Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
They say that leeches are a sign of a healthy ecosystem. If that's the case, Khao Sok National Park is thriving.
At least thirty leeches attached themselves to my feet as I hiked through the rainforest. I'd tromp through a muddy bit of the trail, glance down at my feet, feel a surge of panic, howl out in disgust, and tear the bloodsuckers off of me.
A Riot of Natural Beauty
Khao Sok National Park is breathtaking with its abundance of plant and wildlife. I've never seen such a riot of growth and prosperity. Nor have I ever heard such bizarre insect and animal noises.
Hidden in the forest are wild tigers, Asiatic bears, spotted cats, elephants, snakes, lizards, seven types of monkeys, and innumerable birds and insects. On three separate hikes through the forest I only managed to see lizards, snakes, birds, insects, leeches (see above), and one monkey. I guess the animals have plenty of room to stay out of sight in this 740 square-kilometer park.
Rivers and Waterfalls
Beneath the chorus of singing insects and birds, the sound of running water can be heard constantly throughout the park. Streams of all sizes intersect the forest trails. Each of my hikes through the park was rewarded with an impressive waterfall.
Plenty of Rain in the Rainforest
When you're in a rainforest, you expect to get wet. But not this wet. I've never experienced rain as torrential as I have in Khao Sok. It would come down as if out of a fire hose and continue unabated for hours. Orlando Car Rental
Elephants in the Rain
A popular activity in the park is elephant trekking. I signed up for a two hour hike to a waterfall and back. It was interesting to hop atop such an enormous, magnificent animal. The elephant was remarkably sure-footed as she climbed up steep muddy paths rutted with deep elephant foot holes.
A monsoonal downpour commenced about twenty minutes into the trek, and it continued for the duration of the journey. Although it prevented me from taking many photos, it didn't dampen the experience.
Animal welfare note: the elephants appeared to be well taken care of. I was relived to see that the place wasn't an elephant jail. Each elephant had a guide that worked with them, and the relationship between them was cooperative, kind, even touching.
Most of the guesthouses near the park offered rooms in treehouse bungalows. Besides the novelty factor, I guess this is a practical setup considering all the rainfall.
Stoners in the Jungle
When I arrived at my guesthouse at 9:00am, the owner greeted me with an enormous blunt between his lips. "Want some ganja?" he asked. I told him I might wait until after I'd brushed my teeth.
In the evenings as I chatting with stoned, pseudo-intellectual Westerners with dreadlocks and ear-plugs the size of potatoes I was reminded of something I learned years ago in Amsterdam: unlimited access to cheap, powerful dope is not necessarily a good thing.
Posted on October 25, 2002 10:07 AM