Holy Khao Yai!

It seems we have quite a few school holidays this semester. In fact, I haven’t taught a full five-day week since June, which really makes this seem more like a summer vacation and less like a job. (Well, that, and the fact that it’s pretty much ALWAYS summer here.) In that spirit, with an extra couple of days off last weekend, I headed to Khao Yai National Park for some jungle-trekking, wildlife-spotting, and wine-tasting. (Mmm-hmmm, I said wine-tasting!!)

Khao Yai is one of Thailand’s largest national parks and is home to many wild things – including elephants, vipers, gibbons, tigers, five types of monkeys, giant drippy-looking Swiss Family Robinson-esque trees, and yes — little bunches of roaming English teachers.

After a six hour journey (Suphanburi –> BKK –> Pak Chong –> Khao Yai) we arrived at our guest house just barely in time to be whisked off for our night safari. Into the back of trucks we went! We drove through pitted, dusty roads until we were surrounded on all sides by rolling green hills of jungle and mist that looked more like Tuscany than Thailand. Our first little adventure was a trip to a bat cave (literally) — a huge, dusky room used for meditation in the side of a limestone mountain. In this cavernous space, one million bats spend their days. And at dusk, that magic hour between day and night, the bats all depart at the same time, flying out through a hole — a skylight of sorts — in a space between the stalactites. It was an otherworldly sight.

one million bats leaving their cave at dusk.

one million bats leaving their cave at dusk.

The next day, we were off for a full day of jungle trekking. It was an enchanting day of wandering through elephant grass, spotting gibbons swinging through the treetops, and slip-sliding through the mud and rain. Here is the highlight reel:

Welcome to Khao Yai! Modeling the obligatory leech socks.

Welcome to Khao Yai! Modeling the obligatory leech socks.

Jungle safari hair.

Jungle safari hair.

Super cool, drippy looking jungle tree.

Super cool, drippy looking jungle tree.

Life on life.

Life on life.

Rainstorm in the elephant grass.

Rainstorm in the elephant grass.

The red-ist dirt I've seen. No filter.

The red-ist dirt I’ve seen. No filter.

Monkeys on the side of the road!!

Monkeys on the side of the road!!

Haew Suwat waterfall. You may recognize this, in its non-monsoon season form (much smaller), from the movie "The Beach."

Haew Suwat waterfall. You may recognize this, in its non-monsoon season form (much smaller), from the movie “The Beach.”

The victory of the day! NO LEECHES!

Biggest victory of the day – NO LEECHES!

Departing Khao Yai - sunset.

Departing Khao Yai – sunset.

After our day of trekking, we shifted gears and were off for a day of wine tasting in the Khao Yai valley outside of the park. What an unexpected, refined, delightful change of pace! Cait, Cash and I enjoyed a day of tasting cold Chenin Blanc and slightly cool Shiraz, and wandered among the vines for the afternoon.

Cait and Cash at PB WInery.

Cait and Cash at PB WInery.

Cash and Chenin Blanc. (Yes, one of them is mine.)

Cash with Chenin Blanc. (Yes, one of them is mine.)

Random. Ran into one of my M1 students on the WINE TRAIN.

Random. Ran into one of my M1 students on the WINE TRAIN.

Assessing grapes. Yes, these look ripe and delicious.

Assessing grapes. Yes, these look ripe and delicious.

According to our guide, "If you drank a bottle per day with your father, it would take you 32 years to finish this barrel." Up for the challenge, Dr. Z?

According to our guide, “If you drank a bottle per day with your father, it would take you 32 years to finish this barrel.” Up for the challenge, Dr. Z?

Then we spent our evening at a sprawling, empty jungle lodge resort, where we were nearly the only occupants. We took the opportunity to be a little bit sneaky, and quietly sat on the huge front porch of a teak lodge that hadn’t been rented, looking out over a verdant valley with hills of jungle beyond. Opened a bottle of Shiraz and felt super grown up and like a happy little kid at the same time. Late night talks by moonlight – one of my favorite things. It was a lovely ending to a very full weekend, and such a departure from my daily life in Suphan. Thanks Khao Yai!

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