My neighbors, one of them being a ladyboy, invited me twice to breakfast the night before. I had arranged for a ride from the campground to a trail by a park ranger. I was a little worried that my neighbors would not be awake in time to have breakfast ready. They seemed eager and intent to feed me breakfast, and I did not want to disappoint them.
I say this with utmost selfishness because I could have eaten breakfast at several places inside the park for .50 cents, but they seemed delighted to feed me. Besides, I enjoyed their company and wanted to hang out with them a little longer before they moved out of my life.
Angh, the Khao Yai ranger came before breakfast was ready as I feared. However, this problem worked itself out. Tik said a few words to Angh in Thai and then Angh turned to me and said that I should sit and eat and she would wait in the truck for me. That is what I love about the people here. They are just incredibly considerate and accommodating. If you make someone wait for five minutes in America and you can expect frowns, rolled eyes, and aggravation.
I then ate away at breakfast with Toon, Tik, and ladyboy Wit. Once again they had fresh mango, along with a tomato and fish dish, rice, and beef. Before they left Tik gave me a little brown bag and smiled and said it was for my hike. I looked inside and she had carefully wrapped in plastic the rest of the breakfast. I almost shed a tear from their kindness. I got in the truck and they smiled and waved at me until I disappeared around the corner.
I was given a new guide this morning named Sompeth. The first half of the day’s walk was completely uneventful. The jungle was beautiful, but we had hardly seen any wildlife. This changed dramatically as within a half hour of each other three really cool wildlife sightings occurred and each topped the previous one.
We heard a big squawk and Sompeth excitedly pointed to a hornbill in a tree. I got up and snapped four pictures of him as he posed in the tree with his wings out. I had seen hundreds of these birds in the last couple of days, but only gotten pictures from afar as they are very shy and elusive when approached.
A few minutes later I was startled by movement to the left of me on the ground. It was a slithering snake, and I jumped away. I was not sure it was poisonous or not, but I was not taking any chances. After I got a good distance away I realized I had nothing to worry about because the snake could not bite me. The reason was it had a horned lizard in its mouth and was in the process of devouring it.
All of a sudden my guide ran in the other direction past me shouting “Chang, Chang.” I knew from my research on Thai beer that this is the Thai word for elephant. It was a little disconcerting to see my tour guide run away, but I decided the best recourse was to follow my guide. We hid behind a copse of trees.
The elephant was coming straight up the trail crashing through the trees until it stopped about thirty feet from us. Sompeth urged me up the trail to take a photo. I slowly approached the elephant and zoomed in with my camera. Unfortunately, my wide brim hat did not allow enough light for my camera to click. I clicked and nothing happened. I took off my hat and tried again, but the elephant turned and ran into the jungle and I got a mediocre side shot of him crashing through the trees.
I missed the picture of a lifetime, but the memory is etched into my mind’s eye, and I will never forget the experience. I think that sometimes on vacation you live through your camera too much. The most important memories of a vacation are the ones not stored on a hard drive, or in a photo album, but those lodged deep in the membrane of your mind. At least that is how I console myself when I botch the picture of a lifetime.
It was an action packed day. It started with breakfast with a ladyboy and ended with the charge of a wild elephant. In between there were snakes and hornbills. It was an adventure travel day for the ages.
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I had a similar experience trying to photograph an African elephant when on a safari. The experience is what counts, and the photo in your mind. Cheers!
Hey – at least you got a pic of the elephant itself as proof! LOL! That was a great article!