Part 4: Khao Yai National Park

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Our half day tour with Jay’s Jungle tours started around 3pm. We found a temple while exploring then got lunch and sat around for a bit.

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The half day tour didn’t actually go into the park but was in the areas around Khao Yai. The first stop was a freshwater spring. We got out to swim, it was absolutely beautiful and refreshing after swimming in salt water for the past three weeks.

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We had about a 40 minute swim stop there then moved on to what was called the temple cave. Nearby a large Buddhist temple on a hill was an underground cave where the monks used to go worship. The inside was eerily quiet, a perfect place for meditation. Alters to Buddha and one of the Hindu gods (I’m not sure which one) were both inside, directly across from each other. Our guide told us that people would come to make a wish or prayer and leave a gift on the alter to ensure that it comes true. We were told that most people in Thailand are a combination of buddhist and hindu, that’s why both were in the cave. I guess if you pray to two religions there is twice the chance of your wish coming true….

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The third and final stop brought us out into an open field. Our guide stood facing a hill that put the sunset to our backs. It was pretty but I couldn’t figure out why this was a stop until 5:30PM on the dot bats started flocking out of the hill. It started slowly, but soon there were millions of bats pouring out of the openings. It looked like ribbons of smoke. Our guide told us that in 2012 Japanese scientists counted how many bats came from the cave and it was over two million.

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The next morning (after Nescafe and American Breakfast) we were on our way for the full day tour at the national park by 8:30 AM. From Pak Chong it took about forty minutes to the park entrance. There we picked up two more people for our party making it a total of 7, and a very cramped truck bed. We drove about 20 minutes into the park before we stopped at a scenic viewing area for pictures and etc.

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From there we drove another 20 minutes to the visitor center. On the way, our tour guide, Jay spotted a Great Hornbill. I don’t know how he saw it. It was way off in the distance and looked like any other bird.

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I didn’t see what was so special about it until I looked through the binoculars and saw this is what it actually looked like…

They are very similar in looks to Toucans and have a wingspan of up to two meters. It was the most exotic thing I think I have ever seen, I had the Lion King’s I Just Can’t Wait to be King stuck in my head for the rest of the day (“Kings don’t take advice from little hornbills for a start…”).

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We watched him hop around the tree branches for a bit then moved on to the visitor center,where we got out and checked out the park museum and the surrounding area.

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On the way to our the next stop, a jungle treck, yet again Jay spotted something none of us would have ever noticed. White Handed Gibbons in the trees. A mother and baby, swinging from branch to branch.

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He told us a bit about gibbons. They are apes, so closer to humans than monkeys, they are monogamous so they have really small clans of maybe four to six. The baby’s stay with their clan longer than most animals, up until they are eight years old when they leave to find a mate. They live to be about 22 to 25 years old. Michael kindly reminded me I’d be ancient if I were a gibbon. We could hear them howling, calling out their territory all through our three hour long trek.

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Once in the woods I would have been completely lost. It was all jungle. I just adjusted to the Taiwanese style of hiking with stairs and clear cut paths, these woods looked completely untouched, it was awesome. We had to climb over roots and under branches, disturbing the nature as little as possible, how it should be.

Jay told us all about these trees that were abundant in the park. Strangling Fig Tree’s, it looked as if two trees were starting to grow together as one, but one, the fig, was really a parasite living off of the other slowly killing it. We stopped and took a rest at the biggest one, then finished our trek.

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After we got lunch, fruit and fired rice, standard tour food lunch. At lunch we saw some water deer and water monitor lizard.

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The next stop was at Haew Suwat Waterfall, famous for it’s feature in the 1999 movie The Beach. It was really beautiful, but because of it’s popularity due to the movie no one was allowed to swim in it anymore.

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On the way back to the truck Jay found a Bamboo viper hanging in a tree. The same exact kind we have here in Taiwan.

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Our last stop was to the salt licks to see if we could find any elephants. Our first drive through was unsuccessful, but on the way back we caught one just as it was leaving the salt lick.

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We waited for a while for it to return but it never did. I was just happy I got to see a wild elephant, even for a second. That concluded our tour and we started on the long journey back to the guesthouse, about an hour and a half distance from the side of the park we were on.

Oh yeah and we saw lots of monkeys on the side of the road…

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The rest of the time in Thailand was quite uneventful. The next morning we got on a bus back to Bangkok and were off to the Manila airport, for the worst layover I’ve ever had. From eleven at night until four in the morning sitting in a crowded waiting room full of disgruntled travelers. We got back to Taoyuan around 10 and I was back at work at 1:30. It’s been about two weeks now and the adjustment is still taking some getting used to, all the while I just daydream about going back in time…

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