Sunday, February 7th, 2016
Today was the eve of Chinese New Year so locals were setting off fireworks as we walked back to the bus station early in the morning. We had a little over an hour to kill until the first bus for “Sai Yok National Park” departed, most of which was spent lallygagging around the station. We grabbed a couple chickens on a stick to scarf down as we waited. This would be my last one because: one, I’m starting to get chubby from all this food, and two, this chicken on a stick in particular had the same texture of biting into a crisp apple. I have a feeling that wasn’t chicken!
There was more of a language barrier during this ride since it was a less touristy destination. I struggled to see out the window through the crowds of people getting on and off the bus, hoping to catch a glimpse of road signs for the park. We’d be getting off this bus and a motorcycle taxi would be taking us the rest of the way to the park. The driver’s assistant noticed my concern and informed us that the next stop would be ours.
We got off the bus for the Saiyok something-or-other waterfall and suddenly realized that this was the wrong stop! I was in a panic. We were very far away from town and the locals here probably rarely see tourists, so I wasn’t sure how we were going to get to where we wanted to be. A road sign said that we were 37 km (23 miles) away from the park, so walking all the way there was not an option. We argued with one another out of frustration as we approached the very unexciting waterfall, then returned to the road, hoping another bus would pass by and take us there.
I suppose we were a little hangry too. Trevor grabbed some pancakes from a vendor to share with me as we waited, but I was too pissed off and stubborn to give into his offer. It was a very long wait until I was able to flag down a bus willing to take us to our destination. I was beyond relieved!
We finally found ourselves out front of a sign that said “Sai Yok National Park.” It was only a short wait until a motorcycle taxi picked us up and took us to the gate. He overcharged us and reeked of beer, so I assumed he was just looking for a few extra Baht for a couple more brewskis. No matter, we made it where we wanted to be.
We saw the Sai Yok waterfall, the correct one this time! We strolled across the bridge to catch a better shot, then we’d grab lunch at the floating restaurant after walking up the hill to the viewpoint.
After a couple Singha’s, we would return across the bridge, catching a short glimpse of a water monitor (a giant lizard) swimming around in the river below.
We took off on a hike to the spring which took us passed old Japanese troop stoves from WWII when the Japanese were moving troops to Burma via the “Death Railway,” which they were in the process of constructing while taking Sai Yok as their camp. The spring ended up being disappointing, and so was Keaw Cave which would require some serious spelunking in order to explore.
We decided to venture to the Old Railway Bridge through the bamboo forest. This was looking to be another uneventful hike until Trevor started yelling, “Snake! Snake! Snake! Snake! Snake!” Those without legs don’t put the fear of God into me like they do to Trevor, but when he grabbed ahold of me and moved me around without informing me where the snake was located, which was still a complete mystery to me I might add, I started screaming with him. All I could think was, “Trevor’s going to toss me right on top of it as a sacrifice.”
Fortunately, this wasn’t his plan. I saw where the slender little green snake was and realized I was safe. I’m not familiar with all the venomous snakes outside of North America so we kept our distance, but the little guy was kinda cute. I wish I had a proper picture of him for you. He stared us down as we walked away, probably wondering why we were flailing around and screaming like banshees. Just in case any of my readers are herpetologists, those that study amphibians and reptiles, not herpes, I tried looking it up later. I’m pretty sure it was an Oriental Whip Snake, which is venomous, but isn’t a threat to humans.
After seeing the non-existent bridge that we were hiking to, we walked to the bat cave. The overall silence with the exception of the creaking of the bamboo made this walk eerie. There were also randomly scattered fires along the trail from the intense heat. When we reached the opening of the cave, it seemed walkable, so we turned on the flashlight settings on our iPods and headed inside.
The light didn’t help much as it got darker and darker. The mosquitoes were pretty bad which probably attracted the giant bat that flew over our heads and encouraged our exit. To make matters more creepy, like a scene from a scary movie, I got a nose bleed. We also kept hearing the voices and footsteps of people approaching us. People that we would never cross paths with.
The park wasn’t quite as exciting as expected, but it was still a fun trip. We decided to walk back to the road since it wasn’t that far. The same guy who took us in the park must have gotten plenty of money for booze for the day since he was grinning ear-to-ear as he passed us with a couple visitors on board. On his way back, he offered us a free ride, but we declined. Regardless of how drunk he was, it was kind of nice getting all this walking in today.
Before making it back to the park entrance, we stopped to check out a Railway Station Memorial from WWII. This was apparently one of the largest stations the Japanese had Thai laborers and prisoners of war make along Thailand’s Death Railway. There were 56 in total.
We waited a very, very long time under an unforgiving sun for the bus to arrive and take us back to town. After the long ride back, we grabbed food from the street vendors for dinner; Pork Noodle Soup for me and Pad Thai for Trevor. It was a noisy night at the hotel. It was the eve of Chinese New Year, so I let it be.
Jump Back to Part 12: A National Park & The National Anthem
Jump Ahead to Part 14: The Year of the Monkey & Bedlam in Bangkok
Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Mumbai to Chiang Mai