Thi Lo Su Waterfall (Nam tok Tee Lor Su)

Umphang Wildlife Sancturary, Tak, Thailand

About Thi Lo Su Waterfall (Nam tok Tee Lor Su)


Hiking Distance: 3.6km round trip
Suggested Time: 90 minutes

Date first visited: 2009-01-03
Date last visited: 2009-01-03

Waterfall Latitude: 15.9259
Waterfall Longitude: 98.75351

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The Thi Lo Su Waterfall (Nam tok Tee Lor Su) was probably the biggest waterfall in Thailand in terms of the cumulative amount of falling water volume over its many segments.

I’ve also seen claims that it was the tallest waterfall in the country as well though we weren’t sure if that was accurate.

Thi_Lo_Su_133_01032009 - The Thi Lo Su Waterfall
The Thi Lo Su Waterfall

In any case, the signs here said there were three distinctive waterfalls comprising the overall waterfall ensemble dropping a total of some 200m, 300m, and 400m, respectively.

Again, we couldn’t vouch for the lofty 300m and 400m height estimates, but as you can see from the photo above, we were certainly quite impressed by the Thi Lo Su Waterfall.

Julie and I thought the best of the three waterfall segments was the series of distinctive plunging leaps to its left side as we were facing the falls.

The lowest leaps of the leftmost watercourse had pools where we saw many people swimming, bathing, or just cooling off in general.

Thi_Lo_Su_028_01022009 - Many holiday-makers enjoying one of Thi Lo Su Waterfall's many swimming holes
Many holiday-makers enjoying one of Thi Lo Su Waterfall’s many swimming holes

The middle drops of that leftmost course had much taller and thinner appearances.

They might have also acted as barriers for most people in terms of trying to climb up higher or alongside the vegetated cliff face responsible for these waterfalls.

As for the other two waterfall segments falling in parallel more or less, the middle segment consisted of thinner yet taller drops.

These weren’t conducive to producing swimming holes like the leftmost series of drops.

Similarly, the rightmost drop was perhaps the most ephemeral (i.e. temporary) as it fell far off to the right of the middle segment.

Thi_Lo_Su_053_01022009 - One of the higher accessible tiers of the The Thi Lo Su Waterfall, which had way fewer people than the pools further below
One of the higher accessible tiers of the The Thi Lo Su Waterfall, which had way fewer people than the pools further below

Given how spread apart these waterfalls were from each other, there was no way I was able to reasonably compose a singular photo that encompassed all of them from any of the sanctioned lookouts.

My best attempt at this was the photo you see at the top of this page.

Photographing the Thi Lo Su Waterfall

Speaking of which, photographing the Thi Lo Su Waterfall was indeed difficult for us.

That was because we were constantly tempted to try to capture it all in one shot, but it was simply too wide to fit it all in.

All of our attempts at doing this resulted in awkward and unbalanced photos that ended up being candidates for the recycle bin or at least to be overlooked and ignored.

Thi_Lo_Su_013_01022009 - Looking against the sun at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall when we showed up in the early afternoon
Looking against the sun at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall when we showed up in the early afternoon

It turned out that the best photos we took of this falls involved just focusing on the more concentrated series of cascades on the left side while ignoring the thinner and somewhat separated cascades on the far right.

That would at least help you get the intended effect of focusing on the most interesting parts of the waterfall instead of being distracted by the quantity and grandeur of it all.

Other factors that conspired to mess with our photos were the sun and the crowds.

Around midday or early afternoon (when we arrived at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall), we were looking directly at the sun as we tried to view and photograph the waterfall.

In order to take better photos, we had to wait until late in the afternoon when the sun hid behind the cliffs.

Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_114_01032009 - Camping near the Thi Lo Su Waterfall in the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary
Camping near the Thi Lo Su Waterfall in the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary

It was a good thing that we camped here for the evening so we could stay very late.

Busy at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall

And as for the crowds, we had to really exercise our patience as there were heaps of people walking in and out of our line-of-sight while other groups would take some of the choice viewing spots hostage.

Again, it was a good thing we were camping on the night of our visit because it wasn’t until later in the afternoon when the day-trippers had to leave.

Only then were we able to have a few moments to enjoy the falls in relative peace.

Thi_Lo_Su_139_01032009 - Lots of people scrambling around the travertine and dipping in the pools at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Lots of people scrambling around the travertine and dipping in the pools at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall

Speaking of the crowds, that was real surprising to us given how remote the Thi Lo Su Waterfall was and how much trouble we had to go through to even get here (see directions below).

But we’ve observed that many Thais love waterfalls and that the Thi Lo Su Waterfall seemed to be known by just about every Thai person.

In fact, they not only knew about it, they actually made it a point to come here.

And this was further exemplified by the main campground complex containing a ticket office, a park office, a cantina, a very busy camping area, and even a tent providing Thailand Post!

That said, I had a feeling that perhaps we happened to show up at a busy time since it was during a time when it seemed most of Thailand was on holiday.

Thi_Lo_Su_004_01022009 - A tented marketplace that included Thailand Post at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall during our visit
A tented marketplace that included Thailand Post at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall during our visit

Perhaps at other times of the year, it wouldn’t be nearly as busy as how we had experienced it.

Buying Time at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall

So what we did to mitigate the crowd and suboptimal lighting situation was to explore the trails leading higher up the Thi Lo Su Waterfalls.

In addition to finding more swimming holes and getting up close to some of the individual tiers that made up the overall Thi Lo Su Waterfall, we also found that it got much quieter and more secluded the higher up we went.

We eventually went as far as one of the tall middle-tiered waterfalls where further progress was not possible.

However, we were able to enjoy staring at the plunging water across from a very wide plunge pool that was empty of people.

Thi_Lo_Su_084_01032009 - This was one of the plunging upper middle tiers of Thi Lo Su Waterfall, which marked the end of our ascent as we didn't find a safe trail to continue going any higher
This was one of the plunging upper middle tiers of Thi Lo Su Waterfall, which marked the end of our ascent as we didn’t find a safe trail to continue going any higher

Once we had our fill of this spot, then we slowly made our way back down to where most of the people were until we returned to the main viewing area when most of the people had left.

Experiencing the walk to Thi Lo Su Waterfall

From the car park and campground complex, we walked across a wide open grassy area towards an entrance gate with kiosk where the grassy area started giving way to trees again.

Once we paid the admission to continue, we were then walking along a trail that was mostly a mix of concrete and boardwalk for about 40 minutes.

Like the campground, the walk was quite busy with large groups.

Thi_Lo_Su_010_01022009 - Given that the concrete trail was somewhat narrow and had little dropoffs, it was difficult to pass the slower walkers that took up most of the width of the footpath to the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Given that the concrete trail was somewhat narrow and had little dropoffs, it was difficult to pass the slower walkers that took up most of the width of the footpath to the Thi Lo Su Waterfall

And given that the trail was somewhat narrow relative to the amount of traffic on it, we probably went slower than normal due to the limited opportunities to pass the slower people while remaining on the developed paths.

Nomenclature

Finally, because there was not a standard way of romanizing Thai pronunciations to English text, there were many spellings of the Thi Lo Su Waterfall.

Excluding the way we’ve been spelling it on this page, we’ve seen Namtok Tee Lor Su (also as one word “Teelorsu”), Namtok Thilawsu, Namtok Ti Lo Su, Namtok Ti Lor Su, Namtok Thi Lor Su, etc.

Indeed, the spelling permutations could easily get out of hand without that standard romanization method (at least not one standard method that we’re aware of).

Just realize that if they sound the same, generally we’re referring to the same waterfall even though their spellings may be different.

Authorities

The Thi Lo Su Waterfall resides in Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary near Mae Sot in the Tak Province, Thailand. We couldn’t find an official site belonging to the entity administering this waterfall or its general area. Therefore, for information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can try to visit the National Park, Wildlife, and Plants website.

Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_121_01032009 - This was the road and turnoff leading to the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary and the Thi Lo Su Waterfall from the village of Umphang
Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_072_jx_01032009 - The songthaew that we had to ride in for the bumpy 4wd stretch of road leading us to the campground at Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_063_jx_01022009 - The road we had to take while riding the songthaew to the Thi Lo Su Waterfall car park and campground
Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_064_jx_01022009 - A big rut on the road
Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_058_jx_01022009 - It was definitely high clearance vehicles only on this road
Thi_Lo_Su_001_01022009 - We finally arrived at the entrance for the Thi Lo Su Complex
Thi_Lo_Su_002_01022009 - Campground at Thi Lo Su
Thi_Lo_Su_003_01022009 - The car park area for the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_005_01022009 - Pictures of Thailand's revered king are everywhere, including the Thi Lo Su Waterfall complex
Thi_Lo_Su_006_01022009 - Walking towards the check point at the Thi Lo Su complex
Thi_Lo_Su_007_01022009 - Approaching the entrance gate for the Thi Lo Su Waterfall, where we had to pay our admission fee
Thi_Lo_Su_001_jx_01022009 - Looking back at the check point and entrance for the footpath leading to Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_008_01022009 - Lots of ground rules for visiting the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_009_01022009 - Julie on the walkway leading to the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_015_01022009 - Our first look at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_017_01022009 - Another look at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall, but notice that it was too early in the afternoon as the lighting was harsh and we were somewhat looking against the sun
Thi_Lo_Su_020_01022009 - If you look closely at this picture of the Thi Lo Su Waterfall, you might notice people standing near one of the waterfall's tiers, which gives you an idea of how big the overall waterfall is
Thi_Lo_Su_032_01022009 - An idyllic spot for a swim in front of one of the drops of the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_033_01022009 - This was one of the more secluded segments and tiers of the Thi Lo Su Waterfall, which this group of kids figured out how to find it
Thi_Lo_Su_041_01022009 - One of the thinner waterfalls to the right of the more pictureseque leftmost tier of the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_044_01022009 - This travertine waterfall was just up one level from a real popular swimming hole tier at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_051_01022009 - Same swimming hole at the travertine waterfall tier, but this time revealing how much cooler it was at this part of the Thi Lo Su Waterfall due to the shadows
Thi_Lo_Su_064_01022009 - Direct look at an intermediate tier of the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_066_01022009 - Getting higher up on the Thi Lo Su Waterfall providing a different look at its constituent parts
Thi_Lo_Su_073_01032009 - Thinner, taller plume of water comprising one of the smaller but taller segments of the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_086_01032009 - The uppermost tier of the Thi Lo Su Waterfall that we could safely get close to
Thi_Lo_Su_094_01032009 - After having climbed up to the middle tiers of Thi Lo Su Waterfall, Julie and I now had to carefully scramble back down
Thi_Lo_Su_097_01032009 - Direct look at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall when we returned to the main overlook later in the afternoon. Note the people in front for a sense of scale
Thi_Lo_Su_113_01032009 - Broad view of the Thi Lo Su Waterfall with the sun well hidden behind the cliffs at this point
Thi_Lo_Su_119_01032009 - Another contextual look at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Thi_Lo_Su_126_01032009 - We got this look at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall in the late afternoon after scrambling closer to one of the pools
Thi_Lo_Su_142_01032009 - With the sun mostly hidden behind the hills, we could now explore a bit more of the base of Thi Lo Su to see if there were other ways of composing a photo of it
Thi_Lo_Su_018_jx_01032009 - Our last look at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall before heading back to camp
Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_111_01032009 - Our camp at the Thi Lo Su Campground
Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_113_01032009 - A calm stream with travertine within it near our campsite at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall
Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_117_01032009 - Another look at the attractive stream adjacent to our campsite at the Thi Lo Su Waterfall

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We did this waterfall as an all-day escorted tour from the village of Umphang, but before this, we were driven from Mae Sot to Umphang along the so-called Death Highway (this took us about 6.5 hours with a few waterfall stops and breaks along the way).

The escorted tour from Umphang began with a morning raft along the Mae Klang River (which apparently continues on to Kanchanaburi [“kahn-CHAHN-uh-bur-ee”]), which took about 2.5 hours.

Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_022_jx_01022009 - Rafting on the Mae Klang River towards the Thi Lor Jor Waterfall and ultimately closer to the Thi Lo Su Waterfall Trailhead
Rafting on the Mae Klang River towards the Thi Lor Jor Waterfall and ultimately closer to the Thi Lo Su Waterfall Trailhead

Along the way, we saw the Thi Lor Jor Waterfall.

Then, we took a songthaew (basically a pick-up truck with a cover used as a 4wd taxi; pronounced “SOHNG-tauw”) for the next hour.

Since it was on a rugged 4wd road, this ride was quite bumpy.

This car ride ended at the car park and campground for the Thi Lo Su Waterfall, which was also the trailhead for the roughly 40- to 60-minute walk to access the main waterfall itself.

Finally, even though we ended up going with a tour based in Umphang that organized an overnight tour, there were other options.

Umphang_Wildlife_Sanctuary_058_jx_01022009 - Songthaews on the bumpy and dusty road leading to the Thi Lo Su Waterfall Campground and Car Park
Songthaews on the bumpy and dusty road leading to the Thi Lo Su Waterfall Campground and Car Park

We knew there were day tours out of Umphang, and from what we could tell, there was certainly no one to stop you from going there yourself assuming you’re properly equipped, have the admission fees ready, and arrange for transportation.

We saw a group of hardy Europeans actually walk the road that we took the songthaew on.

Speaking of which, in the wet season, the roads become too muddy and flooded for vehicular traffic so that would mean that you’ll have to walk that road by foot to get there under such conditions.

For geographical context, Mae Sot was 351km (5 hours drive) south of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai was roughly 700km north of Bangkok. It would take around 9 hours to drive or a little over an hour to fly between the cities.


Sweep throughout one of the lower cascades and plunge pool and ending towards the misty top against the sun



Comprehensive sweep from bottom to top of the waterfall (including the thinner waterfall to the right of the main one) in the late afternoon

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Tagged with: ti lo su, thi lor su, thi lo su, ti lor su, tak, lee lor su, umphang, wildlife, sanctuary, central thailand, thailand, waterfall, thilawsu, palantha



Visitor Comments:

Monopoly by local transport July 28, 2017 12:28 pm by Khunwilko - It now seems that to get to the falls you have to use their own transport facilities. Even those with full 4x4s are not permitted to make the journey. This means that anyone wanting to camp up on the site using their own vehicle equipment cannot do so anymore. ...Read More

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Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:

Private vehicles banned (Thi Lo Su Waterfall) November 6, 2017 4:52 am by Khunwilko - If you are thinking of taking your own vehicle to the waterfalls - forget it! Even if it is a 4x4 you are no longer allowed access to the campsite - You HAVE transfer all your gear and take the "local" song Teaw" the official reason is "Because policy of Tak Governor ,he wants the… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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