I still didn’t feel like I’d had enough of Surin, so a bit of searching and I got the idea to go to Khao Yai National Park. I through ti was time to see some jungle and wildlife. So from Surin I took a train west to Pak Chong. From Pak Chong I took a Songtaew about 30 minutes south to a guest house that also offered tours. All the guest houses around here seem to offered a “complete” stay. Trekking/Tours, food, etc… The rooms are also inexpensive for what you get leading me to believe they really make there money off the fact that once you’re there you are somewhat trapped. There is no where you can walk to to get market food or any easy way to get back to Pak Chong. Anyway, at least at Green Leaf which I was staying the food and treks are reasonably priced so it’s not a big deal, just you’re noticeably trapped.
I got into the Guesthouse mid-day which was perfect. They run their treks as a half-day followed by a full day. I had called earlier that morning to make sure they had room available, upon arrival though there seemed to be some confusion and no record I’d called. Regardless they found me a room and I set about getting settled, showered, and fed. The staff is all very nice here. For the treks it’s all young energetic guys who speak good to very good English and around the guest house the women are all attentive and friendly.
That afternoon we set out on the first part of the tour. First we took a swim in some natural pools. After the swim headed to some limestone caves where we saw what seemed like a lot of bats hanging around in the caves. I saw it seemed like a lot because nothing could compare to what came later. In the caves with what seemed like a lot of bats there were a dozen or more Buddha images which would often be used by mediating monks, although none were presently sitting in the caves. After the caves we headed out by truck across fields to where there was a view of “the bat cave”. The bat cave is a small hole high up on the side of a mountain. Around sunset millions of bats exit this cave. It literally takes a couple hours for all of the bats to stream out of the cave. We watched and photographed in awe for about an hour. On the way back to the guest house we stopped off to see the biggest geckos I’ve ever seen, about 12 inches long not including the tail. These monster geckos click like the little ones, only much much louder. It sounds like a person clapping their hands.
That evening the group that had been on the trek together all gathered for dinners and a few drinks. Most of us would be going again tomorrow on the full day trek. It was a nice group of Belgians, Germans and Danes.
On the second day we had two trucks (really nice Songtaews) worth of trekkers. Each truck had a driver and a wildlife spotter riding in the front seats and 8 trekkers riding on the benches on the back.
Our first stop was to see some birds (I think parrots) which made for a great photo against the dead white tree and the deep blue sky. We continued into the park where to stumbled across a red tipped razor snake crossing the road. The snake was about 2 meters long! After many photos of this gorgeous creature the guides moved the snake out of the dangerous road. We then headed into the jungle we’d just released the snake into because on of the guides spotted a hornbill. Hornbills are the birds with the giant beaks. I did get a couple pictures of them, but none were particularly good because they were so far away. I was carrying a small set of binoculars though that my mother (thank you) had given me several years ago so I got several good views of them. As the day went on I would be constantly amazed at how our guide could spot these birds. He was seeing them with his eyes a hundred meters away through jungle foliage. He’d point and we’d all raise binoculars or the spotting scope the guide brought to share and then I’d still barely be able to see the bird. Often with guided anything I question if I couldn’t have just wandered on my own and found these things, in this case there is no way I would have. I would have been lucky to have spotted one of the dozens of wild creatures we’d see that day. Rather than spend the time recounting the minute by minute wonders of the day I’ll try to be brief. Driving through the park we stopped and saw Macaks and Gibbons. Trekking through the jungle we saw dozens of kinds of birds, but only one more of the magnificent hornbills. I was quite excited as well to see a giant white squirrel, water monitor lizard and more. That afternoon we swam in the pool below the waterfall used in the movie “The Beach”. That evening we drove around the park in search of wild elephants which occasionally walk along the roads in the park and were treated to seeing a huge pack. 18-20 Elephants in total of all ages. The group the day before had been excited they’d seen one elephant. I thought I’d be over elephants after Surin, but it’s something different to see them in the wild and they are truly amazing.
That evening again was a pleasant little dinner party with the groups comparing days and reminding about what a great trip it had been.
It was so comfortable here I thought about staying around for another day or two, maybe even repeat the trek I’d just done, but they were already booked full which surprised them, but not me. So I slept in a little the next day before taking a free (guest house supplied) ride back to the train station and the train towards Auythaya.
Seeing wild elephants is pretty exciting, don't you think? Actually a little scary 'cuz it's real, no fences between you and them. Sometimes they are a little aggressive, too.