A family from California moves to Ho Chi Minh City. Hilarity ensues.
As a break from our big-city adventures, we spent two and a half days in Khao Yai National Park, north of Bangkok. We want to get on the bandwagon with the year end lists, so without further ado, we present:
The Top 4 (and Bottom 1) Khao Yai Experiences
1. The tour of the forest
Our first full day in Khao Yai required an early start – the tour left the hotel at 8:00. The drive to our first trek was a little over an hour, but it was a gorgeous day and there was tons to see out the open sides of our songthaew (a pickup truck with bench seats along the sides, a roof, and sometimes walls).
It was just like Yosemite in many ways.
Except, perhaps, for the required leech socks.
These little cotton beauties aren’t just for looks – they’re meant to keep leeches from snacking on your ankles. Thank heavens the rainy season is over – the leeches are all deep underground!
And the giant hornbills.
This was taken through a telescope the tour guide set up for us, hence the artsy framing.
And the monkeys.
Macaque monkey, macaque monkeys, and gibbons, respectively.
And the superior tree climbing opportunities. (Grandmas should skip over this picture without looking.)
And the deer on the side of the road. I MEAN ELEPHANTS! THOSE ARE ACTUAL WILD ELEPHANTS ON THE SIDE OF THE FREAKING ROAD!
Do you see the itty bitty massively huge baby elephant?
The hiking was grand, and we enjoyed the company of the rest of our tour group (mostly German and Dutch whippersnappers who were excited to learn that having kids does not necessitate an end to adventuring). And while it was a long day in the truck, only one of my kids puked!
2. To the Bat Cave!
Upon arrival at the Khao Yai Garden Lodge (which was fine, but you could do better), we booked one of the nightly tours to watch millions of bats emerge on their nightly quest to eat the mosquitoes before the mosquitoes eat me. It was amazing, and like nothing we’d ever seen before. The thick river of bats flew close enough above our heads for us to hear their tiny wings flapping, but not close enough for us to worry about our kids trying to catch any.
A windy ride on the songthaew.
If you squint you can see the bats starting to come out of their cave near the top of the mountain.
Or you could just watch these videos.
Me: “How long does it take for all the bats to fly out of their cave each night?” Guide: “About two hours.” Nature, eh?
“Dang, dad, it’s been a tough day climbing around the tropical forest. Can we just take a break and do some book learnin’? Please?!?!?!”
3. Friendly Bangkok Taxi Driver
We paid a taxi driver 2500 bhat (about $80) to drive us from our Bangkok hotel to Khao Yai, as we know our kids get motion sickness and we wanted to be able to stop when we needed to (and we did – but no vomiting!). Our driver was very nice and didn’t seem to mind too much that our kids cannot get it together to use the toilet at the same time. Hooray for a tour of the toilets of the Thai highway system! The trip took a little over three hours, and by late afternoon we were checking into our hotel.
We heard from some fellow travelers that the train to Bangkok was quick and easy, so we took that option for the way back. It was indeed a fantastic choice. We paid a little over 600 baht for the whole family to ride back to the big city in style in the only air-conditioned car, and there was plenty of room for us to spread out. Our kids don’t get motion sickness on trains, so everyone could read, draw, look out the windows (and count the wats!), and even nap in relative comfort.
The Hall Of Shame
Our third and final day did not go according to plan. We had planned to visit the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, which is an NGO based outside of the park. The focus is on education and land reclamation, and while you can visit elephants and take pictures, they do not allow elephant rides. Unfortunately, through a series of maddening miscommunications and poor choices on the part of our hotel (“I know you showed me the website and the address of the amazing place you wanted to go, but instead we will make you wait around 45 minutes and then tell our driver to take you to a seedy roadside elephant ride establishment, which is probably owned by my cousin or something. When you tell the driver this is not where you want to go, she will argue about it, make several phone calls, then shrug her shoulders and take you back to the hotel.”), we ran out of time. While this is certainly frustrating, my clenched jaw is slowly relaxing as we ride the train back to Bangkok in peace and aircon. The views are gorgeous, our bellies are full of noodles from the shop across the street from the station, the car is quiet, no one is carsick, and it costs about a quarter of the taxi ride here. Aaahhhh!
[Okay, fine, we’re no longer on the train. That was 9 days ago, and we’re a bit behind on the blog posts. But it was WRITTEN on the train!]