Monday, 15 October 2012

Khao Yai National Park 12 - 14th September

Khao Yai National Park

Setting off from Victory monument
So, after a few weeks staying in central Bangkok I thought it was time for a change of scene. Several of my colleagues had told me about this great national park called Khao Yai only a couple of hours away from Bangkok so we decided to get some country air for the weekend.
A typical park visit involves you leaving Bangkok early Saturday morning and getting back late Sunday night, perfect for people working there.

Day 1
Getting to the park turned out to be so easy, we got a mini bus from Victory Monument, paying 160 BHT and 2 hours later we were in Pak Chong, the town nearest the park. We arrived in Pak Chong not really knowing what to do next, but we were soon met by a really helpful park guide who gave a lift to our Tour company Green Leaf Tour, talk about great service. http://www.greenleaftour.com/

Things I learnt on the way to the park...
  • Khao yai is the oldest national park in Thailand
  • Khao yai is a world heritage site
  • Khao yai is the 2nd largest park in Thailand, 2000 sq km

Our time at Green Left started really well with a great Pad Thai meal


Bat cave temple
Once charged with grub we set off on our 1/2 day tour.

About 5 minutes into our drive to the National Park our driver stops suddenly and the guide jumps out of the cab and then charges into the undergrowth. He soon returned carrying a snake! He'd seen it hanging from a tree whilst driving past at 20 or 30 miles an hour - impressive!

Our first stop after that was a cave underneath a Buddhist temple. The monks use the cave to go down to meditate in the dark with bats.

We climbed down some steep stairs with our guide Joe to this fantastic cave full of stalactites and stalagmites. We could hear the sound of bats as we ventured further into the dark. Then, shining our torches up to the ceiling we could see them hanging down. Shining the light or taking pictures didn't startle them, but we were sure quiet as a group as went around the cave.

Suddenly the guide got us all to stand perfectly still then he pointed to an area on the floor where we could all see a Tarantula! After we'd calmed down a bit our guide told us a bit about Tarantulas and when we'd reassured ourselves that it wasn't going to suddenly launch itself at us we carried on further into the cave. Everyone kept their torches on the tarantula as they walked away though just in case.


Mr cave Tarantula
The cave was fantastic, we saw lots of bats, a couple of crickets and a millipede  Fair play to the monks going down there to pray in the dark with all of the creepies and crawlies.

Facts about bats - they are mammals just like us, their body temperature is 36' C and they always hang off of the same bit of rock in the cave. They also leave their cave at the same time each evening to go feed (more of that later)

A sight to behold



Fantastic sight
The first cave was quite small compared to the second cave we visited. We went to the small cave first as unfortunately people aren't allowed in the bigger cave due to all of the people who go in there to steal Guano/Bat poo. Apparently you can make explosives from it, as well as fertilising your lawn.

At the bigger cave where there is an amazing site to see. Each evening the bats go hunting, all 2 million of them, at the same time!

We stood just outside the cave entrance and over the course of an hour watched 2 million bats leave over the course of an hour. So, 2 million over an hour is 55 odd per second flying out the cave mouth. Very cool thing to see!

Night time swim

After watching the bats until it went dark we went to natural spring, night-time swim.

The swim sounded lovely at first but people were quite wary of jumping in, imaging that their would be all sorts of leeches etc in the water.

However, once we plucked up courage and jumped in it was lovely!

Back to base afterwards to dry and get changed into dry stuff.


2 million bats flying through the air
We went out for beer before dinner (of course), but we took too long, and found the restaurant closed closed back at the tour lodge  This was an alien concept after being in Bangkok for a few months as you can eat there all of the time. It wasn't too hard to find somewhere else though  and we just went to another place for pork ball noodle. 

Mine started nice then I messed it up adding spices. (doh!)

Maria makes best friends with romeo the dog, feeds him pork balls


Finished with random pancake, stringy candy floss desert thing that I bought earlier on.

Day 2

Power breakfast had in the morning with lots of fruit to keep us going throughout the day.

We set off in the truck and shortly entered the park. After a bit of negotiation and showing my work permit I managed to get in at the local of 40 BHT instead of the foreigner 400 BHT price.

After only a few minutes driving in the park saw Macaque monkeys, a great way to start the national park experience! 


In national parks animals rule the road

Cheeky chap
Things I learnt about macaque monkeys

Macaque social groups, will steal food any chance. They also get used to being fed from cars so have started hanging out on road and getting squashed. They also stand up in a very human pose when they want something from you.

Top tip: If you go into the jungle put on leech socks. They are very, very useful. I had no idea leeches were on land, I just thought they were in still pools but these guys actually chase after anything that moves on the ground, hundreds of them. It was quite a site seeing them gather around you if you stood still too long.

After a while we stopped at a great photo spot which showed a fantastic view of the park.

The tropical park
Shortly after we stopped again to look at a huge Horn billed toucan sitting in a tree. It was huge! Yellow male and females look the same. You can only tell them apart by looking at the colour of their eyes. 

Shortly after we went looking for Gibbons. Shortly after we spotted some hanging out and chatting in the trees. Gibbins grow baby 1 year then carry for 3, gibbon family has about 1 sq km to itself and fights for that. They also talk loudly to each other and other groups.



Highlights during the day

Chinese water lizard


Chinese water lizard
A Horn bill lizard, which the guide's book said was only ever seen in the south

Mr Scorpion!

Our guide was determined to find a scorpion for us, and had explored several holes during the day looking for them. While we had our lunch stop he went off again and proudly returned with this guy, in his pocket! 

During his talk we learnt that this scorpion wouldn't kill you, but a much smaller, browner one would.


Just a "medium" size scorpion apparently

Tree vipers

As the group walked along we all missed this chap asleep in a tree - without a guide you'd either miss everything or stand on it by accident

Green viper


Food
As a snack we had this lovely rice and banana thing in a banana leaf, called something like Khao to ma (not the correct Thai I'm sure)




Rapids leading to the fall

Haew Narok Waterfall


  • Awesome!
  • 100M high
  • Best seen in the rainy season
  • Quite a tricky walk from the car park to the actual falls up and down several steps of stairs.


Standing proudly at the falls after the long walk to get there


Other things we saw
Bear marks on this tree
Bravely entering the jungle
Our guide fearlessly looking for other wildlife to show us
Strangling fig tree
Maria posing with her leech socks
Our journey back was easy and uneventful with the exception of nearly having a crash when a crazy driver swerved straight in front of us!

Summary

It's well worth visiting Khao Yai in my opinion and it's a very easy weekend trip from Bangkok. It was quite a reasonably priced adventure too, costing me just a little over 2,000 BAHT. 

Next time you've got a weekend free and fancy a change of scene I'd recommend checking it out.

Thanks!