Now…this is my first time abroad so maybe the fact that I’m enjoying all this so much is just me being a travel noob, but Khao Yai National Park was the got-damn BUSINESS! The trip started in usual hectic fashion. Adam and I missed out bus, so we took a van straight to Bangkok to meet up with Kelsey. From Bangkok, our plan was to take a bus straight up to Pakchong to meet up with Jordan and Katie (who live there…sorta. More on that shortly) then get picked up from there by the Khao Yai park ranger and taken to our hostel at the park.
Well we took a bus from Bangkok and it took us to Pakchong, but apparently we’d gotten on the slow bus instead of the fast bus (in Thailand, most buses are just buses, but some are time machines) so we ended up arriving too late for the park ranger to pick us up. Brotha gotta sleep, nameen?
No problem, though. Jordan and Katie said we could stay at their place. Oh! Oh wait…they don’t live in Pakchong. We were still about an hour and a half away from where they lived and would have to wait thirty minutes for the next bus (it was around 11:30pm at this point. We left home at 3:30 for what should have been, total, a 4 hour trip).
After that, we…okay, this is taking too long. Blah, blah, get lost, blah blah, learn a new form of poker with inexplicable rules, blah blah pumpkin seeds, blah blah we meet up with Jordan and Katie, get 2 to 3 hours of sleep, then arrive at Khao Yai on Saturday morning. We’d missed their usual morning tour, but our kindly tour guide sent the other tourers off with a different guide and waited to take the five of us. Kelsey was all politeness as we got off the truck to meet our tour guide.
Kelsey: Oh! Sawatdee Khaa!
Tour Guide: Uh…Hi.
He was Thai, but he spoke English fluently and had a very western sensibility/swagger about him.
So you can imagine that Kelsey looked utterly ridiculous. Utterly.
The first animal we saw on our actual park trek (the monkeys were right at the entrance), was a Great Hornbill. Pretty good looking birds and large enough that I consider them worthy of life. Our tour guide would walk around with a low power telescope and set it up so we could get close up views of the animals.
Now I’m gonna wax prosaic for a bit. This world, while beautiful when unmolested, is very uneventful without the life it contains. It is the living things – the trees, the fungi, the insects, the mammals – that live out the narrative of planet Earth. Without them, this would be a world with no story to tell.
A microcosm of that is the idea that my own individual life is substantially fulfilled by those that play a role on its stage, even if that role is for but a moment. A large part of what made Khao Yai, as you’re about to read, so awesome, couldn’t be captured in pictures. The people I experienced Khao Yai with were just as fundamental to my enjoyment of it as the things I saw and heard, so major big ups to Adam, Kelsey, Jordan and Katie for allowing me to join them for this journey.
Which leads me to my next point: Lek
Lek was our tour guide for the trip. This man is one of those people you meet in your life that you will still remember when you’re old and senile and have forgotten how to turn off the stove without burning yourself. He is a Thai man that speaks fluent English with a possibly Indian accent. He has a degree in Engineering, but decided to be Bear Grylls instead. He can see through camouflage, talk to scorpions and run on water. Lek is…the most interesting man in the world.
We were driving in the sawng teaw (or however its spelled. It’s a truck with benches in the truck bed and a cover over the whole thing so people can sit in it without getting rained on) when Lek suddenly jumps out and says, “It’s a snake!” He runs onto the street, snaches the snake up then jumps back into the truck and sticks the snake IN OUR FACES. Now, I’m no stranger to combat with deadly animals so I didn’t at all flinch or have a heart attack or try to climb over the girls to get out of the truck, but I will admit that it caught me off guard. The snake was about 20 feet long and easily over a hundred pounds, so I was impressed that Lek could lift that much. Didn’t stop me from eating it, though.
After the trauma of the snake and Lek’s uproarious laughter, we ditched the truck and went out on foot for a 5k through the jungle. I didn’t get very many pictures of the next several hours because my phone was actin’ a fool (I’m sure my travel compadres will post them on facebook soon), but the one picture I managed to take pretty much captures everything.
This post is expanding way too quickly, so I’m gonna cap it here and continue on with part[s] 2 [and 3] in the next few days.
I hope you’re all doing well. A month has passed: only four more till I’m back home. Miss you all!
What I’m Reading: Lol…The Once and Future King by T.H. White
What I’m Writing: The Lincoln Lions (Working Title) – 22%
What I’m Listening To: Babel by Mumford and Sons