Thi Lo Su Waterfall (Namtok Thilosu) is Thailand’s biggest and highest waterfall. Getting here isn’t easy. The drive to Umphang, the nearest town, is well over 10 hours from Bangkok across one of Thailand’s most dangerous roads. Known as the Death Highway (mostly because of the conflict in the area in the 1980s, but also because of traffic accidents), the road skirts the Thai-Burmese border, whinding its way through absolutely stunning scenery (photos to come soon!). You can drive as far as the park office, where you will need to either hire a driver with a 4×4 or be on a tour—regular vehicles are not only forbidden, but it would be impossible for them to cross the muddy, bumpy, hilly “road.” I use quotes because while there was once a road, it has all but disintegrated into an absolute mess that takes four hours to traverse the 15 miles (25 kilometers). We even saw a 4×4 truck that had broken its axle. The road is that bad. Even then, you still need to hike another mile (1½ kilometers) through the jungle. At least the paved path is in good shape with beautiful scenery. Once there though, the waterfall is spectacular. There a multiple cascading falls, places to swim (some people arrive via boat along the Mae Klong River, not to be confused with the Makong which is on the other side of Thailand), and a lot of butterflies and dragonflies to photograph.
If you are interested in visiting Thi Lo Su Waterfall, your best bet is on an organized tour as the drive to Umphang is long and difficult. Keep in mind that even though the distance is not much, the road is very windy, hilly and riddled with potholes. I recommend arranging tours and staying the night at Phudoi Camp Site & Resort. The lodge is really nice with wonderful staff. A large fan room with two beds (king and twin, or two twins) costs 400฿ a night (air conditioning is unnecessary since it remains cool here year round). Package tours usually include the hotel and the falls (you need to book in advance). Ti Lo Su is very popular with Thais during high season (Nov to May). The falls is not open during the rainy season (June to September) as the road to the falls becomes impassable. If you decide to do the falls independently, which is very easy, just keep in mind that private vehicles are not permitted in the park. The cost for a 4×4 and driver is 2000฿ for up to five people. You can also go via boat for 2500฿. The park entrance fee is 200฿ for foreigners. You can get a 4×4 at the park entrance like I did or book in advance with your hotel—the price should be the same either way. Visiting the falls takes most of a day as getting to the falls takes two hours, visiting the falls itself is another hour or two (walking to the falls and looking around), and a two hour return. Umphang is a cute town that is easily accessible by foot, though it does get quiet early.