Isaan by Motorbike – Day 4 (Part 2)

Isaan Tour - Northeast ThailandAfter the temple I wanted to make up for some lost time. Also my ass was still hurting from the punishment I had been giving it. The bike seat, nothing else.

I was on a huge open road. So I slowly took the speed up to 140km/h +. Breaking the speed limit for sure but heh, no police, no cameras and most of all there was no traffic on the road. In the distance someone came into view.

I caught up with them very quickly, then with no signals or checking in their non-existent mirrors they pulled over to the right hand side of the road, right in front of me. Like a slow motion sequence. I was trying to work out where on the road the space for me would be when I caught up with them. Not easy with only about 2 seconds thinking and reaction time. I slammed on the breaks – enough to slow but not enough to skid. I daren’t sound the horn for fear of them changing their course. Heavy braking and a bank to the left pulled me out of their way with maybe 6 inches to spare. NOTE TO SELF, SLOW THE F*** DOWN.

motorbike_travels_day_four_14A SIGNPOST FOR A WATERFALL

On to the next waterfall!!! It would be so nice , once again a chance to swim in the refreshing water and bask in the baking sun. I drove away from the main highway. Through open fields on dirt tracks, searching for the waterfall. After leaving the main highway the road signs were all in Thai. I had to somehow work out by radar where the water was.

These open fields all had some large golden leaved plants, I was not sure what they were, maybe some sort of cabbage. Then I saw the open barns drying the leaves. When I got close to one of the barns I smelled a wonderful aroma. The smell of fresh tobacco. This was obviously a tobacco farming area. The smell was amazing.

I tried to buy some tobacco from one of the farmers, just a little bit to go with the meat I had bought in Tae Rae. This was where the language barrier got the better of me. I could not understand a bloody word they were saying. Everything I said received blank looks. I tried for a few minutes including hand-signals and the like but to no avail.

I carried on to the waterfall. It was a great drive through increasingly dusty tracks. I found my goal. I parked up the motorbike and went for a walk.

motorbike_travels_day_four_16Guess what. Yes, another water not fall. This place was still beautiful, even with no water.

Phulangka national park is the location of this water not fall. I rested in the shade of the trees for a while and took a few photos before making my way back to the main highway.

I drove onto Bueang Kan. I easily found and checked into the Samar Guest house. A really smart place. It looked brand new and at 300 baht per night it is amazing. It was ultra clean, amazingly clean; it was so clean that I might have been the first person to stay in this room.

I went for my daily massage. OK I have had some strange massages in my time but this one pretty much took the biscuit. I got the usual banter – you speak Thai? – velly gooood, have girlfriend, how long in Thailand – blah blah blah. OK.

Then the second masseur started to touch my tattoos. “Ooh very sexy” I smiled. Then they started to talk about me not having a girlfriend, suggesting that when I travel I do not have a girlfriend. DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER.

motorbike_travels_day_four_17After she finished playing with my nipple and me telling them that I do have a girlfriend I arranged to meet them at eight o’clock (whilst planning my escape route. Over the razor wire, through the muddy tunnel and out across the tobacco fields till I reach the Mae Khong to swim to Loas for freedom form the evil twins. Oh yes accompanied by a bottle of wine.

After the massage I drove around the town to have a look around. I found a wine shop there, it was amazing. A really nice owner who I spoke with for a while. He was talking mainly that it was nice to have someone come in and choose a bottle of wine by the label and not the price; saying that there were not many wine drinkers in the area. The locals mainly being made up of whisky drinkers. He had a full range of wines, all stored well and from good vintners. I took my time choosing my bottle then found a restaurant.

The restaurant I chose was on the river front. The head waiter spoke very good English. I took a low seat and asked them for a glass for my ready opened bottle of nine year old cabernet sauvignon. Tasty food and a bottle of wine. The placement of the restaurant was great , with low tables for the more traditional manner of sitting down to eat.

Then it was back to the guesthouse, avoiding the massage house that was less than 200 metres from the guest house. Ninja style!!!

A perfect end to a crazy day.

Note: Story author is Steven Noake.

The Beauty of Big Mountain: Khao Yai National Park

The Beauty of Big Mountain: Khao Yai National Park
The Beauty of Big Mountain: Khao Yai National Park
The Beauty of Big Mountain: Khao Yai National Park
The Beauty of Big Mountain: Khao Yai National Park
The Beauty of Big Mountain: Khao Yai National Park

“I think I’ve spotted one!” Mr C gives an ecstatic gasp, before plunging into the undergrowth, leaving my new friends and I feeling confused and bemused. Suddenly, we hear hooting and whooping noises as our guide trying to communicate with a white handed gibbon. Next thing we now, Mr C appears, beaming broadly. “I’ve found a gibbon,” he announces in awe. “Come and see, quick!” We quietly follow Mr C into the undergrowth, where he has set up his tripod and binoculars. Sure enough, through the binoculars we can clearly see a group of gibbons playing in the treetops. I have traveled to Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park for some relaxation and a much-needed break from the city.

Khao Yai is Thailand’s most popular nature reserve, and it is easy to see why. With 2168 square kilometres of lush forest, the park is a real Eden for the 300 bird species and 20 species of big mammals which shelter within its boundaries. Khao Yai means Big Mountain and the name refers to the Phanom Dongrek Mountains that make the park so special.

I had left the neighbouring town of Pak Chong early that morning, expecting to explore Khao Yai on foot. Catching a songthaew from the center of town, I arrive at the park just before 8 am. I am dropped at the park checkpoint, where I pay my 200 baht entrance fee and wait for a lift to the visitor’s centre.

After a couple of minutes, a jeep rolls down the road towards me. The driver greets me warmly and agrees to take me to the visitor’s centre. The two passengers, Fiona and Henry, also greet me warmly.

Along the way, the driver stops several times to point out macaques, kingfishers and other interesting wildlife. He introduces himself as Mr C, but it is not long before I have dubbed him ‘Mr Crazy’. Mr C is like the Thai version of Steve Irwin; he is incredibly passionate about wildlife and sometimes his enthusiasm seems a little goofy. Still, you couldn’t hope for a more knowledgeable guide.

It takes nearly an hour to reach the visitor’s centre. Once there, Mr C offers to take me along on the tour for just 400 bhat for the entire day. He explains that many of the park’s features are as much as 20 kilmetres apart, making it impossible to cover them on foot. As I am already captivated with Mr C and Fiona and Henry seem happy to have company, I gratefully agree.

After a short break, Mr C Provides long, white canvass socks, which we put on over our trousers, feeling rather silly. They are to protect against leeches, and I notice most of the other visitors are also wearing these latest fashion accessories.

Back in the jeep, Mr C takes us on a short ride along beautifully forested roads. Suddenly, he pulls to a halt. “Did you see that?” he asks, before plunging into the undergrowth once more. This time he has spotted a hornbill. “Khao Yai is one of the best places in South East Asia to observe these golden-beaked beauties,” Mr C tells us proudly, before demonstrating their call.

There are four species of hornbill at Khao Yai. On a neighbouring tree we spot a pied hornbill. Fiona suddenly notices we are standing near a ‘Tiger Zone’ sign and expresses her concern. Mr C simply laughs; “I have been visiting the park for seven years and I have never seen a tiger,” he confesses.

After a few minutes, Mr C drops us at the edge of the forest where we are to begin our trek. We walk for three hours, but the pace is fairly gentle. Mr C stops every few minutes to point out woodpeckers, yellow-browed warblers and an extremely beautiful red-breasted flycatcher.

Just as my energy is beginning to fade, we reach the edge of the forest. It takes a minute for my eyes to adjust to the sunlight as we walk across a grassy plain. After a few minutes, we pass a small lake, which is a watering hole for many of Khao Yai’s birds and animals.

A short distance away is Nong Pak Chee observation tower, and we are all quite relieved when Mr C announces we will stop here for lunch. We climb a wooden ladder up into the observation tower. Already inside are two Thai men who are camping out, hoping that their patience will be rewarded with some animal sightings.

After lunch, Mr C directs us along a neat path leading away from the observation tower. Suddenly, he orders us to crouch down to the ground. Just in time; a swarm or big black bees cross our path, hovering above our heads for a moment before passing on.

Once we reach the waiting jeep, Mr C drives us to a caf?, where he buys us drinks to cool off. The four of us sit relaxing and talking for awhile. When we have rested, Mr C leads us down a short path, at the end of which lies the Haew Suwat Falls. This 25 metres high waterfall starred in the film The Beach. There is currently not much water flowing down the vast rock face as it is the dry season, but during the wet season many travelers take the plunge, fancying themselves, perhaps, as the next Lionardo Di Caprio.

When we have admired the waterfall from all angles, Mr C drives us to Khao Lem hill, where there are spectacular views over the park. Another short drive and a wander through the jungle, and we find ourselves perched at the very top of Khao Luuk Chang (Baby Elephant Mountain). As we sit on a rocky perch, we are actually above the highest treetops of the surrounding jungle, and the view is breathtaking.

Finally, it is time to leave Khao Yai, although I find that I am very reluctant. Mr C has one more surprise for us. On the drive back, he suddenly pulls to a halt. His sharp eyes have spotted a large scorpion sunbathing at the edge of the road; another trophy for our photo albums.

Getting There:

Khao Yai is 120 kilometres north east of Bangkok. It is best to make the journey to nearby Pak Chong first as the town can be reached by bus or train.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!