Thung Salaeng Luang National Park

26 Apr 2022 11:26 - 26 Apr 2022 14:17 #5785 by wvwv
Thung Salaeng Luang National Park was created by wvwv
 

I understand the main areas of this national park to be mainly savannah and pine trees, very different to the photos in the first couple of posts here!  I have a plan to go to Khao Kho end of June so I will fill out this thread more then, but for now this is just about Noen Maprang, and more specifically Ban Mung, which are in Phitsanulok on the edge of the western park boundary.  Noen Maprang is 20km point to point from the main attractions of TSL National Park (around Khao Kho area), but if you were driving the shortest route between them would be 146km.  Just to get it out of the way, be prepared for even worse dual-pricing than normal.  TSL NP is 500 baht compared to 40 for Thais. 

From Noen Maprang, travel 7km to Ban Mung.  The National Park has a substation here; number 6; at Tham Duan Tham Dao - caves I skipped to avoid the 500 baht thing, plus I read they require a guide which I imagine is extra.

 

In the centre of Ban Mung there is a bat watching area.  Every night before sunset you can wait around here and watch millions of bats fly past.  It's a public area; free to enter, with really cool toilets.

 

Ban Mung Temple has a few caves, look out for this one which starts very cramped but opens up as you get further inside.

 

It's possible to walk inside about 75 metres.  If you walk around the temple grounds you can hear the bats in various caves on the rock face, I think this is where many of the bats come from that you watch flying overhead at the bat watching area.  Possibly it might be an alternative place to watch them emerge at sunset.

My favourite attraction at Ban Mung is a really steep climb up to an otherworldly landscape of spiky rocks stretching over 1000s of metres.

 

The exact coordinates for the turn off the road onto a dirt trail are 16.562415439879523, 100.69700606348 In dry season scooters can use this dirt track. Normal cars can't. I haven't tried it in rainy season but would imagine it gets very muddy. Cars should be left at Wat Ban Mung because there's nowhere to park. The exact coordinates for the trailhead (approx. 600m along the track) are 16.564500064034604, 100.70074101485348

 

Once you get to the trailhead the route is obvious with ropes and ladders all the way up to the top.  You don't need any special climbing equipment though gloves and decent shoes are recommended.  Try it in flipflops and the rocks might impale your feet through the rubber.  When the organised groups go up they are wearing hardhats.

A person in good shape could get to the top in 20-30 minutes. Most people will take an hour. Once at the top there are various bamboo viewing platforms, the furthest platform is tricky to find the route to and is a further 400 metres (40-80 minutes away, it's slow going across the minefield of spikes), but no need to go that far because the views are great wherever you stand.

 

Both the first and second summits have flagpoles so you can get your bearings but at the time of writing the second summit's flag is shredded and you can only see the pole.

There is no staff presence so unless you go on a weekend you probably won't see anybody else.  I am not sure if permission is supposed to be obtained prior to climbing - there is no national park signage, it looks like the ascent is being organised by a private person/company; they have a sign at the trailhead which I forgot to take a picture of.  Perhaps they have an agreement with the national park.

There are makeshift toilets (take your own paper) and it would be a really nice place to camp.  I wonder if the platforms up here would be a good place to view the bats... possibly a bit high.

 

GPS track, starting from the temple:

 

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26 Apr 2022 13:56 - 26 Apr 2022 14:27 #5786 by wvwv
Replied by wvwv on topic Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
To find the route to the furthest platform I used the broken rocks where people have frequently trodden and broken the tips.  Of course there is no soil up here to make a clear trail.



Far right is a one of the first viewing platforms you encounter.  The walk from there to where I am taking the photo is not far but took nearly an hour:

 

 

 

 

Ladders are frequent on the initial climb up but less so on the top:

 

 

 

I only had an hour in Phichit.  Enough time to get some food and have a look at the town centre.

 

By the way I have spied another hike/climb in Ban Mung - one I've only noticed as I am back home writing this... next time maybe.  Labelled on Google Maps as เขากังหันลมโง่นถ้ำหน่อง บ้านมุง  It looks slightly less popular.


Transport info:

Noen Maprang is best accessed by private transport.  There are minivans and micro buses to Bangkok tinyurl.com/2p8rbpds (FB link) but the schedules are out of date, and they want you to call and confirm pickup location beforehand.  There is no bus station in Noen Maprang.  I understand the van waits across the road from the 7 11/Tesco Lotus Express in the middle of the town but can't confirm first-hand.  Possibly if starting from Bangkok it would be easier, you could just go to the van station at Mochit.  But coming back the other way it seems a lot of hassle especially if you don't speak Thai.  Nearest other transport is from Sak Lek Intersection (bus station สถานีขนส่งผู้โดยสารสากเหล็ก), but this doesn't have many/any daytime departures.  I turned up at 11am and next bus to Bangkok was 21.30.  In the end I went another 20km to Phichit and got the train to Bangkok (Phichit bus departures are apparently a similar situation to Sak Lek - the lady at Sak Lek told me to go to Phitsanulok for the best choice of buses).
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30 Apr 2022 08:02 - 30 Apr 2022 08:39 #5787 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
Very informative thanks for sharing.

I have been to Thung Nong Phraya Muang a few times. Its a very interesting grassed and open pine area which is beautiful for camping. Its also home to one of the pitcher plant species. The only issue is you have a to pay 500 baht entrance fee at the gate just after the Visitor Center HQ (you can go up to the visitor centre for free). As most people only wish to drive 1 km past the entrance fee gate to take a photo of the morning sun rise over the extinct volcano (one of the most famous and recognisable scenes in Thai landscape photography) its a bit of a rip off IMHO.

To get to Thung Nong Phraya Muang you drive on a rough track about 40 more minutes. I had issues twice (out of 4 visits) and then stopped going even though I really like the location. First time they said Thung Nong Phraya Muang was closed - I am OK with that. But another time I got there only to have a ranger car come up about 30 minutes later to say the Chief did not want anyone on the campsite due to elephants. I was pissed as the elephant area is not that location. I did not get my 500 baht back but was told I could camp at the visitor centre if I wanted. I was not amused after such a long drive from Bangkok.

Saying that its definitely somewhere I would return to in season (Dec/Jan/feb) for a camping venture or to photograph the alpinesque small flower species that bloom in January.

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15 Jun 2024 18:27 #7021 by wvwv
Replied by wvwv on topic Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
I had a couple of days on the other side of this national park, the east side like Paul mentions above.  It's very different topography with no more sharp rocks.  There are two main tourism areas on this side, the grassland area mentioned and the ropebridge just off road 12, much further north.  The latter is the headquarters and if they hadn't built the bridge there'd really be nothing for tourists to see or do there, I'm not sure why they chose this area to make the HQ.  I camped there, there is very little phone signal and there are an incredible amount of insects, even the butterflies were crawling all over me.  Very early AM I set out on a dirt road/track which I hoped was going to take me to the place Paul went to.  It starts behind the toilets after you have crossed the ropebridge, but there is a sign saying only authorised access.  At first there are some bike tracks in the dirt but after 30 minutes of hiking uphill the road splits and all the tracks go up the right fork (don't know where that goes).  Continuing left there are no more vehicle tracks again after that and there are fallen trees blocking the road periodically, indicating that nobody is using this road on a regular basis.  There are no more splits in the road after that.

This is the camping area at the ropebridge.  The start of the dirtroad is behind me as I'm taking the photo.

 

This is the route the road takes:

 

 

I saw deer and a lot of elephant and gaur activity on the trail.  I put a camera trap up so will update the thread in a few months when I go to collect it.

The road is peaceful and it's all in the middle of undisturbed forest.  It's undulating hills throughout.  I had an MTB and was carrying a tent and backpack and did it in about 8 hours, walking the uphills and including about 45 minutes of breaks total.  With no bike and still carrying some gear, I think most people will take 10-12 hours or more.  It's about 35km.  About half way through, there are 2 rest shelters a few km apart where you could pitch a tent and split the hike into two days.  They are the only manmade structures on the route.  The second (more-southerly) one had some phone signal, and both have partial views.

 

 

 

Finally reaching tarmac again was a welcome sight:

 

The campsite at the grassland area; a nice campsite.  There is a shop and restaurant but it closes 16:00, so if you did this and arrived late, you'd be very hungry and would have to go and find some food outside the park, a few km downhill.

 

There aren't any food or reliable water sources on the hike.  There were plenty of kraton trees fruiting in June though, if you got desperate.

I found out about this road via the Ultra Trail Savannah facebook page.  The GPX tracks for this race are here:

www.facebook.com/profile/100057442899216/search/?q=gpx

I don't think they held the event this year but you could keep checking to see if they have anything planned for 2025.  It'd be a good way to do the trail without worrying about carrying your own food and drink.  I think it is the only time the road is cleared of fallen trees, any other time of year it isn't passable in any vehicle, only with bicycle or on foot.

After camping at the second campsite for a night I cycled back to Phetchabun via Khao Kho.  Khao Kho has some nice windmills and viewpoints.
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