Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Phetchaburi Travel Blog

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Great hornbill

Ok, I think I'm going to start with my most recent activities and work backwards, because I haven't updated this for a few days have I? I returned last night from a 2 day trip to Kaeng Krachen national park. I originally only wanted to do one day but having seen the trip notes for the 2 day trek and because other people were already signed up (which makes it cheaper) I agreed to the 2 days. I was staying at Chom Klao hotel that night, which was over the road from the Rabieng guest house which organises the treks. I'd heard their rooms weren't too pleasant so I thought I'd give this one nearby a go. I wish I hadn't bothered, because it felt like being locked up in a mental asylum! There didn't seem to be anyone else staying there, nowhere communal to sit, no restaurant and each room had two doors which locked with a padlock.

Chestnut bee-eater
Seriously, asylum! The sheets and pillow cases were clean but the pillows and mattress underneath were a hideous shade of grey and everything was concrete. I didn't get any sleep whatsoever. Anyhoo, so that was my first, slightly discouraging night in Phetchaburi then off to the jungle!

It was me and a french couple, Marine and Sly, who spoke very good English and our Thai guide, Choke (pronounced Chock, thank god!) who was brilliant. He had lived in Tottenham for a couple of years so his english was really good and he could recognise most birds just from their call. Before we even reached the camp he had spotted some stump-tailed macaques who we then watched cross the road.

look closely! Porcupines!
 He gave us a cookery lesson at lunch and then we took a 10k walk along a trail, up a small mountain and back again. The trail was fantastic, we found once particularly good tree, full of fruit, which was attracting dozens of birds. Including a pair of Great Hornbills, a number of Oriental Hornbills and lots of small birds like Bulbuls and Babets. The hornbills were amazing, we heard them before we saw them because they're so huge that their wings make a massive swooshing noise. I also saw a tree shrew and some deer. I forget which deer, there are several species there, but the middley sized ones which look like Bambi without the spots! After lingering here for a while, we climbed a small mountain. It was really rocky and very tough going, especially for someone as un-athletic as myself.
View over Kaeng Krachen national park
But I managed it, gallons of sweat later, and we watched the sun set over the park. Which is the biggest in Thailand. We could see for miles and every inch of it was part of the park. I forget the measurements, but it needs 1000 park rangers to look after it so its pretty blimmin huge.

It took us just over an hour to walk the 5k back, most of it in the dark, which we had to do pretty quickly before the more dangerous animals come out. You didn't think about it as you were wandering around, but we were in the territory of elephants, macaques, gibbons, asiatic black bears, leopards and even tigers. So we returned to our camp, had some dinner and attempted to communicate with the park rangers, one of whom was a devout Liverpool football fan. So I asked our guide to tell him that Liverpool was full of criminals and is renowned in the UK as the place to get your car nicked.

hot and sweaty after climbing the mountain
Fortunately he laughed and pretended to look offended before proceeding to list every english football team he could remember the name of. He wasn't the first Thai person I've met who seems to think that when they meet someone english/american/australian they ought to recite every name or place they know of. I tried to get directions at a bus stop when I arrived here and spent a good few minutes nodding to a list of 'tony blair, gordon brown, princess diana, paul merton hahaha' God knows how he knows who Paul Merton is, but he seemed to find it all very amusing. It beats the ones who just stare at you like you're an alien though so I can't complain.

Before we went to bed we were taken to the backdoor of the kitchen, where there were several civets (lives in trees, about the size of a cat) and a family of porcupines raiding the leftovers.

big icky spider, definitely alot of zoom used on this one so I didn't get too close!
Was really cool to see the porcupines, they're huge, about the size of a cocker spaniel and just wander around like hedgehogs. That was definitely one of my favourite bits, I'll upload a pic at some point. The second day we set off for some waterfalls, spotting a couple of deer and plenty of birds along the way. Unfortunately when we got there we found that a bunch of Thai nurses from the local hospital were having some sort of strange team-building day and making lots of noise while they were at it. So this meant alot of wildlife was scared away. We heard some gibbons whooping but you can hear them up to 20k away and Chok thought they were about 5k from where we were. We had seen some langurs (monkey-like) in the trees at breakfast though so I only a little bit upset, and the nurses were really nice, they gave us some sticky rice.
Mr Tiger's dinner
This was the second time I'd had sticky rice, its like a Thai cereal bar. They boil rice in coconut milk and then mix it with fruit, roll it into sticks and wrap it in banana leaves. Yum yum! Its not often you get sweet things here, they're not into puddings.

We made it to the waterfall, had a little splash and then were called to by a park ranger further up the falls. He was just saying 'animal! animal!' and when we made it up there, we found it was indeed an animal, just a very dead one. Lying in the pool of waterfall was a huge Sambar Deer, jaw bone exposed and entrails missing. I'm surprised I wasn't sick. Turns out it was a tiger kill from the night before and had yet to be finished, so a tiger would be returning to the very spot where we were standing in a mere few hours.

Weird smelly flower
So I didn't see a tiger, but I saw what he would be having for dinner. Which was mind-boggling enough for me. I even took a picture, which I will share with you lucky people eventually. Gory.

We returned to the hornbill tree from the day before and saw the hornbills again, plus alot of green magpies, which looked more like pigeons to me and then, as we tried to get photo's there was a loud, howling-type noise from the trees behind us, which according to Chok was an elephant very nearby so we hurried back to the car and got out of there, sharpish! Much to my disappointment, because I would have loved to have seen a wild elephant rather than a domestic one. But hey, didn't fancy being stampeded to death, so off we went. We used a flashlight on the way out of the park and saw a marten, a mouse deer (even smaller than my cat!), a couple of civets and the rear-end of a retreating elephant before we left.

Tree the Thais pray to before going trekking
We ate dinner in the Rabieng restaurant and off I went to my not-actually-that-bad bed. What a fantastic couple of days. This afternoon I'm getting a 5 hour train to Chumphon then an overnight slow-boat to Ko Tao. Next stop, diving course!

bethbackpacks says:
Wasn't a Rafflesia was about the size of an apple whereas Rafflesia are MUCH bigger and more orange I think. They have them at Khao Sok but I don't think I'm going there now.
Posted on: Feb 20, 2009
PRL1973 says:
I bet Paul Merton is known from playing Just a Minute on the BBC World Service - if my theory is right you should get a big cheer if you mention it's host Nicholas Parsons, which would be rather surreal in the middle of the jungle. Loving the blogs & pics, its all keeping me entertained on a chilly Birmingham lunch break. Px
Posted on: Feb 19, 2009
adelehull says:
The smelly flower is a Rafflesia, I think. There are different species but one isthe largest flower in the world sometimes called the Corpse Flower (nice!). It's a parasitic plant - how big was it?
Posted on: Feb 18, 2009
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Great hornbill
Great hornbill
Chestnut bee-eater
Chestnut bee-eater
look closely! Porcupines!
look closely! Porcupines!
View over Kaeng Krachen national p…
View over Kaeng Krachen national …
hot and sweaty after climbing the …
hot and sweaty after climbing the…
big icky spider, definitely alot o…
big icky spider, definitely alot …
Mr Tigers dinner
Mr Tiger's dinner
Weird smelly flower
Weird smelly flower
Tree the Thais pray to before goin…
Tree the Thais pray to before goi…
photo by: bethbackpacks