 Fax: 0 5553 3203] : 500-1,500 baht
- Theelorsu Riverside:: Amphoe Umphang [Tel: 0 5556 1010]
- Umphang Country Hut : 141 Moo 1 Unphang [(66 55) 561-079]
- Viang Tak Hotel, The : 236 Chompol Road, Muang [(66 55) 512-507-8]
- Wattana Village Resort : 373 Asia Road Amphoe Mae Sot [Tel: 0 5553 2616, 0 5553 1951 Fax: 0 5553 3469] : 500-1,500 baht
- Wiang Tak 1 : 25/3 Mahatthai Bamrung Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5551 1910, 0 5551 1950, 0 5551 1090 Fax: 0 5551 2169 Bangkok Tel: 0 2233 2690, 0 2234 4885] : 550-1,200 baht
- Wiang Tak 2 : Chumphon Road Amphoe Muang [Tel: 0 5551 1910, 0 5551 1950, 0 5551 1090 Fax: 0 5551 2169, Bangkok Tel: 0 2512 1544] : 550-1,200 baht
- Amphoe Muang
- Krua Kasert : 208 Phaholyotin Rd., Nam Rum, Tel: 0-5554-0459
- Jintana : 2/46 Phaholyotin Rd., Tel: 0-5551-1637
- Chalerm Mit : 156 Thai Chana Rd., Rahaeng, Tel: 0-5551-1690
- Chom Ping Beer Garden : Wiang Tak Hotel 2, Jompon Rd., Tel: 0-5551-2686, 0-5551-2507
- Chid Chon : 276/16 Jompol Rd., Chiang Ngern, Tel: 0-5551-2366
- Duang : 6/3 Tessaban 1 Rd., Nong Luang, Tel: 0-5551-2171
- Amphoe Mae Sot
- Kraporpla Rim Moey : Near Rim Moey Market, Amphoe Mae Sot, Tel: 0-5553-1251, 0-5553-3030
- Kwangtung : 2/1 Soi Sripanich, Amphoe Mae Sot, Tel: 0-5553-2030
- Ko Suang : 1/19 Asia Rd., Amphoe Mae Sot, Tel: 0-5553-1985
How to get there
* By car
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin) and Highway No. 32 to Nakhon Sawan via Ayutthaya, Ang Thong, Sing Buri, Chai Nat, then turn into Highway No. 1 again and proceed to Tak via Kamphaeng Phet, a total distance of 426 kilometres.
* By bus
Air-conditioned buses depart from Bangkok's Mochit 2 Bus Terminal to Tak between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day. The journey takes 6 hours. Call 0 2936 2852-66 or visit www.transport.co.th for more information. Private bus companies which operate daily bus services to Tak are Thanchit Tour(Tel: 0 2551 1307), Choet Chai Tour (Tel: 0 2551 1054).
* By train
There are no trains going directly to Sukhothai. One may travel by train to Phitsanulok and then take a local bus to Tak. Contact Bangkok Railway Station Tel. 1690, 0223 7010, 0 2223 7020 or visit www.srt.or.th for more information.