Thailand Day 69: Animal Crossing at Khao Yai National Park

The day began early for our full day trek through Khao Yai National Park as I hoped to see as much wildlife as possible and leave unscathed. The Alaskan girl let me borrow her Thai fisherman pants for the day since we would be going through some heavy bush; a leech or tick is not a souvenir I would like to have to remember this trip. The pants may be listed as unisex but this particular pair was definitely designed for a woman. As I have said, I am easy going, just rolling with the flow. Once inside the park, we pulled off the road to what I or the rest of us tourists could dare not say. Apparently high up in the trees, some white gibbons were swinging by the tree branches playing hide and go seek amongst the abundance of leaves. They were hard to spot being so far away but the reward of seeing them in their natural habitat far outweighed the experience of seeing them in some zoo scenery. A yellow hornbill, basically a cousin to the toucan, made its appearance on an outwardly extending branch. After taking the main road through the park that weaved within the thick forest, we began our trek in pursuit of whatever wild animals and creatures we could find. The main attraction ended up being gibbons, even black ones, and hornbills, amongst a wider variety of birds. Although our guides are well versed in the wild during their time leading these treks, I still find it fascinating how they are able spot things none of us could see or hear. The gibbons mainly took to the branches slaloming back and forth with such dexterity and precision to prevent a potential, fateful fall. Even a sniper with a trained eye would have had difficulty keeping a focus on them. Being the largest bird in the park, the hornbill is quite a specimen when perched atop their stoop but more so in mid-flight. The trail we took ran through so many branches and untamed track that I know I would have gotten lost if it weren’t for our Thai guide. Besides the animals, he pointed out some interesting plant life such as cinnamon and tapioca trees and ginger. Somehow he even noticed some spiders that were either too tiny by sight on its woven web (and apparently poisonous) or blended in seamlessly with their chosen location on a tree’s bark, perfectly camouflaged. Lucky for me alone, I spotted a black scorpion’s pincers that our guide tried to wriggle out from its borough. Eventually after much time in the jungle, we made our way through the tall, golden grass of the highlands that reminded me of an African Sahara. Although a good spot to witness wildlife, especially elephants, none crossed our way. From there, the truck took us to the waterfall featured in the movie ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio, a movie I have yet to see. As the day drew to a close, we set out in search of an elephant, which happened to be on the top of everyone’s wish list for the day. The truck we rode in drove on the solitary road slowly as we peered out the sides wishfully looking for some trunk, tusk, or elephant booty. As the day lurked forward to night, we found a few tribes of monkeys either crossing the street or hanging out on the fringes of the road. They looked quite similar to the monkeys I saw in Lopburi but I cannot guarantee they were the same species. Regardless, watching these mammals stare at you with such curiosity with their human-like faces and eyes almost made me forget about our pursuit of the Asian elephant. They skipped along the road, babies holding tightly to their mothers’ underbelly, while the youthful primates ran around like complete spazzes before reaching for a nearby branch and proceeding to disappear. Some commotion and excitement lifted our hopes as we scanned further into the jungle for the world’s largest terrestrial animal. Due to the number of trucks surrounding the poor creature, I couldn’t quite gain a perfect glimpse of the animal but sure enough I got to finally see the wild elephant I pined fore crossing the road and ambling its way back into its home of the jungle. My day was now complete and I could finally rest assured of accomplishing what I set out for in Khao Yai National Park. Of course I would have loved to have seen a bear or leopard despite what a fright that would stir but then again my guide has only seen a bear twice in his ten years leading these treks. The evening closed the same with some more great food with American sized portions and chatter of travel and whatever else sparked a conversation, even if it meant foreign politics that stood afar from anything I am used to back home in the States. Tomorrow morning, I will be leaving to Bangkok for the Chinese New Year Celebration before heading south for beaches, clear blue water, karst limestone rock formations, scuba diving, and more.

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