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.For this trip, I recruited my friend Scooter Steve, who’s an avid nature-lover and travel blogger, just like me. 😀
He’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.
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. 😛Our agenda for the first half-day tour was as follows:
- Swim at a natural spring
- Visit a Buddhist temple
- 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. 🙂
Our first stop was the Nam Phut Natural Spring, for a quick swim and snack break. 🙂 To 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. 🙂
I’ve also noticed Thai people love any and all meat-on-a-stick. ❤
Crab spears, pork balls, fish balls, and bubblegum-pink hotdogs
After the natural spring, we headed into the country, surrounded by a lush rolling landscape of dense forests, rice patties and corn fields.
Here we visited a sacred Buddhist temple and enjoyed the natural surroundings.
Looks almost like Holland, with the windmills. 🙂 Below 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. 🙂
We 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.Quite an easy task considering the breathtaking views. 🙂
At 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.
Possibly my favorite video yet. 🙂
Can’t be certain, but anything’s possible. 😛
We also happened to spot a Large-eyed Pit Viper while we were hanging near the cave. Of course, I found this information out after I finished the tour.
Luckily, there were no injuries sustained, and shortly after we headed back to Bobby’s for some tasty Thai cuisine. 🙂 Laab (minced pork salad), red coconut curry and rice. Stir-fried chicken and vegetables. Yum! 😀
On day two, we woke up at sunrise to begin our full-day jungle trek and waterfall tour in Khao Yai National Park.At the entrance of the national park is a Thai spirit house, decorated with ornate animal shrines, colorful flowers and burning incense. Buddhist 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. The park itself is modeled after the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the US, and the grounds are really quite impressive. 😀
Khao Yai ViewpointVistor Center bridge From 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. Sambar deer, a massive shaggy-coated deer, often confused with Elk, considering their average body weight is 2X as large as white-tailed deer.
Water monitor lizard, hanging by the river, hoping to catch some fish or frogs to eat.
Northern pig-tailed macaques, munching on some stolen fruit. Sneaky little buggers! 😛 After 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. 🙂Our 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. 😛
After 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.What was initially impressive to me were the large number of Giant Fig Trees, which attract plenty of birds and monkeys when bearing fruit. The jungle trees had towering trunks, twisted vines, and plenty of fungal growth.These are leaves from a Huo Chang Tree, which means ‘Elephant Ear Tree’ in Thai. I can see the resemblance. 😛The leaves can also be fashioned into a fancy hat. 😉Etched 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. Although 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. 🙂Of course, no jungle trek would be complete without a few creepy crawlers as well. 😛
Spider web and millipede
After 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.
We also noticed a rather ominous sky, and sure enough, shortly after, the rain began to pour down. 🙂
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
The second part of the day we visited two popular waterfalls in Khao Yai.Staircase leading to the waterfall.Haew Suwat Waterfall is not only gorgeous, but famous for being the movie setting for the film, The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Ow, ow! 😉
Anyway, 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.Needless to say, this caused quite a commotion and traffic jam within the park.
When 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.He would not let us pass and even charged at us a few times.He must have been taking cues from Gandalf or something. 😉Miraculously, 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. 😕Don’t fall in! That’s no chocolate river. 😛When we finally managed to reach the waterfall, it was of one of the most well-deserved visits, to say the least. 😀Heo Narok Waterfall, is three-tiered, over 150 meters high, and one of Thailand’s top natural attractions. 🙂
At 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.Being 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. 😀
I 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! 😀