Poeng Kloeng & Letongkhu
Poeng Kloeng & Letongkhu information
Rte 1288, which leads to the checkpoint for Um Phang Wildlife Sanctuary, continues more than 70km, terminating in Poeng Kloeng – a Karen, Burmese, Talaku and Thai trading village on the Myanmar border.
Poeng Kloeng is a pretty nondescript border town where main occupations appear to be selling black market cigarettes from Myanmar and the production of betel nut, and the real reason to make the schlep here is to visit the neighbouring village of Letongkhu.
Located 12km south of Poeng Kloeng along a rough uphill track, according to what little anthropological information is available, the villagers belong to the Lagu or Talaku sect, said to represent a form of Buddhism mixed with shamanism and animism. Each village has a spiritual and temporal leader called a pu chaik (whom the Thais call reu·sěe – 'rishi', or 'sage') who wears his hair long – usually tied in a topknot – and dresses in white, yellow or brown robes, depending on the subsect.
Evangelistic Christian missionaries have infiltrated the area and have tried to convert the Talaku, thus making them sensitive to outside visits. If you do visit Letongkhu, take care not to enter any village structures without permission or invitation. Likewise, do not take photographs without permission. Overnight stays are not generally permitted.
From the sŏrng·tăa·ou station in Um Phang there are sŏrng·tăa·ou to Poeng Kloeng approximately every hour from 6.30am to 3.30pm (100B, 2½ hours). There's no regular transport to Letongkhu, and if you're not willing to walk or hitch from Poeng Kloeng or organise a guided visit to the village, a 4WD will do the trip from Um Phang for about 5000B.