Wednesday, 3 June 2009

One of those times when I wish I had some hair

Having dropped Elliot back at the airport and trying (unsuccessfully) to sort my return details out, due to a flight cancellation, it was on to Khao Yai National Park, some 3 hours or so from BKK.
En route we stopped for lunch at.......Tesco's.....or as it's known locally, Tesco Lotus. It was HUGE, full of people either shopping or eating in this vast food hall, served by many small vendors. I am torn between admiring them and their relentless pursuit for growth, but on the other hand, Thailand is a country full of street traders and vendors and I wonder how the little guy will fare in the next few years. Watch this space.
My time at the new resort was to be a mixture of eco/environmental support as we were staying at a lodge that provided direct support to Park Wardens, with whom we would be spending time.
Arrival was quite late and I ventured out on my own to the nearest big town, called Pak Chong and to the night market. Quite an experience as it turned out as NO ONE spoke English, but I did manage to feed myself a 2 course meal from a vendor for a little over a pound!
Throughout my stay, I was watched over by 2 Jack Russell Terriers, called Jack & Daniels(!), who were brothers and were great fun and whenever I looked up, they were there. They even both slept outside my rooom.
The park is really quite beautiful and is now a United Nations Heritage site and one could imagine that this was how Thailand looked. It was like something out of Juraissic Park.It's also big for Horses and cattle and explained the plethora of 'steakhouses' I observed on the way in.
Along the way we stopped and catalogued different wildlife, primarily birds and the main part of the day was to come, namely a visit to watch a particular phenomina at sunset.
Next stop was a cave, we had to descend down some 200 vertical steps and at the bottom, it was very dry; the cave floor soft due to .....bats....and their droppings! Around 30k bats lived down here and as we ventured deeper into the cave, they flew all around us. I think I was hit about 4 times, but it was literally like being hit by a feather. To keep them company, a a monastary on the surface, regularly had monks descend to meditate, often for 8 hours, as well as people licensed to collect the bat droppings. They had no smell but are a central component for fertiliser and gunpowder...hence the licence.
Moving onto the last cave, which was only marginally visible from the ground, as it was up the hillside, the phenomina that unfolded was the daily ritual of 2 million bats going out for their evening feed on insects. It took fully 40 minutes for us to observe before light gave way and they were still leaving, only returning when they were no longer hungry. An average bat will consume an average 10grams of insects per night x 2 million bats = a lot of insects and a lot of droppings. The people licensed to clean the cave floor here were clearing GBP2k per month. When you consider what I paid for a meal the previous night, that's a pretty good living.
Next day was a full day in the park, trekking through the forest meeting many species of birds (sparrowhawks) wildlife (gibbons) and insects (huge scorpions - wait for the picture of one on me). We were also provided with 'leech' socks in essence, put over your feet and covering your legs to your knee. They were everywhere - think of that old toy of a spring rolling down the stairs - that's how they moved. They were easy to remove as well, taking them in your fingers and rolling them like a 'bogey (c'mon admit it - you've all done a bogey). However, unbeknown to me at first, one had landed on my head (hence the hair headline) and 5 had creeped inside my waistband onto my stomach and my back and one down my trousers. I was very bloody when they were spotted by the others and I am now the proud owner of a number of puncture marks - and I didn't feel a thing, but I must have tasted good from all of the Singha beer the night before.
Through the day, we attempted to track elephants (unsuccessfully) as the rains came down later. On the way back, we also visited another falls, made famous in the film 'The Beach' with Leonardo De Caprio. We had a nice swim there.
Totally knackered, bloodied, cold and wet when we got back but guess what, it was very enjoyable and once again the trip is helping finance something positive and funds being directly put back into the local community. Getting involved in the work they do as well has been very fulfilling.
Tomorrow, Wak Po and the biggest most humongous stone budha I have seen yet.

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