Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle

The last day in Bangkok was spent with my generous hostess, Mary Ann, and a friend of hers walking around Chatuchak Market, just north of the city. The market had thousands of small stalls, selling everything from wrestler figurines to bed sheets to endangered species (we stayed away from the latter). After a few hours, I parted ways and headed to the train station via Lumphini Park, which is quite beautiful.

My overnight train south was scheduled to leave at 18:20, but didn't roll out of the station until close to 19:00 (in case I was in doubt, I am now sure this is not Europe). The train took 11 hours and cost 498 baht ($16). I'll assume only 60 baht was for the overnight accommodation, which consisted of a something akin to a yoga mat on a fold down platform with no a/c. But I'm young and able to sleep just about anywhere, so it certainly sufficed. We arrived in Surat Thani around 6:00 am, where all the foreigners were immediately bombarded by travel agents asking "Where you going?" I don't think I've ever felt more popular. But I hadn't even had my coffee yet, so I cut to the chase with one of the first to approach me and worked out a minibus (think 15 passenger van, only with 18 people) to Khao Sok National Park.

Fortunately, I was wedged between a very small Thai girl and an Israeli man, Oren. Oren was also traveling by himself and we decided to pair up together for a hike once we got to the park. Our 15km round trip hike felt like 5 hours on a stairmaster and I knew it was rough when Oren, who like most Israelis has spent time in the military, compared it to his basic training. But we eventually found a gorgeous waterfall, where we relaxed for close to an hour before the trek back to town. Despite expecting to be too sore to crawl the next day, I actually woke up and went on another quick jaunt (this one only 8km) to another waterfall this morning. Now a few things about the trails/park:
  • There are "Caution: Slippery Route" signs every 100m. Seems like it'd be more efficient to just put up signs when it's NOT a slippery route.
  • The hike on the first day was curiously void of wildlife. I figured either there is actually enough space here for them to avoid wildlife (the park is the largest contiguous piece of land dedicated to wildlife conservation in the country) or they've all been rounded up for sale at Chatuchak. Fortunately, I saw more wildlife (including monkeys, lizards, birds) on the second day's hike.
  • When the trail signs say "Waterfall 300m ahead" they actually mean "Waterfall 300m straight up, the trail will be more like 1km."
I've had a rather peaceful time here so far (including awesome $2 padsee ew and a $6 hour-long massage), but am headed to Krabi tomorrow morning, and then hopefully catching a boat to the Railay beaches.

I'm having trouble uploading pictures from this computer, but will post them during my next entry. In the meantime, you can watch my actual progress by following the Google Map

View Peregrine Deviation: Adventure #1 in a larger map

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