× Note: Sanctuaries are different to National Parks in Thailand, Thailand currently has established 39 sanctuaries and access is more restrictive as their role is as a sanctuary for wildlife rather than a park for the nation. Some sanctuaries do allow limited access to tourists.

Trang to Phatthalung Mountain Trek (Khao Banthat Wildlife Sanctuary)

03 Apr 2020 10:59 - 05 Apr 2020 12:55 #5445 by wvwv
Khao Jed Yod - 7 Hills Mountain.



A couple of years ago I was in Trang with a scooter and was going down the side of this mountain range visiting all the different waterfalls. Every valley has a stream and usually a waterfall of some description. Some of the smaller ones being more of a swimming hole than a fall. I would check out the fall and then wander up it a bit either in the riverbed or along a trail if there was one.

I covered, in order of north to south:

Sai Rung WF
Prai Sawan WF
Lam Plok WF
Nhan Sataw WF
Ton Te WF
Ton Tok WF

I found Sai Rung the most impressive. It was the middle of the rainy season and was quite dangerous to get close to the waterfall because there was no path; you had to hop up the riverbed which was flowing wide and fast.



But it was Prai Sawan (note this is not the same as Phrai Wan WF on the other side of the mountain range, which I will come to later) that had the longest trail alongside it, starting as a dirt road along the left hand side of the stream before narrowing to a path and winding up through the valley following the watercourse for many km. I hadn't planned for a very long walk so turned around after about 3km but I was fairly sure then that it must lead to some sort of attraction - probably a mountain top. The trail was clear enough to follow throughout and looked well-traversed. The next time I visited Trang I hoped to check out this trail properly. So a couple of weeks ago I was doing some research on the trails in the area a few days before my flight. One reference on a forum talked about an 'over the hump' walk from Trang to Phatthalung. However all future Googling on this walk suggested the trailhead on the Trang side was located at Nhan Sataw WF, not Prai Sawan WF. I had previously been to Nhan Sataw and did not remember there being any good trails there, in fact it was one of the more disappointing WFs with no real drop of water as such, just screaming kids playing in the water and a few food stalls. There was no confusion over where the trail on the Phatthalung side started from though - Phrai Wan WF. Here is a map of all the different falls. The trails marked on are just approximate but the summit and waterfalls are correctly positioned.



For this trip I flew to NST and sent my bicycle on the train a day or two before, it cost 150 baht for the bike and it gets there same/next day. So after I landed I headed straight to the train station from the airport. NST Airport has a shuttle bus into town for 40 baht. Below is the route I cycled over 12 days with a 4-night break at Koh Mook. I did this mountain trek on the last day and I was tired of cycling by then so rented a scooter to get there and back; 200 baht per day; route not shown on map.








I will quickly write about the other places I visited that are worth a visit. Thung Khai Botanical Garden is only 10km from Trang City and would be good for birds as you can get right into the canopy on a skywalk bridge thing. It wanders back through a marsh area at ground level to where you started from. Free entry.



Khao Pu Khao Ya NP was about right for the cheap 100 baht entry, but I didn't do the cave... maybe that might have been better than it looked on photos. My preference is viewpoints over caves. Around headquarters there is a trail to a viewpoint which wanders past a cliff where bees make their hives. The steps abruptly end a few minutes after the cliff and it is not clear which way to go from there. I figured to keep climbing (sort of to the left) and after 5 minutes came to some craggy rocks which offered good views. There was no trail though, I noticed just one red spray mark on a rock/tree - I think a lack of maintenance as usual.





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03 Apr 2020 14:08 - 11 Apr 2020 14:20 #5446 by wvwv
Khao Ok Thalu is great! In the middle of Phatthalung City. I'd planned to go there in the morning but my hotel would not let me stay because they were worried about coronavirus. So I went to sleep on this mountain in my hammock instead. Near the bottom the steps you can go left or right. Left is to the temple which also has good views but the main event is to the right which goes right to the top of the karst. Once at the hole in the rock look to the right and you should see a rope going up the rockface. Go up there for 10 minutes and you get a 360 degree view of Phatthalung. There are 1000+ steps to the hole in the rock and then a bit of climbing using arms and legs to the very top. I went up in the dark and nearly grabbed this common wolf snake (Lycodon capucinus) which was on the rope.













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03 Apr 2020 14:33 - 05 Apr 2020 12:13 #5447 by wvwv
Okay so onto the Banthat Mountain Range and this trek. This range is supposedly very good for tapir, by the way. I had a crazy plan to try and carry my bike over from the Phatthalung side so I didn't have to backtrack. The first 500m or so put paid to that idea as it was way too steep and more boulders than trail. I don't think the Phatthalung side of this trail is used as often as the Trang side, assuming I was on the correct trail; on the right hand side of the river/waterfall. There were also river crossings and it was very difficult to know how far up the riverbed to walk before rejoining the trail, the entrances back into the forest weren't clear at all. However once on the trail it wasn't too bad. But given the bike situation I decided to go around to the Trang side and attempt it from there another day, which I had read was an easier walk too. There are a few write-ups online mostly in Thai and they mention the Phatthalung walk requiring one night's camp before you reach the summit, whereas the Trang side can be summited in a day.

Phrai Wan WF is a tall one but sloped. You can walk up the rockface quite a way to see the small ant people below.





This one is another level further up the stream.





Smart bug in his twig house.





Another level off from the main stream.

So fast forward a few days, around at the Trang side, Nhan Sataw WF... There is no tourist infrastructure here; no ranger station or entrance fee. I slept at the bottom of the waterfall in a sleeping bag because I wanted to make an early start. No tent or hammock - there weren't any mosquitos at all and none on the mountain either. This trek has leeches in the rainy season, or 'slugs' as the Thais call them, but there weren't any of those in April either. I thought this trek would be tougher than it actually was, it's not that steep relative to the other treks I've written about. I'd only rate it as a moderate trail because it takes quite a while; maybe 4-5 hours up for the average person. If it was a 2-hour trek then I'd probably rate it as easy. The terrain is fairly forgiving with only a few technical sections. Most people are doing it as a 2 day/1 night trek but it's easily done up and down in a day as long as you start early. I started at 6.45am and was down by 1.15pm and that includes a bit of time wasting at the start to find the trail and an hour at the top for admiring the view and snacking. But I was not carrying any camping equipment. I did carry water but there is no need to at all, there are frequent water sources almost right up to the summit - you are basically following the river. Assuming you are okay drinking from natural water sources then just carry a small bottle of water and top it up every now and then. The water is clear. I carried too much food, expecting a tougher trek. A couple of mangos, some sweets and a bag of popcorn came back down with me.

I did this trek without a GPS file to guide me, so that gives you an indication of how clear the trail was, but there are 2 sections where you could potentially go wrong (if you didn't have the GPS file). Firstly right at the start you should not follow the river as I did but where the waterfall sign is (in Thai script 50 metres before the waterfall) you should take the trail on the other side of the road which looks to be leading away from the river. There will be motorbike tracks on this trail and you will head through orchards and rubber tree farms for about 2-3km. It is possible to drive a scooter up here to save some time, the local farmers get up here on normal Honda Waves, not dirt bikes. This is their parking area from where it is not possible to drive any further.



This section has a few side trails but I just used my intuition and stayed on the well-travelled trail and on the odd occasion that the trail split into 2 well-travelled paths I took the one that stayed closest to the river. Then you enter the jungle and you won't emerge from the jungle until about 200m before the first peak at the summit. So about 6-7km in the jungle. The second difficult bit is about 1-2km before the top, there are a few times the trail splits and later rejoins so it becomes less clear as 50% of people are going one way and 50% the other. Also there are a few camps off the main trail which could confuse you. Unfortunately my phone switched off here and so I've not recorded that part of the GPS track - apologies. I did consider walking back and recording the missing 1km, I considered it for about a millisecond and thought nah. But you can upload both GPS files below and just join the dots, it's only 1km, and the trail is still there and visible, just take your time and make sure you are also recording a track at the same time as you are following mine so you can check your progress and make sure you're heading in the right direction. There are a couple of times when you are crossing dry river beds and so you are walking across stones and boulders so there is no trail of crushed leaves and compressed dirt to follow. Just take a few seconds to look around and the trail appears.

Here are the two GPS files and also a map with the missing part filled in. The elevation map is in reverse because I recorded the track(s) on the way back down.

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03 Apr 2020 20:11 - 05 Apr 2020 11:29 #5449 by wvwv




I had a lot of space in my bag so took a load of rubbish down with me. This mountain was quite bad for litter. The right bin was empty so that is everything I brought down in that bin! There was more where that came from.



Visibility was very good; very little smog in the south; averaging about 50. Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai/Phayao area at the same time had many readings of over 350 when I checked online; 7+ times the safe limit and well into the 'hazardous' zone. I even saw one 999 - off the scale! Bangkok was about 100-150. This year I've come to the conclusion that northern mountains should only be bothered with in the rainy season and perhaps into December/January, whereas southern mountain ranges are generally okay whatever the time of year.













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05 Apr 2020 11:45 - 05 Apr 2020 12:54 #5450 by wvwv











typical section of river, quite far upstream:





typical section of trail:






That might be the last mountain trip for a while until things calm down a bit. Travelling is still okay in Thailand and there are still a fair few tourists around (perhaps because they can't get home), but unnecessary journeys seem to be discouraged and with the curfew and curtailing of transport options it's a lot of hassle. My flight back to Bangkok was cancelled so I had to take a 15-hour train from Trang for 420 baht. The train was 5% full. Bicycle 94 baht.
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