Before heading up North, I decided to make a slight detour to visit a national park. I really wanted to see elephants in the wild – not in chains and being ridden by big fat tourists. I was so sad to hear about the elephant in Cambodia that died from heat exhaustion. Elephants are extremely intelligent creatures that we should respect and care for, not put to work and abuse. I understand that in some places they are required for work, but using them for tourism is completely different and unnecessary. Don’t believe people who say they are looked after and the elephants enjoy it – all lies!
Rant over. I arrived in Pak Chong late after a 10 hour bus ride from Koh Chang, and fell into bed without dinner. I had organised an afternoon tour with Greenleaf guesthouse, so spent the morning recuperating and talking to the guesthouse owner. Her English nickname is Nice and she lives up to it! Really sweet and her English was very good – she wrote down a nice dish in Thai for me to order at lunch. She was keen to further improve her English and was pleased when I said I had trained to be an EFL teacher. I helped her with some pronunciation, it’s really fulfilling when you suddenly see someone understand something, however small. She soon mastered the difference between ‘ship’ and ‘chip’ which are really common difficulties for South East Asians. It makes me really happy when I teach, even if it’s just five minutes and a few words.
The half day tour was very interesting and I got to see lots of different animals. I held a scorpion spider ( the spider from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!), it was terrifying! I didn’t really want to but there was a five year old boy in my group who offered his hand to the guide as if he was accepting a sweet. No fear at all, and it was quite fun to watch him chase millipedes and beetles round the forest! We did have to reign him in a bit in case he grabbed something poisonous. We went into a cave that was full of bats, literally inches from your head. They can’t hear our voices but we were told to not open our bags because they would hear the vibrations of the zip. We also saw some snakes and a tarantula – luckily I didn’t have to hold this one!
The highlight of the half day tour was watching 2 million bats leave their roost. It’s hard to describe how amazing it was but you can see the sheer number of bats in the photo below. It’s definitely something I will never forget and will probably not have the privilege to see again. I feel very lucky indeed! After the tour, I went to the night market to get some food. It’s fun trying to guess what things are and then choose something lucky dip style. Luckily, everything I bought was edible and my new fave dessert is mango sticky rice. If I eat it everyday though I will be buying two seats for the plane to Korea!
For my last day in Pak Chong, I booked a full day tour to the national park with the same tour group. I got to stay with my little German group and it was nice to have some kids on the tour. Seeing their faces when they see an animal is such a joy! The two boys were both under 5 and they managed a trek through the jungle for 3 hours, I was very impressed. The littlest one didn’t want any help walking and he found this 7 foot piece of vine that he decided he wanted to take home (see photo below). Hilarious!
We got to see a few endangered/uncommon species during the trek, including a gibbon, a Siamese crocodile, a huge hornbill and a baby green Python. In the afternoon, we went to visit a waterfall which sadly had dried up but I was excited to learn that it was the waterfall from the film The Beach! I stood metres from where Leo jumped into the pool, almost the same as meeting him (HA). After the waterfall detour it was time for the most important part of the tour – elephant spotting time! We drove around in the truck for about an hour and I really thought we wouldn’t be lucky enough. But as we went round a corner, an overwhelming smell of elephant dung wafted into the truck and there in the bushes was a large bull elephant! I was excited and also scared because we were very close and I am pretty sure he could have tipped the truck in a matter of seconds. He didn’t seem too bothered by us though and we got to watch him for a few minutes. I would have liked to seen a larger group interacting but Nice has been to the park seven times and never seen an elephant, so I am just happy I saw one at all! See if you can spot him in the photo, it’s not easy but it’s still proof. Also, a curious macaque!
Next up, another detour to some temple towns – Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. Only a short train ride so another new transport experience to look forward to!