Monday, July 23, 2012

Elephants, Macaques and Scorpions! Oh my!

Before leaving for school last Friday morning, Stephen and I packed our backpacks (some more expertly than others...I won't say who thought one T-shirt would suffice) for a trip to Khao Yai so we could walk the few blocks to the bus station once the school day was done. After a 5-hour trip, Stephen and I arrived in Packchong, where we were picked up by a driver from Greenleaf, our guesthouse and tour for the weekend. We ate a late dinner of noodle soup (our recent favorite) and went to sleep. In the morning, we dressed and equipped my backpack with hiking essentials: cameras, bug spray, sunglasses, toilet paper, cough drops because we're constantly fighting off colds, and our work permits for a discount! At 8 am, we departed the guesthouse to journey into the jungle and begin our adventure at Khao Yai National Park! Eight of us climbed into the back of a songteaw and drove a ways through the mountains until we reached the park. The jungle is home to a variety of animals and plants, including: wild boar, elephants, millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, gibbons, macaques, cinnamon trees, ginger plants, sandalwood trees, multiple mushroom varieties--poisonous and not, and countless other species I can't name. Our tour guide, Lek, was incredibly knowledgeable about the nature and animals which really made our trip as interesting and exciting as it was. We would drive along the roads coursing through the mountains and Lek would stop the vehicle to show us a particular animal or insect. When we veered off the road to hike a trail through the jungle, we'd be trekking along paths that appeared nearly nonexistent, which created for a really authentic, natural experience. We were really in the jungle--walking right within a sacred habitat shared by a multitude of wild animals. We hiked through the jungle and the open tall-grass countryside, crossed a river one-by-one on a fallen tree and scrambled across the rocks beneath a beautiful, rushing waterfall. We knew we would be considered lucky if we managed to see elephants on the tour because we heard previously that it would not be a guarantee. Yet, we got to witness two young, male elephants in all their wild glory, slowly and carelessly strolling along the road, stopping traffic in both directions. It was just simply amazing. I couldn't have asked for a better day. By far, my favorite day in Thailand thus far!

 Got my leech socks on!

 Lek roused this scorpion from his hole in the ground so he could show us how to put him to sleep and allowed us to pet him.

 Towering trees. The spiraling vines actually suffocate and kill the trees, but they do look pretty cool.
Jungle hat.
 Horned spider.
 Poisonous mushroom.
 Lek pulling some bark off of the cinnamon tree.
 Poachers stealing bark off of the sandalwood tree.

 These trees nearly touch the sky.

 Crossing the river.

I miss those blues and greens.

 First elephant spotting!

 Macaque just hangin' on the side of the road.
Sleepy scorpion.
 Cool vine and climbing rocks by the waterfall.

 We've seen this in a few places during our travels in Thailand. Apparently it's Thai tradition for good luck.

 Second elephant spotting!

5-legged elephant.
Macaque family.
 Swinging at the Greenleaf Guesthouse.
 Feeling the wind in my hair on the songteaw ride to the bus station in Packchong.
Train ride from Packchong home.

As always, seeing another side of Thailand was incredibly refreshing and enjoyable. Every time I travel, the picture of Thailand begins to come together a little more clearly. My perspective of the land and its people expands and I feel like I'm getting to know a new friend. A rather strange and at times aggravating friend--but a friend. To be entirely truthful, Stephen and I aren't the happiest campers in the city of Khon Kaen. If we could live somewhere closer to nature and cheery, non-city type folk, we probably would. But right now we're focusing on the amazing opportunities we have here in Thailand which just mere months ago we could have only dreamed of.

A tout a l'heure!


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