To the jungle!

Trip Start Oct 02, 2008
1
9
14
Trip End Oct 12, 2008


Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
shadow

Flag of Thailand  ,
Thursday, October 9, 2008

Today we shoved off and headed for Khao Yai National Park. It was about a three hour drive away and it went by like a breeze, since I had once again claimed the backseat couch as my own. I laid down and typed up my blog, it was nice to actually get some time to write and rest for a while. Note to public relations officers at other tourism organizations. Journalists do not like to be rushed through their trip, they need time to think, write and analyze. Their stories will remain superficial and meaningless if they are constantly herded through local tourist traps like so much mindless sheep. Maybe they already know this, and that's the plan, I guess I couldn't really say.

We stopped at a roadside fruit market, and I found a bottle of pineapple wine. The label was very old and worn, so I was kind of leery of buying it. I also didn't know if it was pineapple wine for sure, so I asked one of the native Thai speakers in our group to translate for me. Meow (nickname) said yes, this is pineapple wine, it's 80 baht each. What a freaking deal, I bought two, one for beer night at the office, and another one for my dear, sweet mother. I won't be trying it before I get home, so I'm hoping the wine tastes good by the time I get back. I play with a couple really cute kittens, who are obviously malnourished. One of them really likes me, and keeps rubbing up against my ankle, I scratch her cute little neck and contemplate smuggling her home. I decide she's too meowy and that I would be found out probably tomorrow. Also, I realize that I have no idea how I would deal with her peeing and pooing all over my luggage and hotel room, so I pet her goodbye and hope that she can find something to eat today.

The bus continues along the road to a giant Buddha statue built in the 1960s. It's the biggest in this region of Thailand, absolutely striking from far, even more impressive up close. We don't have enough time to hike up to the top, but we get close enough to really appreciate the juxtaposition of the extremely bright white against the dark green of the jungle. It's made out of stucco, but from so far away it looks just like precious ivory. The name of the statue is...wait for it... Pra-Phut-Tha-Sa-Kol-Sri-Ma-Mong-KolWe drive up to Wat Theppitak, another temple, with a whole bunch of chickens wandering about. People buy them pieces of bread, and it is supposed to give them good luck. I climb up the stairs to the top of the temple, and then wander around the grounds.
I hadn't been told where exactly to go, so I walk all the way around, where I see no other people. There are some beautiful statues. Plated with gold leaf, and a whole bunch of ancient bronze statues. I'm sorry that I don't have my camera, but I'm having such a peaceful time in there, that it doesn't really matter. To my left is a small temple with bright red doors, I decide to get into some mischief and try and open them. They are bolted shut, and I'm out of luck. All of a sudden from about 100 metres behind me I hear, "LOUISE LOUISE! NO NO NO DON'T DO THAT!" I spin around and see Yui waving his arms frantically, "DON'T GO IN THERE!" He screams like I'm going to be struck down with lightning, the wrath of the gods will come down and immolate me until I am nothing but a smoldering ember, burning brightly and inevitably snuffed out. So much for metaphors. I slowly, and sheepishly walk out of the temple, still unsure of what exactly I have done wrong. I figure I shouldn't have been climbing up the temple steps, but no, that's not true, what I have done wrong is walked into a "monk-only" section of the temple. Which would explain why it was abandoned.

Anyway, I went to go feed some chickens with the rest of the people and that was cool. They pecked gently around my feet and it tickled a lot. Soon, all the breadcrumbs were gone, and we had to go.

Lunchtime, we head to a grape winery in the middle of the Khao Yai national park. I mean, what's the point of growing grapes in a country that is overflowing with rice? I don't really understand the point. It just seems like another European-type activity to keep us occupied and out of trouble.

We sit down for some overcooked salmon, the multitude of fish bones, lodging in between the crevices of my teeth. We have a discussion on politics, the Canadian election and the Thai protests. Kayla mentions that Bangkok is a giant city and that a few thousand people protesting in the street is not a "big deal". Yeah freaking right. New York City is bigger than Bangkok, and if 5,000 people were organizing every night in the streets of New York, you're damn right it would be a big deal.

Then, we are escorted onto a trolley to the wine-making part of the grounds, there are grapevines all around, nothing that I haven't seen in Niagara or Okanagan, so I'm still not getting the point. Anyway, we are shown around the facilities and I ask about rice wine. The oenologist says that yes, the Thai make more rice wine than regular wine, and my fears are concerned. Once again, it's another promotional ploy to get them to talk about their winery in my blog. Well guess what? I'm not going to do it! I can't remember the name of your winery! I know it's a good one, and it's won a bunch of awards, but what I'm concerned about at this point, is the traditional Thai lifestyle, not some European imitation that they have adopted because they think it's more refined. I think Thai culture is refined as it comes, to be honest with you. Their personal tourism service is impeccable, if you're into service and personal tour guides and butlers, of course. I'm not, but that's beside the point. If you want great service come to Thailand. Yes, I will concede that point. If you're a backpacker, don't go to the places that I stayed, that's for sure. You'll feel confined and stiffly unnatural in a place where everyone, yes everyone, shows subservience to you. And when you offer to meet them half way, they insist on doing everything for you. For example, our guide will not eat at the same table as we do, everywhere I go, someone pulls the chair out for me before I sit down. I know that this kind of service comes with money, and I'm sure the Thai government has shelled out way more than necessary, so we are getting prime service. Accordingly, if you shell out the same amount of money, please expect this same kind of service. If I was traveling alone, there is no way I would expect, or even require this type of service. There is no way that I would personally pay for this level of service. If you want to, more power to you. I hope that you have a great trip, and I hope that you find everything you are looking for. Me, nope, not my style.

Anyway, we get back on the bus and make our way to the home for the night. Kirimaya hotel, in the middle of the national park. It's an eco-lodge, in the middle of the park. Everything is organic this and green that, low flo toilets and showers, solar panels and economic heating and cooling design. Everything you would expect. We had an excellent dinner, one of the best Thai dishes of the trip so far. There was red duck curry, vegetable stir fry, a delicious fried vegetable appetizer and more. There was even a woman singing sans amplification, with a man and an acoustic guitar. It was more American music from the sixties and seventies, but honestly, it was the best so far. It had the feel of hanging out at a campfire. I sang along to cheesy James Taylor covers and other things. It was pretty awesome. By the time dessert came around (bean custard with carmelized onions) I hardly had time to finish my coffee, when I was once again, being shoved out the door. It was time for our night safari and Yui said we couldn't be late.

I carried my coffee out to the bus (more of a jitney than a bus, colourful with open windows and no back door). I had only worn a sari and tiny sweater to dinner, not thinking it could get that cold. I boarded the rickety old vehicle and climbed a little metal ladder and thought nothing of it. I totally forgot that we were in the mountains, the air is much drier and cooler up here, in the midst of the clouds and barrelling down a windy mountain road at 80 km an hour. I remembered the stars are different in this hemisphere, but I couldn't recognize them anyway, so it didn't matter. Roger pointed out that we were closer to the stars than normal because of the altitude and I burst out laughing, in total disbelief. Does 2,000 metres make a difference when the tiny suns are lightyears away? Sounds fishy to me. Anyway, I was just freezing, needing to pee and also really super tired. I tried to sleep a little bit and it worked marginally well. Finally, we got to the park, climbed up onto another even more rickety bus/truck thing, outfitted with a giant spotlight in the front seat on a swivel, operated by a man with a blue poncho and matching helmet. So we take off into the pitch black, the sound of cicadas ring out into the darkness, the pungent diesel fumes from the bus mingle with the intoxicating ancient aroma of lush vegetation. Driving around in the dark, there aren't many animals actually nearby. Most hide deep in the jungle, until it is giet enough to venture out to the salt lick or graze in the fields or scavenge in the trees. So we saw many species of deer, one monkey/sloth creature, a couple of civets and a terrified porcupine, frantically running away from the road with all his quills engaged and ready to attack.

Frozen to the bone and almost shivering, finally we get back to the hotel, it takes me about two hours to upload a video, and then I go to bed, the sound of cicadas buzzing in my ear, lulling me to sleep.
Slideshow Report as Spam

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: