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Khao Yai overlook with adopted family in Thailand

Khao Yai National Park

Entrance to Khao Yai National Park

Thanks to a chance hitchhiking encounter, I was able to see a beautiful Khao Yai overlook.

In a previous post I detailed how one can get to Khao Yai National Park in Thailand without the luxury of a car. This is how I have traveled to Khao Yai. The trip to the park is a journey  in of itself, but the adventure is far from over once you get to the park gates.

When I was dropped off by the songthaew, my first task was to take a picture in front of the park gates. There was a group of Thais taking a bunch of photos, so I patiently waited my turn. Being alone, I was going to do the self timer route, so I looked for some convenient stones or signpost to set my camera on.

Khao Yai National Park

The road into Khao Yai National Park

Suddenly the Thais invited me over to take pictures with them. This solved the problem as I handed my camera over to a Buddhist monk who snapped several pictures of me with some people I did not know at the park entrance sign.

Khao Yai National Park entrance

Posing with a Buddhist monk and a group of visiting Thais

I then went over and paid my 400 baht entrance fee and began walking up the road. The first few cars passed, but then a pickup driver stopped and mentioned for me to get in. We passed a sign that said “Beware: cobra crossing,” which made me glad I was in the back of the truck.

Driving Khao Yai

Greeted by a macaque monkey as we drove into Khao Yai

I asked where he was going, and he looked at me and did not reply. This is the universal sign for “I have no idea what you are talking about.” I figured he was a contract worker because he had construction tools in his pickup.

He dropped me off at the Visitor’s Center. Last time I was in the park the park ranger drove me to the campground. I walked into the office and inquired about camping. The lady just pointed to the spot on the map and said campground 7 kilometers and said I could hitchhike. Since a ride was not offered I went back to the road and put my thumb out again.

Khao Yai National Park

I did not know it at the time, but we were heading to the top of this mountain

Again, it only took a car or two before one stopped. This time a really nice black pick up pulled over. Two people were already in the back and helped me with my backpacks. They asked the usual questions: “where are you from?” “How old are you?” “Are you alone?” “Are you married?” I told them I was going to the campground.

They then pulled over into a parking space along the side of the road. There was another pickup truck right in front and the driver got out. He looked at me, and I said hello in Thai. He did a double take when he saw me and then laughed. He was amused at my presence. It was obvious the two trucks were together.

Khao Yai National Park

Getting deeper into the Khao Yai jungle

Another person got out of the truck and started speaking to me in English. He said something about going somewhere and then coming back. I gathered the general meaning was we are going to this place and when we are done we will come back and drop you off at the campground.  I hoped this was the case as we started driving in the other direction of the campground. Sometimes when traveling, you just have to go with the flow and trust people.

Pha Diao Dai Nature Trail

Pha Diao DaiNature Trail

We went up and up and up on this road and finally to a trailhead. Once we parked they told me to put my backpacks inside one of the trucks. About 12 people in total spilled out of both trucks. Out of the other truck was a really nice young lady named June who spoke really good English. Even in the middle of nowhere you can find someone who speaks enough English to communicate. She introduced me to the rest of the tribe and her husband and son. She asked more questions about myself and then translated to the rest of the group.

Hiking Khao Yai

Hiking with my adopted family in Khao Yai National Park

We hiked about 20 minutes to a beautiful overlook on the Pha Diao Dai Trail. We all took a bunch of pictures. I was included in some of the pictures. I felt like one of the family. I was even invited to their party and dinner that night.

Khao Yai overlook

Khai Yai overlook – I never would have seen if not for this wonderful group of friendly Thais

After the hike, we marched back to the trucks and drove down the mountain and sure enough, I was deposited at the gates of the campground. Not only did I get a ride to the campground, but I also hiked a trail I would have never been able to reach with my limited transport means and met some really cool people.

Khao Yai overlook

Photo bombed at a Khao Yai overlook

Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to hit the party. I was exhausted after the journey of getting to the park and campground, and I did not have the energy to hitchhike 7 kilometers to their cabins and then hike back in the dark. I did not want to risk such activity in cobra country.


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26 Responses to Khao Yai overlook with adopted family in Thailand

  1. @mrsoaroundworld December 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    God you were a brave man. I know it would be different if you were a girl, but still… glad it all turned out OK
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..A lux weekend in Rome

    • Ted Nelson December 21, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

      The people here were crazy nice. I had possibly ten rides the three days I was here and each person was as nice or nicer than the one before.

  2. Mary Anne December 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    I love your articles. They make me want to get up and go outside.

    • Ted Nelson December 21, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

      Thanks Mary Anne,

      I am glad they make you feel that way.

  3. Lance | Trips By Lance December 17, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

    I’ve been traveling with my wife too long. There is no way in hell she would go for me going along for this kind of journey, and that’s too bad because without putting your faith in those people you wouldn’t have had this great experience. It’s a lesson that sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zones to have great experiences in life.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..Christmas Travel Wish List

    • Ted Nelson December 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

      I would not normally hitchhike in Southeast Asia. The transport is so affordable and convenient that there is no reason to risk it. Inside the park though, without a car, it was the only option. I feel it was very safe.

  4. Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) December 18, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    “cobra crossing”…. now there’s a sign you don’t see every day!

    And you’re right – sometimes when you’re traveling, you just have to trust those you meet and go with the flow. I’ve done it myself and all turned out well.
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted..A taste of Chicago’s Little India with Spice of Life Tours

    • Ted Nelson December 21, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

      I am kicking myself I did not get a picture of the sign, but each time I passed it we were going to fast and it snuck up on me.

  5. Leigh December 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    You didn’t carry a flute with you? You could have charmed any cobra you saw – and then run for dear life.
    This sounds like one of those travel experiences you always wish for but it’s only serendipity that allows it to occur. What a lovely sounding family and quite the experience.
    What creepy crawlies were around your tent at night? Did you take a camp stove or just eat cold food?
    Leigh recently posted..My 10 Favourite Books of 2013

    • Ted Nelson December 21, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

      I did not see any spiders in the three days inside the park. I am sure they are there. They have leeches, spiders, scorpions, and snakes of course, but I did not see anything hiking in the jungle or in the campsite except geckos and other lizards.

      They have a cafeteria at the Visitors Center. I ate there a couple of times. They also have a store in the campground that sells drinks and snacks.

      The first night I was there my neighbor fed me. He was grilling the most tender meat over this little charcoal griller and also had some vegetables, peppers, and beer. This will be covered in my next post.

      The people camping in the camgrounds are just as friendly as the people driving the roads. I got invited to two dinners the first night. The second night I came back after dark. Food is not a problem though.

  6. Shereen December 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Wow you’re really brave. I don’t think I would have been so calm during that experience especially after seeing the sign for “cobra crossing” and the language barrier but as you said sometimes it’s all about going with the flow and trusting people. Was there ever any doubt in your mind that the people you were with were trustworthy?

    • Ted Nelson December 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

      Never Shereen, all of the people I met inside the park were ridiculously nice.

  7. Leah December 19, 2013 at 1:57 am #

    Three things really stood out to me in this post: how you tower over the people in the third photo; the cobra crossing sign; and that gorgeous view. I’d say your trek was well worth it.
    Leah recently posted..Hong Kong Market Hopping with Kensington Tours

    • Ted Nelson December 21, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

      I am not sure what the highlight was, the people or the view. Definitely the people, but the view was a great add on. Especially since I would have never had the means to get up there unless I tried to hitchhike that way, which would not have happened because I did not even know about it.

  8. Kieu ~ GQ trippin December 19, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    Wow, I would have never thought to hitchhike my way through the Park. Unfortunately, I think I’d be too chicken to stick out a thumb – I’d prob end up walking the entire way. LOL. However, when we were in New Zealand, I did build the courage at the very end of the trip to pick up a hitchhiker. Felt proud to take a fellow traveler for the ride. 🙂
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..Hue Eats – Our Favorite Regional Food in Vietnam

    • Ted Nelson December 21, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

      The heat will get that thumb out real fast. After walking with the backpack in the jungle humidity, getting in the back of the pickup trucks and feeling the wind was quite invigorating. Cool that you helped out a fellow traveler.

  9. Jeff December 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Lol! Cobra crossing, this is a sign i would not love to see, i fear snakes. You are a brave man and i totally agree with you that sometimes you have to trusts strangers I have done it severally and they have never let me down..
    Jeff recently posted..Popular Destination Sites in Europe

    • Ted Nelson December 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

      I would not like to come across a cobra in the jungle. Wouldn’t mind seeing one from the road though. People will rarely let you down if you follow your gut.

  10. the lazy travelers December 20, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    i feel like every traveler needs to try hitchhiking at least ONCE for the experience. still working up the courage. maybe it worked out well for you because people fear what you could be carrying in that fanny pack?? xo, the wino
    the lazy travelers recently posted..six lessons i’ve learned as an english speaking expat

    • Ted Nelson December 21, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

      That is true. The fanny pack is a quite a wildcard. I am surprised they even picked me up. They must have been curious.

  11. Erin at The World Wanderer December 22, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    I am so impressed with you Ted. I don’t know if I would be able to travel this way, but I’d like to think I would give it a try. What a view!
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted..Stepping Stones.

    • Ted Nelson December 23, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

      Thailand is pretty safe. A lot of solo female travelers come here. I would usually not hitchhike here because the trains and buses are so affordable and convenient. No need to hitchhike when you only have to dole out a few bucks, but no public transport once you entered the park. It is the only option outside of walking, and it is too hot to do much of that.

  12. lola December 22, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    This trip looked so amazing for you! So happy you had such a great time.
    lola recently posted..New York City – One of My Favorite City Breaks

    • Ted Nelson December 23, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

      Thanks Lola,

      It was a great three weeks. I definitely needed it.

  13. Raul (@ilivetotravel) December 22, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    Those people wanted their picture with you because of your fanny pack. And I am glad you didn’t end pushed off a cliff. Oh, wait, that only would happen if you get in a truck with strangers in OUR country. Crazy. Seriously, what a neat experience in Thailand!

    • Ted Nelson December 23, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

      Thanks Raul,

      Yea, they don’t have may psychos in Thailand.

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