After two more loud bus rides to Pak Chong, we stood on a sidewalk trying to figure out where to go from there. There was a restaurant nearby where a manager helped us contact the place where we’d made our reservations, and within minutes the covered pick-up truck taxi was there to take us. We’d been much further from the place than we’d anticipated, so we were grateful to arrive with ease and find out that we didn’t even have to pay for the taxi. Our new host had it covered.
The place was as we should have expected. A restaurant and seating area next to the parking lot and road, and winding back, way back through the kitchen storage area, some clotheslines, a few rooms and a garden, we found our room in a motor-inn type building. A line of doors leading into a room that was really just a bed and a bathroom. There wasn’t even a table, it was about as barebones as we’d seen so far. I guess this is why, when there is an option, we prefer to pay the ten dollars more per night for a room with just a few more amenities.
We dropped our bags and went back to the front, and took a seat at one of the crude wooden cafeteria-style tables. We’d just ordered a beer and some food when Sebastien cruised in on his bike, all his gear packed down on either side of it.
“Wow you made it! The whole way!” He said he would try to at least get to Kohrat in the morning before the real heat set in. But he had pushed on through the mid-day sun and gotten to Pakchong at almost the same time as us. He shrugged and took care of his accommodation, then joined us for some food and drink.
We spoke with the owner of the place and reserved a tour of Khao Yai Park the next day. It would depart at 9am and return at about 5 or 6. Lunch was provided, with a basic itinerary of what we would be doing.
Sebastien found the 1,200 Baht fee a bit steep for the tour (approximately $50 CAD) – and by Thai standards it was a bit expensive. He was going to take his bike in and camp in the park the next day, but for us, it was really the only option to get a tour of the park we had come to see.
In the morning we departed with a small cluster of tourists in two ‘buses’. Again, the pick-up truck with benches in a covered back. It was good for sight-seeing since the sides were open, and it was easy enough to hop out of the back in a moment’s notice.
Our guides had been part of the family that was running our ‘hotel’. Some young guys in their twenties who had probably grown up in the park, and could spot things that none of us foreigners would have given a second glance. He’d identified horn-bills, eagles, giant squirrels, gibbons and camouflaged lizards, all obscure and near-impossible to spot with our foreign eyes, even after he had pointed them out. For the sake of our tour, they’d brought along high-powered binoculars on tripods, and with lightening accuracy had fixed on the animals they’d spotted so that the tourists could get a large, crisp view of them from afar. Fortunately, my camera lens was able to get most things within reasonable range.
Lunch was included, a home-made Tupperware-packed affair of some kind of curry and browned cabbage salad, with sticky rice wrapped in a leaf.
The last part of the day had been spent trying to spot elephants in the park, who were notoriously elusive and could only be spotted on certain days when they’d wandered along the road or into open grass areas. Maria and I were both more or less over elephants at this point. Our truck coasted up and down the same road several times as our guides searched for fresh dung, and finally we happened upon one just as it had left the road and stood hesitantly in the trees. Some guy from Quebec next to us had been shooting with his iphone camera all day, and thought he was going to just charge into the forest because he couldn’t quite get the photo he wanted. The guide quickly reprimanded him. “These are wild and dangerous animals. Do NOT go near them.”
By the end of the day we’d grown a little tired of our tour companions, specifically one American girl in particular who hadn’t stopped talking all day and was capping off the last hour by singing gospel songs. Ah yes, package tours and the strangers you meet.
We’d returned to our lodgings at dusk, had some dinner and drinks and called it a night. There was a shuttle into town and the bus stop the next morning at 9am. We were almost at the end of our trip. Since we’d left Bangkok after only 2 days and decided that we’d really wanted to spend more time there, we had made sure to leave a couple of extra days on the end of our trip.