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Mae Wong National Park

21 Jun 2019 18:47 - 21 Jun 2019 18:55 #5250 by wvwv
Mae Wong National Park was created by wvwv
Covered this area in just over 24 hours so a quick visit but there don't seem to be any shorter trails or any easily accessible waterfalls.  You have the trail to Umphang which starts on the overgrown abandoned road which was halted due to protests, which is a 30km+ multi-day trail.  I walked 400m of it and the trail looked well maintained.  And you have the Khao Mokoju trail (mountain nearly 2000m tall) which is a similar length and takes 5 days there and back.  Both obviously require rangers to accompany you.  The Mokoju trail also goes past a couple of waterfalls one of which is reportedly 100m tall.  The Umphang trail starts from Chong Yen campsite, easy to see the trail head.  The Mokoju trail starts from the visitor centre/HQ somewhere (I couldn't find the trailhead).


Umphang trailhead

Umphang is almost cut off from the rest of Thailand.  You have the death road down from Mae Sot which is just curve after curve for hours which is the only road in.  In the dry season you can follow dirt tracks north from Sangklaburi on dirt bikes/foot through  Thung Yai Naresuan  Wildlife Sanctuary (permission in advance needed).  Or you can take this trail.

The first campsite you come to on the long road up through the NP is at the visitor centre.  I camped here and went up to Chong Yen the next morning.  There is a nature trail but not maintained so cannot pass more than 100m or so.  There is a small waterfall in rainy season (more of a swimming hole) and not much else, other than the HQ and visitor centre.  To proceed further up the road to Chong Yen campsite you need permission from visitor centre, VC opens 8am (just fill out a form).  Give the form to the checkpoint man and then it's a long scenic drive to Chong Yen with a few viewpoints along the way.  Just a couple of km before Chong Yen there is another campsite with good views.

When at Chong Yen it is very easy to miss the main attraction because the sign is in Thai and tucked away near some toilets, so even Thais might miss it.  Walk past the bungalows towards the toilets and keep going underneath the Thai sign.  This path goes up to a 1420m peak, is mostly steep manmade steps, and takes anything from 10-30 minutes to walk depending on your fitness.  If you were to miss this viewpoint which has 360 degree views, then you might be underwhelmed by Chong Yen because the views from the campsite are okay but for a 25km drive into the park you would expect more.





You can see that some of the hills have been deforested by hilltribes.  Mae Wong was declared a national park in 1987 so I guess they stuck around until a bit more recently because the forest is only just starting to regrow.

I'm not sure Mae Wong is worth it unless in the area already or unless doing one of the two longer treks.  Googling Mokoju pictures certainly tempts me to do that one.
 
There were still at least 9 tigers in Mae Wong in 2011 (camera trap footage).  Who knows if they're still around.
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21 Jun 2019 20:04 - 21 Jun 2019 20:18 #5251 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Mae Wong National Park
I was there this week, I usually go in the rainy season because I like the weather up there (chong yen top section), but on the first night the wind was so strong I could barely sleep. I have not witnessed wind like that ever before in Thailand, I sleep in a hammock and it was like being in a swing. I had a fleece on and two sleeping bags!

Some interesting changes since my last visit, the track from Chong Yen to the old Umphang road is now opened up again by elephants. I was suprised to see serious elephant activity all the way to the bottom of the valley and to within 10 meters of Chong Yen camp site itself. The track is now navigable again to the bottom of the valley but that was as far as I got. Both of the two top camp sites are now staffed (before only chong yen was staffed in the rainy season). 

The weather was abysmal but that was the reason I was there.

The "hill tribes" are still there but in a support capacity being employed to replant the denuded hill sides and tops. It really is quite shocking how slowly the forest has been able to reclaim these areas and how it needs help/intervention even 30 odd years later - so much for hill tribe farming (swidden) being a sustainable methodology. This area always amazes me how different the previously farmed areas are to the non-farmed areas. The non-farmed areas are quite beautiful but the farmed areas are still in a sorry state of grass establishment still.

Even the lower sections by the road are quite denuded and the most abundant species is pioneer bamboo and banana.

But the untouched higher elevations are still home to great birds species and I heard muntjac alarm calling quite close to me. Its no secret that tigers have actually been photographed on the road up, and as its an extension of Huai Kha Khaeng/Thung Yai Narasuan I would assume they are not only still there but probably slowly establishing new terriorties  and increasing in the numerous wilder areas.

Here's a rusty naped pitta and a juvenile white crowned fork tail from the trip, hardly exotic animals but they gave me great pleasure to photograph...

 


 
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22 Jun 2019 13:05 #5254 by BKKBen
Replied by BKKBen on topic Mae Wong National Park
Hi Paul,

I'm probably going to be in Mae Wong at the start of July. This will be my first trip there, and while looking for birds will be the main purpose, just escaping to the forest never disappoints, even if the animals don't turn up.

That said, where'd you come across the pitta, and was it hard to find?

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22 Jun 2019 15:16 - 22 Jun 2019 17:47 #5256 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Mae Wong National Park

BKKBen wrote: Hi Paul,



That said, where'd you come across the pitta, and was it hard to find?


Second hill side gully when driving from Khun Nam Yen campsite towards Chong Yen (about 1.5 ks from Khun Nam Yen). It's the first gully when the road cuts back 90 degrees - easy to find and photograph as its been fed and has no fear of you. There's also one in the Khun Nam Yen campsite, as I heard one calling both morning and late afternoon from the bottom of the camp site.

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24 Jun 2019 08:26 #5267 by BKKBen
Replied by BKKBen on topic Mae Wong National Park
Thanks, Paul. I'll give that a shot. Anything else of interest seen or heard while up there?

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05 Jul 2019 21:36 - 06 Jul 2019 07:11 #5294 by BKKBen
Replied by BKKBen on topic Mae Wong National Park
I was at Mae Wong for a short trip from July 1-3, and while the weather was pleasant at the HQ area, once higher up the mountain, the wind and rain really made for tough birding (and trail walking). Nonetheless, I thoroughly loved the place, and I'm already making plans for a second trip.

And while the weather up top wasn't great, I was still able to see a decent number of good birds, but the best moment of the trip occurred when I encountered a hog badger at about 5 metres distance. It was completely unconcerned by my presence (it was drizzling steadily), and I was afforded great views (though it wasn't playing ball re: photos of its face - too busy finding food).

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