Tourist Thailand: Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai first came to my attention from several other PCVs mentioning their trip and the bugs they had placed on various parts of their body. Planning my Mom’s visit to Thailand, I knew we had to make a stop after reading again and again how staggeringly beautiful this park is.

On the edge of Nakon Ratchasima (Khorat to any Thai person), you get off the bus (or train) in Pak Chong. Most accommodation is somewhere within town or close by. Our guesthouse, Greenleaf, picked us up on the side of the road and swept us out-of-town. We arrived with just enough time to get some lunch before the half-day afternoon tour started. It felt a little rushed at the time, but looking back, I’m so glad we did it.

Our first stop was a natural spring that was beyond magnificent. I saw it through my Mom’s winter-tired eyes that made it seem like an explosion of green and blue with the crystal clear water that we swam around in. We weren’t the only ones, with a few groups of Thais joining in the water and armed with picnic lunches. It wasn’t crowded despite it being the start of high tourist time (winter for Thailand), but I imagine during the long afternoons of hot season, it would be packed.

Water looks inviting doesn't it?

Water looks inviting doesn’t it?

After our swim we were off to the bat cave, Bruce Wayne not included. I was a little freaked out as we descended underground, but once we got there, I was ready to get up close and personal with some creepy crawlers. And boy, did we.

This is the same kind of bug they used in Harry Potter.

This is the same kind of bug they used in Harry Potter.

This temple is just outside of the bat cave. I loved how the light was hitting it at the end of the day.

This temple is just outside of the bat cave. I loved how the light was hitting it at the end of the day.

The guide picked these little guys up and told us to put them in our mouths as tasty snacks. They surprised us by popping the moment they touched our wet tongues.

The guide picked these little guys up and told us to put them in our mouths as tasty snacks. It surprised us by popping open the moment they touched our wet tongues.

I found the bats equal parts fascinating and disgusting. More than once I felt wings flapping in front of my face once we turned our flashlights off. Never before had I seen so many bats in one place, and babies too! The cave we went inside was apparently quite small compared to our next stop outside of a different one. As the sky turned dark we watched millions upon millions of bats flood out in search for dinner. It was really difficult to capture in a photo or on video, so dear blogette, you’ll just have to go yourself one day to take it all in.

Oh hey, what's up guys?

Oh hey, what’s up guys?

The next day we were in for a whole day of hiking within the national park. We spotted gibbons up in the trees, toucans in the sky, and a family of wild elephants who roam freely (they have a couple hundred within the park). The hike we did with our guesthouse was very doable, even if you aren’t in any sort of exercise shape. More difficult treks are available though too with camping in the park. I’ll let the photos tell the story from here.

These guys were bold enough to accept food from people's hands. We were told not to encourage them though.

These guys were bold enough to accept food from people’s hands. We were told not to encourage them though.

Not the first photo I've imitated a bear in a national park...

Not the first photo I’ve imitated a bear in a national park… don’t forget your leech socks!

Didn't hurt but it wouldn't be comfortable either.

Didn’t hurt but it wouldn’t be comfortable either.

This day I learned female spiders are usually bigger than their male counterparts so the gals can eat them after mating. Must be nice.

This day I learned female spiders are usually bigger than their male counterparts so the gals can eat them after mating. Must be nice.

This is one of the coolest trees I've ever seen. You could climb inside and no one would even know you were there if you didn't want them to.

This is one of the coolest trees I’ve ever seen. You could climb inside and no one would even know you were there if you didn’t want them to.

No the bugs weren't done after day one.

No the bugs weren’t done after day one.

Mid-hike, we leave the rain forest for the grasslands. It was so beautiful watching the different directions of the wind in the grass.

Mid-hike, we leave the rain forest for the grasslands. It was so beautiful watching the different directions of the wind in the grass.

One of the guides taught us a little scorpion lullaby... clearly this guy is in need of one.

One of the guides taught us a little scorpion lullaby… clearly this guy is in need of one.

Totally uninterested in us.

Totally uninterested in us.

Mid-day lunch break (provided) at this scenic spot. I'd say they picked a good one.

Mid-day lunch break (provided) at this scenic spot. I’d say they picked a good one.

We ended the day with a visit to one of the many waterfalls within the park.

We ended the day with a visit to one of the many waterfalls within the park.

Even if you’re not a nature or hiking kind of person, I would definitely suggest a visit to Khao Yai. I cut a few days off of Bangkok sites so that my Mom and I could have time in Khao Yai instead and I think we were both glad for that schedule change. It’s developed enough for non-Thai speakers to be able to get in and out easily, but not overcrowded in the least. An awesome alternative to the Bangkok-Chiang Mai-Phuket itinerary that many travelers stick to.

Khao Yai National Park

Grab a bus to Pak Chong for one of the most accessible national parks in Thailand, Khao Yai. Just four hours from Bangkok in Khorat, the gateway to eastern Thailand, Khao Yai is an excellent option for people who want to do a little hiking and outdoorsy activities, but not sure where to start or have much in the way of ‘equipment.’ PCVs frequent Greenleaf Guesthouse for their trip there and I would highly recommend it as well. Rooms are cheap and clean and the tour guides were very friendly and happy to answer all of our plentiful questions. Let’s take a look shall we?

Friday Five

Five Places in the US- One of the best things about traveling to foreign countries is the new appreciation you have for your home. Two years in Thailand has me looking forward to some domestic tourism back in the United States, here are some I hope to hit the first summer back.

Montana
Family and promises of Big Sky country have me drawn to Montana. I can’t wait for the air and the nature I know I’ll be able to experience with my fantastic familial tour guides. Glacier National Park, kayaking, and hanging with cousins I don’t think I’ve seen in ten years… here I come.

New York, New York
After what feels like eons in a village, I’m looking forward to living in my family’s house in the suburbs just for the proximity to a city. With several Volunteers being from New York and extolling its greatness, my travel bug is tugging my sleeve to revisit this great American city for a refreshing perspective of urban life. And a slice of real New York pizza.

Falling Water
I’m from Pittsburgh, yet I haven’t gone to see this famous architectural spot right in my Pennsylvanian backyard. My Mom mentioned her visit there with my brother before he was deployed to Kuwait and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since then. Something tells me I’ll find it welcoming walking through these familiar woods and landscape.

I think this will be most doable of all my planned trips.
Photo from: http://www.wright-house.com/frank-lloyd-wright/fallingwater.html

Canyons
Bryson Canyon was a recent TTP, so naturally it, along with the Grand Canyon, are on my wish list of summer post-PC. My family never went on that long road trip across country, but I’m hoping as a young adult I can make it somehow for some hiking, a little river rafting, and general ‘wow, I feel like the size of an ant compared to this thing’ feeling.

Pacific Northwest
My first taste of the southern Oregon really tempted me to plop down for a few years to explore everything it has to offer. Two years in Thailand has not dampened my desire to return to the Northwest and conquer Portland, Seattle, and hopefully, more hiking in non-tropical climates.

Is this even a real place? Looks like paradise.
Photo from: http://cornforthimagesblog.com/tag/mount-rainier/

Tuesday Travel Photo

First post in a while. There will be more later. Right now, an escape to the phenomenal Crater Lake National Park in Oregon is where I want to be. And I really do mean vanish… kind of like I did last week.

I realize this is not my first Crater Lake photo, but really, with water that blue, why should it be my last?

Tuesday Travel Photo

Oh you betcha. Jeffrey is here for a visit, so I thought we could visit his home state of Minnesota for our Tuesday Travel Photo. This is Wolf Creek Falls in Banning State Park, just outside Sandstone, Minnesota, home to our adoptive son, Mark Del Greco. Talk of camping, hiking, and eating bratwurst is hot on the brain. Instead we’ll have to settle for watching Fargo and applying handfuls of Prickly Heat powder.

Tuesday Travel Photo

It’ll be December soon and I just rewatched The Proposal. This brings my travel thoughts to Alaska, Sitka specifically, and how nice it would be. How nice it would be to be cold, see snow, live a day or two in a place it never gets dark and highs are only in the 60s. Holy cow that’d be cold. I could hibernate! Unfortunately, while I was off gallivanting through Europe with Manfriend, my Aunt, Mom, and Grammy took a cruise up there and got all experienced in the winter wonderland without me.  With views like these though, I think it would be easy to talk them into another trip.

This would be worth running into Sarah Palin and the gang.

Tuesday Travel Photo

Another Oregon photo and quite possibly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in the entirety of my travels. Crater Lake National Park is a must-see for anyone that lives or visits the United States. Over time, snowmelt and rain collected in the crater to form the lake, which at 1,949 feet deep, is presently the deepest in the USA, 2nd in North America, and 9th in the world. With no outside water source except from snow and rain, the water maintains this phenomenal shade of blue. I went on a five-mile, steep hike with my Aunt and Uncle for amazing views like this. I even saw snow piles…in August. After visiting some of the west coast National Parks, I realized how much more of America I need to see. Click here for more information about Crater Lake from WikiTravel.

It's hard to believe this color blue exists in nature