A two days trip from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi province in a hope to find a trail from I-Tong village to Sanghklaburi.
One of the greatest king of Thailand was King Chulalongkorn or Rama V. who happened to have a birthday on the 23rd of October which means a four days long weekend for me. Great, this little break came in the right time as I was desperately wanted a way out of my slave life.
I have been looking for new trails to explore and after reading endless trip reports on forums such as ADVRider and GT-Riders I noticed that no one really posted a trip report from I-Tong village to Sanghklaburi. The road between the two places are about 150 kilometers but it is a big detour as the distance between them is not more than 50 kilometers plus it is a sealed road which connects them and even though it is one of the most scenic road in Thailand I still don't find it fun to ride on. So on the morning of the 23rd I hopped on my bike and went to explore the region in a hope of finding the so needed trail.
Bangkok to I-Thong, Kanchanaburi Province
On the way to I-Thong village, still on the nicely paved road
As my slave life took all my energy away in the first part of the week I ended up sleeping in on Thursday and only left Bangkok at 11 am. It was very late and felt bad about it in the first 200 kilometers so as a punishment I decided not to stop for a breakfast until about 2 pm. It was a mistake and a big no no but I had to cover some kilometers otherwise sunset finds me half way to my destination.
For me the first fun part started at the Vajiralongkorn Dam which is about 300 kilometers from my home in Bangkok. By the time I got to the dam the rain caught me at least three times. As an experienced traveler of course I left my rain gear at home so at least to say I didn't have any "overheating" problems in the lower departments.
The dam was very nice with the misty clouds around and luckily the bad weather kept the tourists away as well so I could enjoy the sight peacefully and almost by myself.
The way from the dam to I-Thong village is about an extra 80 kilometers still paved but I would rather call it a road anymore. It has lots of big holes, occasional dirt sections and lots of wood and debris on it. To be honest this was the only fun ride on this day.
Before going up the hills I took a little detour down to the Vajiralongkorn lake. It looked great and also has options to rent a floating house for the night. We did rent a similar house a few weeks ago on the neighboring Srinakarin Dam with my German friends and it was heaps of fun.
Not long ago a friend of mine lent me his GoPro 3 which is great, it takes great videos and pictures but I found it quite hard to use it. It really needs a wristband or handlebar kind of remote controller.
For this occasions and as I am always unlucky with electronic devices I brought my small Canon camera which I purchased second hand about 5 years ago in Japan and still makes excellent pictures.
Before turning towards I-Thong on the hilly road, I decided to stock up on fuel as I might wonder off from the road and I could run short of the mighty liquid gold before reaching my destination.
As the mountains got higher and the distance grew since the last village the reception for mobile phones disappeared as well. Luckily some spots had signals, not on my phone thought.
I've seen lots of mountains in my life but every time I'm seeing the sunset between the peaks with clouds around, it always makes me stop and wonder for a while.
About 10-15 kilometers from I-Thong village I found a small path going into the forest so I thought to give it a try and see where it goes. The wet muddy road was extremely slippery and massive fun. about 2 kilometers off the road I found this small creek with beautiful green water, last time I seen something like this was in Northern Territory, Australia.
I might have missed the sign at the beginning of the trail but this road actually lead to the Jokkradin waterfall.
I think the picture speaks for itself and don't need much of my commentary. The waterfall was trully breathtaking. The lights before sunset was perfect, not a single person around and the water felt cool but not too cold. I made a huge mistake not to stay here for the night but I haven't brought my tent and at this point I was fairly wet so I decided to find some place to sleep in the village. I do regret it now.
Here we go again, me playing with the GoPro without doing what I'm doing. I managed to take a few selfies on this trip, neither of them is particularly good quality.
So after I couldn't ran away fast enough from the GoPro's timed shutter I decided to use my good ole' friend Canon and take a proper timed picture.
After a bit of wandering around the waterfall I managed the remaining few kilometers to I-Thong pretty fast and arrived to the village just when the sun set under the horizon. Again the colors of the sky and the silhouettes of the cloudy mountain tops were amazing.
At first the village didn't look promising but it has actually a small walking street style of road with small restaurants and a few guest houses on both side. I was the only foreigner as far I know, mostly Thai travelers with 4WDs and some forestry workers were eating in those places. I found a very good looking local place where I had three dishes, two bottles of beer, some soap and a large botle of water for about 300 baht ($10).
The place I stayed is called I-Thong Homestay which is a large house behind the shop house where I parked the bike for the night. The rooms are clean and decent sized with enough room for at least 3 person. I paid 500 baht for it which is an okay price. Today I tried to find maps basically everywhere. I went to two tourist information place on the way to I-Thong but all they had is regular road maps. I guess I will have to interview the locals about my so wanted trail.
I-Thong - Sangklaburi - lots of wandering in plantations - Bangkok
As I-Thong is high up in the mountains, the temperature dropped as low as 15 degrees at night and it was very chilled in the morning too. I managed to wake up before the sun so when the first lights came up I was already ready to hit the road. You can see the "walking street" of I-Thong. It is impossible to miss it if you are driving from Vajiralongkorn.
The full story from day 2 will be shortly on riderslog.com, until then you can see a few pictures if you click on the link below.
I-Thong - Sai Yok - Bangkok
The next morning I woke up pretty early abut an hour before sunrise. This gave me enough time to pack up, shower and head towards the Burmese border. The ride to the border is only about 1 kilometer but many things to see. There are some helipads next to a police installation and a tourist service center. I haven't seen anyone around so I passed through.
Thailand is a member of the ASEAN and as the AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) approaches the whole country is in an AEC wibe, even at this remote part of Thailand you can see the result of the AEC campaign.
Finally passing all the checkpoints -non were guarded- and this view welcomed me. The glances of Burma in the first sun shines are stunning. The morning shines perfectly light up the Burma which is on the west from where I was standing, perfect picture opportunity. Hardly anyone here at this time, not as I would expect big crowds but I've seen quite a few cars and trekkers last night so it is a bit surprising not to have them up here to watch the sunrise.
It was a bit hard to manage this shot. I put the camera on the handlebar with a self timer on but the sun was so bright I couldn't see when the timer runs out.
At this point I realized that I actually have sunglasses with me so it would be easier to put them on. You have to excuse my silliness, it was still early morning.
A few more shots of the bike before heading towards to another border post. The little shed on the left side is actually the post of the Burmese soldier who guards the border. Of course at first no one was there but as I started to walk into Burma he turned up, chewing betel nut, spitting huge amount of red saliva and politely directs me back to the Thai side.
At the other post the soldiers were much more easy going and they let me wander into their beautiful country. There is not much on the Burmese side except this outpost.The hike down was very demanding let alone the way back with a fully packed backpack and motocross boots.
The view however paid for all the sweat drops I lost on the way up.
There is not a single village in Thailand -no matter how small- without a some sort of Buddhist shrine or temple. I-Thong is not an exceptions either. I found this small but nice temple on the side of a hill overlooking the village. The morning sunshine made this golden statues and stupas look even more beautiful.
I just can't have enough of looking at the clouds flying through the village and mountains. On my next trip I will definitely stay in a tent on one of the peak.
After returning from the border I had a quick breakfast, took a few more pictures and interviewed every possible local people about a mountain trail or pass from I-Thong to Sangkhlaburi.
The main street of I-Thong.
About 2 kilometers from I-Thong there is a small trail going up to the peak overlooking the border. On the top is a border police lookout with surprisingly many border patrol police. I decided to climb up on the side of the road instead of driving up on the trail which made lots of noises which did not amuse the lookouts at the tower. I asked them about trails to Sangkhlaburi but they all said that it is impossible. Hm, doesn't sound good. I decided to take some more pictures and find someone else to ask.
A nice way of resting the rifles, or perhaps a good symbol of the military regime currently governing Thailand.
I tried to ask a few more people around the lookout about the trail but no one heard or knew about one so I decided to slowly go down towards Vajiralongkorn and try every small trail going off North-Northeast from the sealed road. Unfortunately the ones I found always discontinued after a few hundred meters.
As I almost arrived to the Vajralongkorn lake I found a nice trail heading up North on the West side of the lake so I followed it as long as I could. It was about 10-15 kilometers long but then it also ended. It had many small and a few mid sized water crossings which I was cautious at first since I was alone but then got braver and braver and crossed even the bigger ones without checking for their depth.
I ride in an Alpinestars Tech 3 boots and whenever it gets wet inside it takes forever to dry out so I decided not to walk into the lake but check the depth of the water with rocks. Quite a simple way actually, just throw a larger rock in the middle of the creek and listen for the knock, if you can hear the knock right after the splash then the water is pretty shallow, if no knock for a second or at all then you might want to walk in or find another spot to cross.
Here is a short video crossing the first creeks. I am very unprepared normally for this trips, this time I managed to bring four 4 GB memory card for the GoPro which made it a nightmare to record anything and then change card again.
The hills around the Vajiralongkorn lake are breathtaking, makes me want to go back every weekend. The lake also gives you a great view from every angle and nevertheless, it is great riding around it as it has many dirt roads and trails.
As the chance to find a trail from the West side of the lake to Sangkhlaburi was slim, at this point I started to drive across plantations hoping that one might leads to a dirt road to North or at least find a farmer who might know a way.
One of my favorite type of dirt road is this red, soft sand like soil covered which I found in a tomato -not sure- plantation. Both of my cameras were running low on battery at this point plus the road was so much fun with a few bumps that I just couldn't riding fast and kind of forget about taking more pictures.
After having heaps of fun on the tomato field, this cornfield had some terrible dirt roads around it.
As noon passed hours ago I decided to head back to Bangkok, giving up on finding a trail this time. On the way back home I stopped at the Sai Yok national park which is quite famous for it's waterfall.
I promise, this is the last picture of me in this trip report.
The Sai Yok waterfall. Kanchanburi has lots of waterfalls due to it's hilly terrain and Sai Yok is not the largest in any way.
The last picture from this trip is the remains of the infamous "Death Railway" which was built by POW's during World War 2. This part of the railway is in Sai Yok national park.
On another occasion I will try to find the so wanted trail from I-Thong to Sangkhlaburi.