Salawin National Park

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Salawin National Park in Mae Hong Son Thailand

A Journey through the unknown beautiful natures, Salawin National Park

Mae Hong Son, a hidden gem destination in the north of Thailand, a dream place for a lovely holiday, especially the winter season. However, most of the tourists would think of ‘Pai” or a bit further to “Tham Nam Lod” and Mae Hong Son city town. Who’s know, there a so-called unknown natural attraction that would change your perception for the trip in this region, “Salawin National Park.”

Knowing Salawin National Park

Knowing Salawin National Park

Salawin National Park is a national park in the northern territory of Thailand, situated on the bank of the Salawin River which is the boundary of Thai-Myanmar. The national park cover area on the right of Mae Yuam Forest and Salween Forest in Sao Hin, Ban Kat, Mae Khong, Mae Yuam subdistrict in Mae Sariang district and Sam Laeb subdistrict in Sob Moei district. The location is abundant forest with splendid panorama and natural atmosphere, formerly it was “Salawin National Forest” in Mae Hong Son which covered the property in Sob Moei and Mae Sariang district about 721.25 sq.km of space in the estimate. So, after the government cancel forest concession then the place promoted to be a national park dated November 9, 1994.

The term “Salawin”, actually distorted in sound from Burmese word “Talween”. In fact, the Salween River, one of the significant rivers in Southeast Asia origins from defrosted snow in Tibetan Plateau over the Himalaya Range that why the temperature of the Salween River is cold all through the year and cooler than others in Thailand, too. Salawin River runs through China and Myanmar and acts as a borderline between Thailand and Myanmar in the northwest.

1. Geography

Salawin National Park is a complex mountainous land part of Thanon Thong Chai Range and plain on the riverside with meters above the sea level at 1,027 meters max. and 200 meters min. The highest peak is in the north within the national park property, where the place covered with abundant mixed forest, dry dipterocarp forest, and semi-evergreen forest. Also, it is the origin of many vital watercourses, including Mae Yuam River, Salween River, Gong Kha River, Mae Ngae River, Mae Po River, Mae Wane River, Sam Laeb River, Yuam River. As well as many streams, including Huai Gong Gat, Huai Mae Sa-Gerb, Huai Mae Lamong, Huai Mae Salarb, Huai Wok, Huai Bong, Huai E-Nuan, Huai Pho, Huai Mae Tae, Huai Mae Om Long, and Huai Mae Sam Bak.

Salawin National Park connects to other strategic areas which are;

  • North: Salawin Wildlife Sanctuary, Sao Hin subdistrict, Mae Sariang district
  • East:  Salawin National Forest, Mae Khong subdistrict, Mae Sariang district
  • West: Salawin River in Mae Khong and Mae Yuam subdistrict, Mae Sariang district
  • South: Highway 1194 (Huai Pho – Mae Sam Laeb) in Mae Sam Laeb subdistrict, Sob Moei district

2. Climate

The park is 3 seasons which are;

  • Summer: March-May
  • Rainy Season: June – October
  • Winter: November – February

3. Florae and Wildlife

a group of water buffalo are immersed in Salawin National Park

Thank the location is hugely abundant with many kinds of productive forest – semi-evergreen rain forest, mixed forest, and deciduous dipterocarp forest. The major florae found here, including teak, Mai Daeng (Xylia xylocarpa), Burma padauk, Mai Ching Chan (Dalbergia Oliveri), Afzelia xylocarpa, Burmese sal, Takian Nu (Anogeissus acuminata Will. var. Lanceolata Clarke), Iron Wood, Taengwood ‘Balau’, Hairy Keruing, and Dipterocarpus tuberculatus.

And the wildlife, divided by category are;

  • Mammal: Fishing cat, Banteng, Bull, Tiger, Bear, Serows, Samba deer, Barking deer, Wild boar, Gibbon, Palm Civet, Civet, Otter, Hedgehog, Bamboo rat, Monkey, Langur, Hare, Squirrel, Chipmunk, Mouse, Bat, for instance.
  • Poultry: Peacock, Beetle, kinds of butterfly and bird
  • Reptile: kinds of snakes, chameleon, monitor lizard, skink, turtle, soft-shell turtle, etc.
  • Amphibian: Frog, Green frog, Bullfrog, Tree frog, etc.
  • Aquatic animal: There are two kinds of fish live in the Salawin River, which are
     -Endemic fish, such as Sardinella razorbelly minnow, Hypsibarbus salweenensis, Acantopsis spp., Gagata gashawyu, Hemibagrus microphthalmos, and Macrognathus zebrinus, for example.
    - Endemic fish, such as Sardinella razorbelly minnow, Hypsibarbus salweenensis, Acantopsis spp., Gagata gashawyu, Hemibagrus microphthalmos, and Macrognathus zebrinus, for example.

The highlight of Salawin National Park

The highlighted activities for the trip to Salawin National Park are perfect for one who loves adventure in the forest. And the recommendation ones, including;

1. Giant Teakwood

At Salawin National Park Protection Unit 3 (Huai Bong) is home of the 2nd biggest teakwood in Thailand with about 840 cm in diameter, which is minor from one at Sak Yai National Park in Uttaradit. Additionally, nearby the venue is Huai Bong Waterfall, a little cascade with three levels stream and a 3-km nature trail for the visitors to explore this abundant forest land. Besides the pleasant circumstance along both sides of the way is the wonderful scenery of Mae Sariang district, too.

2. Salawin River

Salawin River in Mae Hong Son

Salawin River or better known among Mae Hong Son citizens “Mae Nam Khong,” is a major river flows from Tibetan Plateau at the meters above the sea level up to 8,000 meters high. The river runs to the south and passes Tibet, China, Myanmar, until it becomes borderline of Thai-Myanmar at Mae Hong Son province. It flows through Mae La Noi, Mae Sariang, and Sob Moei district before reverses into the Myanmar region again.

In the summertime, snow on mountains in the Tibetan Plateau melts into the river resulting in it is more transparent than other period of the year. In the winter, the river will be blanketed with mist through the line that passes through the center of deciduous forest that starts to shed the leaves. More than that, in the winter and summer, that river is lower to show smooth and white sandy beach on both sides of the bank, alternates to the numbers of large rocks. This is a favorite period for the tourists to come here for camping and cruising along the river to see a beautiful atmosphere.

And for those whom interesting in camping nearby Salween River, you can do it at Ban Tha Ta Fung, a lovely village nearby Salween River with 200-meters sandy beach over the 32,000 sqm of space. Only 8 km away from Mae Sariang town, tourists can travel from the city and get the right lane along laterite road in about 4 km will arrive at the national park office. So, keeps going on the laterite road that is accessible only in the winter, in about 40 km more, and you will reach Ban Tha Ta Fung.

Reasons to visit Salawin National Park

1. Cruising Along Salawin River

Cruising to see an extraordinary vista of Salawin River, another elongated international watercourse with more than 2,800 km in its distance. So-called the international river since it derived from the Himalaya Range by defrosted snow in Tibetan Highland and runs through China, Myanmar, and Thailand.

The tourists can do rafting to see the heart-stopping beauty of the Salween River and wonderful circumstance along both sides of the water. And there are 3 directions of the trip, which are;

  • The south tour: Mae Sam Laeb – Sob Moei

The trip takes about 2 hours in the estimate with THB1,500 of charge.

  • The north tour: Mae Sam Laeb – Ban Tha Ta Fung

The trip is about 40 minutes, THB1,300 for round trip and THB1,800 for a night stay.

  • Ban Tha Ta Fung to the Collective Centre in Myanmar

It takes 2 hours in the estimate of the round trip. For whom interesting this one, please contact the national park office to process and get permission to cross the borderline from Myanmar official beforehand.

2. Witness living of local people

The people in Salawin National Park area consist of various races, including Thai, Tai, and Karen, who are Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian. You will surprise to see the friendly people and nice and clean roads, even the riverside.

3. The unique design of the house “Ban Loi”

Salawin National Park – Mae Sam Laeb Unit is a little village that features significant housing. The edifice that created on the sloping hill follows the mountain line. If sight from afar is similar to the house is floating over the sky; nonetheless, it is unbelievably stable. So, that is to say, the incredible and creative idea to build the building that harmonizes the environment excellently. 

4. Fresh and Friendly of the local people

Salween river border of Thailand and Myanmar

Since the location of Mae Sam Laeb village is next to Thai-Myanmar borderline with Salween River as the mark, plus it is quite far from the town of Mae Sariang. Consequently, this community remains its rustic way of life which shown effortlessly from face, smile, and greeting of the residents. The visitors would feel like familiar person. The children here live carelessly and healthy, while seniority also good health with smooth movement or can even carry heavy things without any serious trouble.

So, pure charm of the lovely countryside becomes outstanding point that lures one who yearns for a place to lean your back down and relax, surrounded by beautiful and fresh nature, pure air, and simple life.

5. Clean food with good taste, plus it’s cheap!

At Ban Mae Sam Laeb, besides the flawless natural beauty, food is cheap, clean, and delicious, too. Although it’s only ordinary menus, such as fried rice, Kaprao or stir-fried meat with holy basil and fried egg with rice, or Pad Se-Ew (stir-fried noodle) is served in big portion, yummy, and starts at only THB35!

6. Endemic fish of Salween River

If you are lucky enough, you will spot “Devil catfish (locally called Pla Kae), an endemic fish in Salween River and Moei River. Just so you know, the local people say it tastes good. 

7. Glittering white and soft sandy beach

Glittering white and soft sandy beach at Salawin National Park

Yes, you are not blur, there’s a beach here, indeed! At the front of Salween National Park office – sub-unit Ban Tha Ta Fung is the white, smooth, and glittering sandy beach. The beach well-known as “Hat Thaen Kaew” that the visitor can relaxing promenade and indulge to the pleasant view on both sides of the river and Myanmar land across the river.

8. Watching the sunset

Sunset of Salawin River in Thailand

Witness the last light of the day when the sun is setting down at the horizon, silhouetting picture with Salween River and mountains as the perfect background provided by nature would steal your heart, indeed.

Where to go

Mae Sam Laeb Burmese Pagoda at Ban Mae Sam Laeb small village in Mae Hong

Salawin National Park occupied the area of Sob Moei and Mae Sariang district in Mae Hong Son province and allocated into 3 units which are;

1. Salawin National Park Headquarters located at Mae Sariang district, about 8 – 10 km from the town.

2. Salawin National Park – Protection Unit 4 or Ban Mae Sam Laeb. It is away from the headquarters approximately 50 km and connectable by a good road that is okay for all kinds of vehicles.

Ban Mae Sam Laeb is remarkable with the fantastic and distant view of Salawin River, on the opposite side, is Myanmar. More than that, it is the raft hub for river tour of Salween River, whether to Sob Moei or Ban Tha Ta Fung where the place is another sub-unit of Salawin National Park office. Otherwise, if you prefer to lingeringly stroll about here is nothing to disappoint, as well.

How to go to Ban Mae Sam Laeb

The tourist can get the yellow pick-up truck service at Mae Sariang Morning Market, the car is “Mae Sariang – Mae Sam Laeb” in Thai screen on the body. It takes about 1.5 hours for the trip with THB80 per person + a bag and it will be THB20 for each extra bag. However, since there’s no fixed schedule of the car resulted from less traveler on this road, so it may need for charter service with the round-trip charge at THB1,500 and THB1,000 per trip.

3. Salawin National Park– Protection Center Unit 1 or Ban Tha Ta Fung

For one who visits here would be recommended to visit the old police station and Karen’s village or stroll around at “Hat Thaen Kaew.”

How to go to Ban Tha Ta Fung

From Salawin National Park Headquarters, along the laterite road in about 37 km by four-wheel-drive car or high-performance
motorcycle. Although it's just a short drive will take about 3 – 4 hours of the journey through the tough way.

Alternatively, from Mae Sam Laeb village, the tourist can travel by four-wheel-drive car or high-performance motorcycle, as well since it is laterite road with about 18 km and take an hour for the trip. Anyhow, according to the local this direction is more convenient than the previous one. Otherwise, rafting from Ban Mae Sam Laeb dock is about 20 km distant and takes 40 minutes in the estimate. The charge of the rafting trip is THB1,800 for round-trip and THB1,000 – THB1,300 per trip negotiable.

Tourist information

The admission fee:

Thai: Adults is THB20, Children is THB10

Foreigners: Adults is THB100, Children is THB50

Facility, Accommodation, and Camping Site

All national park offices and other two sub-unit locations provide tourist facility, accommodation, and camping ground for the visitor. Those who interesting shall contact the office directly. Specific at Ban Tha Ta Fung is also camping space at Hat Thaen Kaew, too.

Furthermore, at Ban Mae Sam Laeb, which is a small community resulting in many shops and restaurants service for the tourists, included a pharmacy. However, the electricity is on the process of development, so the tourist should bring a torch and power supply for your communication devices.

Note: Most of the residents here are Christian; therefore, they will attend the church service on Sunday. So, mainly shops and restaurants will close. If possible, please avoid visiting this place on Sunday.

On the other hand, at Ban Tha Ta Fung, the visitors should bring food supplies since there are no shops and restaurants. Luckily, it’s 24 hours electricity operated by the solar cells, and even though the phone signal is limited but it would be a great experience to turn your back to the hustle and bustle and off from the online world for once. 

How to get there

Boat in salween river,Sunset background

By Car:

Traveling from Mae Sariang district on highway number 1194 in about 4 km and take the right fork and drive more 4 km, you will arrive at the national park office. If you want to move on to the National Park Office – Unit 4 (Ban Mae Sam Laeb), you can drive on the way (pave road) about 50 km more.

From Ban Mae Sam Laeb, if you would like to continue your journey to the National Park Office – Unit 1 (Ban Tha Ta Fung), you can get there by the river. The boat/raft departs from the pier in Ban Mae Sam Laeb between 9.00am and 4.00pm. The fee is THB1,000 per person for 10 passengers per trip (recorded in October 2006) with about 20 km distant in the estimate and takes 40 minutes to Ban Tha Ta Fung.

Alternatively, travel to Ban Tha Ta Fung by car, departs from national park office headquarters with about 37 km distant by four-wheel drive car and takes about 3 – 4 hours of the journey. This one is recommended for one who enjoy an adventure trip.

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