Pilok: Thailand’s wild west
Though Thailand is not known for its gold, the country is no stranger to mining.
Though Thailand is not known for its gold, the country is no stranger to mining. In the westernmost part of the country, specifically in the Kanchanaburi province, there is a town called Pilok, which some people believe to be a remnant of “mining country,” and is now being revived a tourist destination.
Pilok, which is very close to the Thailand-Myanmar border, is technically a village in the Thong Pha Phum district of Kanchanaburi province. To get to the tiny town, you’ll first have to drive through the vast Thong Pha Phum National Park, one of the most scenic drives you can make in the area.
However, that does come with one aside: the road through the mountains in the park provide unbeatable scenic views, but it is also very windy, narrow, and steep. So, be sure to keep your eyes on the road, and if you are prone to car sickness, it’s advisable to take motion sickness medicine before heading through the mountains to Pilok.
Pilok was mining “boomtown” in the 1940s when tin and tungsten mines were discovered and turned into businesses in this area. However, in 1985, there was a tin market crash, which caused the collapse of the local economy in Pilok. At that time, all of the mines ceased operations and shuttered. The town became a place that served for diplomatic and military operations between Thailand and Myanmar, with many soldiers from both countries making it their home.
Over the decades since the crash, though, Pilok has become a peaceful haven for Thai and Burmese people. In recent years, the locals have revived the economy by making it more of a tourist destination than ever.
Because of the positioning of Pilok in the foothills between mountains, there is a perpetual fog that makes it mysterious and charming. The mist comes and goes, so as you walk through the town, it is common to notice things that were right in front of you before that you never saw the first time you passed through.
There are just a few main streets through the town, and they are alive with coffee shops, local restaurants, and souvenir vendors. Additionally, there is art everywhere- including murals, stickers, and re-usable furniture that people are using while they work.
The climate and location of Pilok have created the perfect environment for plants to grow throughout the town. In every direction you look, you will see endless greens, reds, and yellows. The trees and flowers are overgrowing the paths, so even though you might be covering just a small territory as you walk through, it all looks different because of the variety of vibrant plant life.
Bonus: Urban Camping
One specific “industry” that is quite popular in Pilok is urban camping. Instead of seeing the typical hostels in the town, it’s more common to see people renting out campsites on concrete slabs. Most of these campsites have a shared restroom for all “campers” and provide easy access to the Pilok experience, as they are centrally located in the village.