Khao Yai National Park day one
Just as I expected, I was dropped off by my adopted family at the Lam Ta Khong Campground in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. I went to the camp office and rented a tent, sleeping bag, and ground pad and paid for the night’s stay. The total turned out to be 260 baht (almost $9.00 usd) for the night.
The cost would have only been $1.00 usd if I had brought my own equipment. Just before I left the U.S. I read this travel blog that recommended you not bring your own tent due to the risk of monkeys ripping your tent. I am glad I read this although it was not a monkey that tore open my tent. It was a sambar deer that was the perpetrator. In an attempt to eat my Lonely Planet guidebook, he somehow zipped open my tent and ripped the mosquito netting. Fortunately, they did not check the tent when I turned it back in.
I set up my tent and now I was ready to do some hiking. Problem was that all the trails were 7 kilometers back at the Visitor’s Center. I decided to walk back and not hitchhike. It is not that I was scared or hesitant to stick my thumb out again. The reason I decided to walk is I figured the road would be just as interesting as any trail.
Hiking along the road at Khao Yai National Park
The other reason is I could not take another heartwarming encounter with a friendly Thai. I knew whomever stopped to pick me up would be amazing, friendly, and super cool. I was exhausted after the last experience, and I needed time to process the moment before jumping into another hitchhiking adventure.
The 7 km walk back was pleasant. I saw a few interesting birds, barking deer, monkeys, and some elephant dung. Khao Yai is well known for a healthy population of wild elephants. Last time I visited I saw 6. There is also supposedly 10 wild tigers in the park, but no one ever sees them and they rarely attack. The last tiger attack on a person in Khao Yai was in the 1970s, so I felt safe walking by myself during the day, especially on and near the roads.
Hike to the waterfall at Khao Yai National Park
By the time I made it back to the trails, it was getting kind of late, so I did not have time to do anything really long. Plus, I was already hot and tired from the escapade getting here and the 7 km walk back to the trails. I decided to hike the short waterfall trail.
I hiked the Kong Kaew Waterfall Trail loop right from the Visitor’s Center. The waterfall is nothing spectacular, but it was scenic and the trail then loops into the jungle. After the hike I hit the cafeteria. Thailand is famous for their food, and they even have great food in their national park cafeterias. For three usd I got a tasty Thai omelet and some fried rice.
Incredible Thai hospitaliy at the campground
It was starting to get dark, so I started to huff it back. I was planning to hitchhike back, but I wanted to walk a bit first in the twilight. Dusk is the best time to see animals. Before I could even think about sticking my thumb out, a minivan passed and then slowed down. The window opened to two very nice Thai people who asked if I needed a ride. They were also staying at the campground, so this was perfect.
When we got back to the campground the people who dropped me off invited me to their campground for dinner. I told them I would be over in a few minutes to say hello. I had already eaten, but I figured I could take a few more bites. I did not want to be rude.
When I got back to my tent, a person had set up camp with a pickup truck just a couple of feet away. When he saw me he smiled and invited me over. He poured me a Leo beer and invited me to sit down. I believe his name was Wit.
He was cooking meat over a small black mini oven filled with red hot coals. He had the meat in a mesh clamp and was turning it over to cook both sides. The meat was dripping juices on to the fire. The outcome was some of the most tender delicacies I had on my whole trip. Wit had chicken, beef, and pork. I felt bad eating his food, but he had so much meat. It was like he said to himself before he left: “better bring some extra food in case I meet a solo farang (Thai word for foreigner) with no food.”
He also had cucumbers and raw peppers in a metal bowl with ice. He ate these raw. I tried a few of the peppers and my mouth went numb for the next five minutes. Fortunately, Wit offered another beer to quell the fire.
My new friend could not speak much English, but we communicated the best we could, ate his food, and silently enjoyed each others company. The only regret is I never made it over to the other campfire. I could not communicate to my friend that I had to go and would be right back, so I just stayed and drank beer with him.
In the morning he invited me back over for soup. He had simple rama with noodles, but then he sliced up a bunch of fresh green vegetables and placed it into the boiling water. He then packed up his truck and headed out of the park and out of my life. Although I don’t remember his name, and I said probably 10-20 words to him around the campfire, I will never forget this great experience and of course the wonderful food. So ended another crazy day in Khao Yai National Park.
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