Khao Yai National Park: Where the Wild Things Are

This past weekend, I visited Khao Yai National Park, for an up close encounter with some of the unique wildlife of Southeast Asia. 🙂

From wild beasts to creepy crawlers, we saw it all. 😀

To get to Khao Yai from Bangkok, I took a minivan from Victory Monument, 2.5 hours north, to the town of Pak Chong.DSC_0001For this trip, I recruited my friend Scooter Steve, who’s an avid nature-lover and travel blogger, just like me. 😀
DSC_0004He’s also a thrill seeker, which landed him in a recent motorbike crash. Thankfully, he’s healing well and ready for this next adventure. 🙂

We organized a 1.5 day tour with Bobby’s Apartments and Jungle Tours. Meals, guide, transportation and park admission for a mere $45.

http://www.bobbysjungletourkhaoyai.com/ 

Khao Yai National Park is over 2,000 square kilometers of grassland and rainforest, with over 2,000 species of plants and animals. I figured I would leave this trip in the hands of the professionals, to help us spot wildlife and visit important sites within the park. 😀

The accommodation at Bobby’s was quite comfy for only $3 per night. We stayed in this futuristic dorm room with bubblegum-pink walls and fake grass tiled floor. Truly out-of-this-world decor. Steve was diggin’ the lawn tiles, considering he’s a landscaper back home. Hah. 😛DSC_0005Our agenda for the first half-day tour was as follows:

  1. Swim at a natural spring
  2. Visit a Buddhist temple
  3. Explore two bat caves 

Our nature guide for the tour was JJ, who was totally energized and loved wildlife. ❤  She stopped quite a bit for birdwatching, and described all animals as ‘sexy.’ What a hoot! 😛

Using a telescope/camera combination during our birdwatching sesh. 🙂
zoonOur first stop was the Nam Phut Natural Spring, for a quick swim and snack break. 🙂 DSC_0016DSC_0020To protect ‘Scooter Steve’s’ bandages, we avoided the springs and checked out the local market for a few Thai treats instead. The fresh watermelon and pineapple were the highlight. So sweet and juicy. 🙂
DSC_0022I’ve also noticed Thai people love any and all meat-on-a-stick. ❤

Crab spears, pork balls, fish balls, and bubblegum-pink hotdogs
DSC_0024After the natural spring, we headed into the country, surrounded by a lush rolling landscape of dense forests, rice patties and corn fields.
DSC_0047Here we visited a sacred Buddhist temple and enjoyed the natural surroundings.
PicMonkey CollageLooks almost like Holland, with the windmills. 🙂 collage4Below the Buddhist temple was actually an underground cave. We were able to explore the cave and spotted three different species of bats, as well as, admired the spectacular limestone rock formations. 🙂
collage5We saw quite a few insect-eating bats hanging from inlets of the cave, but that was nothing compared to the batty display we are about to see next. 🙂

For this, we would have to wait patiently in the fields until sunset.DSC_0096Quite an easy task considering the breathtaking views. 🙂
DSC_0099At dusk, at least one million wrinkle-lipped bats fly out of Khao Lak Chang Bat Cave, in search of insects to feed on. 🙂

That horizontal ribbon across the skyline below is actually swarms of wrinkle-lipped bats, flying out in unison, using echolocation.
DSC_0118Possibly my favorite video yet. 🙂

Can’t be certain, but anything’s possible. 😛
DSC_0113We also happened to spot a Large-eyed Pit Viper while we were hanging near the cave. :/DSC_0108Of course, I found this information out after I finished the tour. :/
CaptureLuckily, there were no injuries sustained, and shortly after we headed back to Bobby’s for some tasty Thai cuisine. 🙂 DSC_0125Laab (minced pork salad), red coconut curry and rice. DSC_0126Stir-fried chicken and vegetables. Yum! 😀
DSC_0127On day two, we woke up at sunrise to begin our full-day jungle trek and waterfall tour in Khao Yai National Park.DSC_0128At the entrance of the national park is a Thai spirit house, decorated with ornate animal shrines, colorful flowers and burning incense. DSC_0139Buddhist teachings believe that these animal shrines remind people about their relation to the natural world, which is incredibly relevant considering the abundant wildlife at Khao Yai, and the necessity of eco-preservation. DSC_0134The park itself is modeled after the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the US, and the grounds are really quite impressive. 😀

Khao Yai ViewpointDSC_0169Vistor Center bridge DSC_0194From the visit center alone, we were able to spot oodles of native species, unique to Southeast Asia. 😀

Great Hornbill, with a bright yellow and black casque atop its beak. DSC_0287 Sambar deer, a massive shaggy-coated deer, often confused with Elk, considering their average body weight is 2X as large as white-tailed deer.
DSC_0204Water monitor lizard, hanging by the river, hoping to catch some fish or frogs to eat.
LIZARDNorthern pig-tailed macaques, munching on some stolen fruit. Sneaky little buggers! 😛 MONKEYAfter a tour of the visitor center, we had a short briefing with our trekking guide, Ploy.

Unlike JJ, she had a very calming demeanor, but was also incredibly knowledgeable of local wildlife. The two guides balanced each other out well. 🙂DSC_0175Our team for the day consisted of five Dutch travelers: two girlfriends, a mother-daughter, pair and a solo Dutchman. 🙂

We called ourselves, ‘The Sexy Smurfs‘ in honor of JJ’s go-to phrase, as well as, the Smurf blue colored leech socks we were required to wear. 😛
collage6After the wildlife briefing, we began our three-hour jungle trek, which took us deep into the forest, to learn about the local flora and fauna found in Khao Yai.DSC_0237What was initially impressive to me were the large number of Giant Fig Trees, which attract plenty of birds and monkeys when bearing fruit. tree2The jungle trees had towering trunks, twisted vines, and plenty of fungal growth.treeThese are leaves from a Huo Chang Tree, which means ‘Elephant Ear Tree’ in Thai. I can see the resemblance. 😛DSC_0233The leaves can also be fashioned into a fancy hat. 😉DSC_0236Etched into the tree trunks, we were also able to spot bear tracks of either the Asiatic Black Bear or the Malayan Sun Bear, which are both tree-climbers, seeking out food and a place to rest.  DSC_0238Although we didn’t see any large mammals during the trek, we could hear Gibbon monkeys howling in the trees the whole time, and even spotted this elephant track in the mud. 🙂DSC_0262Of course, no jungle trek would be complete without a few creepy crawlers as well. 😛
Spider web and millipede
creepAfter three hours in the jungle, we finally reached a clearing, a popular salt lick for elephants due to the deep dark red, mineral-rich soil.
DSC_0278DSC_0267DSC_0272DSC_0265We also noticed a rather ominous sky, and sure enough, shortly after, the rain began to pour down. 🙂
DSC_0255
Luckily, it was just in time for us to rest and refuel at the visitor center. We were served ginger lemongrass chicken with rice, which was quite filling, and even included a little lunchtime entertainment. The most adorable little dumpling, hiding from the rain with her umbrella and Daisy Dukes. 😛

Photos courtesy of stevieinwonderland.com
lunchThe second part of the day we visited two popular waterfalls in Khao Yai.DSC_0308Staircase leading to the waterfall.DSC_0304DSC_0300Haew Suwat Waterfall is not only gorgeous, but famous for being the movie setting for the film, The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Ow, ow! 😉
collage 7Anyway, as luck would have it, en route to the second waterfall, we spotted a huge heard of wild elephants. 😀

We had to be careful not to intrude on their space, since mom could get quite protective of her young.elephantNeedless to say, this caused quite a commotion and traffic jam within the park.
DSC_0324When we finally did manage to arrive at the second waterfall, we were running behind schedule and told to quickly visit the falls.

Easier said than done. :/

As we walked along the path leading to the waterfall, we ran into one rather stubborn macaque.PicMonkey CollageHe would not let us pass and even charged at us a few times.IMG-20151116-WA0002He must have been taking cues from Gandalf or something. 😉PicMonkey CollagevMiraculously, after a while, someone threw down a pack of snacks for the macaque, and our guide shooed him away. If not, I wouldn’t have crossed. Macaques can be quite dangerous. No thanks! 
From there we still had a 10 minute walk across a questionable bridge, and down a steep narrow staircase.

Caution! Bridge under repair. 😕bridgeDon’t fall in! That’s no chocolate river. 😛DSC_0340Willy-Wonka-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-Pure-ImaginationWhen we finally managed to reach the waterfall, it was of one of the most well-deserved visits, to say the least. 😀IMG-20151116-WA0001Heo Narok Waterfall, is three-tiered, over 150 meters high, and one of Thailand’s top natural attractions. 🙂
DSC_0344At the end of the day, we headed back to Bobby’s and our minivan picked us up to take us back to Bangkok.

Khao Yai National Park is truly a place where the wild things are. A-once-in-a-lifetime experience, for sure. 🙂

Now ‘Scooter Steve’ is off to the beautiful country of Cambodia, and I am back to teaching the youngsters. 😀

Coincidently, the children in Grade 5 have also been focusing on wild creatures of the natural world.

The aim for this unit is to teach them how to describe animals, using the target vocabulary words: wings, spots, stripes, fur, etc.lessonBeing an ESL conversation course, I spent most lessons doing plenty of speaking activities and interactive games, including charades, hangman and role-playing.

For the end-of-the-unit activity today, I planned something a bit more creative, involving writing and freer practice.

The children were asked to create their own insect, describing what makes their bug unique compared to other, ordinary bugs.

Their creations were totally wild, and their descriptions were quite complex. 😀
insect 5 ininsecinsectinsect 4insect 3insect 2iseI also ended the activity with a fun bug hunt. I had their pictures pasted on the walls and would ask to the kids to search for bugs, based on certain criteria. (i.e. purple stripes or black spots)

This got everyone in the classroom moving and talking with each other about their different bugs. Everyone had a great laugh and it was quite a successful lesson. 😀 
Anyway, the week ahead should be quite exciting as well, seeing as Thailand will celebrate the national holiday of Loy Krathong, and I will be celebrating a non-traditional Thanksgiving in Bangkok. It should be quite an experience, filled with beautiful performances, and tasty eats.

Can’t wait to tell you all about it. Until then. Have a great weekend everyone! 😀

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3 thoughts on “Khao Yai National Park: Where the Wild Things Are

  1. This was fabulous. I am so happy that you posted enough text with the pictures to really give me an understanding of what your were seeing (and eating!) and an idea of what the trip was like. Thank you and keep ’em coming.

    p.s. ESL is my passion. I am taking off this year to finish writing my book about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but otherwise volunteer at the elementary school here in Marathon, FL teaching Spanish kindergarten and first graders to speak English. I have no training in the field, but just approach it the way I would interacting with a small English speaker to teach them new words. They say I do a great job and I love the children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dinata,

      Thank you much for checking out the blog. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. 🙂 It sounds like you are on quite the ESL venture as well. Wishing you luck and continued success in teaching, and in writing your book. 😀

      Take care,

      Megan

      Like

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