|Okay, so continuing to catch up on all that's been going on:
So after leaving Cambodia I bussed to Khorat, which was just a place to stop and stay since I had a National Park to get to! The cool thing about Khorat was that it was getting ready for the full moon festival and had all these big lotus flowers made out of colorful fabrics lit up and floating on a canal. Very pretty sight at night. The next day I bussed to the town of Pak Chong and got a guesthouse not too far from the Khao Yai park entrance because I knew I'd be doing some exploring.
Khao Yai National Park was absolutely spectacular. It is a fantastic park that is home to many endangered species, including between 2 and 10 (depending on who you ask) tigers. The first day I was there we went to visit an underground cave where we saw all sorts of creepy little critters. The adaptions that make them able to live in a cave also make them so bizarre looking! First up was a huge tarantula, which the guide missed but the dogs who were with the guide found. I've actually never seen a tarantula in the wild, and man those suckers are big! We also saw a cave cricket, cave centipede, scorpion spider (creepy!!!), and two different varieties of bats (Horseshoe and the other one I forgot.) I don't know if you know this about me, but I absolutely love caves and had a blast down there.
When we surfaced the guide took us to the jungle nearby and showed us all kinds of interesting things, including but not limited to: the mimosa plant, which shrivels when you touch it, seeds that pop open when exposed to water (he had us find this out by holding them under our tongue;-), baby geckos, stick bugs, birds' nest, and other cool stuff. Then it was off to the coolest part of the evening. We hiked for about 45 minutes to get to the middle of this big field at the base of a foothill. We waited until after the sun went down, then we began to hear a strange whirring sound. After a few minutes it got louder, then the source of the noise exposed itself. Bats!!! Millions and millions of bats! Every night at about 6pm about two million Wrinkle-Lipped Bats exit their cave to hunt for the night. The sound their wings made was unreal, and it was a sight to behold to see them flying in formation above us. They follow "swarm mentality," so if one changes course the ones around it follow suit. The result is a mesmerizing swirling pattern that I could watch for hours. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen, and a spectacular way to end the night.
The next day was just as amazing. We (me and two couples) hiked in the jungle for about five hours. We saw some amazing trees and lots of exotic animals: a bright orange Oriental Whip snake, Pig-Tailed Macaques, White Handed Gibbons, Giant Black squirrels, Sambay deer, Barking deer, Yellow-Bellied marten, Great Hornbills, lots of colorful birds, Black Forest scorpion (gross!!), and a Bear Cat. Actually, our guide spotted the Bear Cat for us through the telescope, and all I really saw was a ball of black fur since he was sleeping in a tree. But, you know, technically I did see a Bear Cat;-) And, the crowning glory of my day...I saw a wild elephant!!! I was so incredibly thrilled and still can't believe my luck, since it's very hit and miss. He was a lone male around 18 years old, on his way to the river. Absolutely stunning. After that we went to see a really pretty waterfall, which was perfect because I love, love, love waterfalls. This was a good one, too. It was the waterfall that was in The Beach, but we couldn't swim in it since the current was too dangerous. After a few more stops it was back to the guesthouse where I was staying, but not for long. That was Wednesday, the night of the full moon, and there was a wicked awesome yearly festival going on that I really wanted see. Once a year all of Thailand gathers around water (preferably a river) to send off any bad thoughts in little boats made with flowers, banana leaves, candles and incense. It really is a beautiful festival and I like the idea of ridding yourself of the bad in you by putting it in boats to be sent away. I bought myself a boat and packaged away some parts of me that I don't like so much and, after lighting the candles and incense, sent it on down the river. I also bought some baby catfish and released them in the river. Apparently, when Thais need an instant Karma boost, they release something. Usually birds, turtles, or fish. I people watched for a bit, particularly enjoying watching the dance floor that had been set up for the festival, then went home.
I had a fantastic time in Pak Chong!