Late last night, after five hours of playing Tik Rak Toe on the plane, I landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand! An unforgettable airport, it had signs reminding folks that it is illegal to buy Buddha statues as souvenirs, and memorial banners everywhere for the recently deceased King Bhumibol! In the parking lot, cars were stacked in front of each other with their brakes off so folks can just push them out of the way to get out!
After a short night’s sleep and hearty breakfast at Phee Bot Restaurant, my good friends—Pla, Mu Sab, Pakpao, and Mr. Tung Ting—are helping me on my quest to find durians to bring back to Master Sae! On a long drive north, we stopped at Farm Chokchai, Thailand’s largest dairy farm and a peculiar place to find a Texas-themed steakhouse complete with stetsons and a petting zoo, on the side of the highway! Founded by famed Thai cowboy, Khun Chokchai Bulbul, in 1957, this is where a new type of tropical dairy cow was first bred! I can’t say that the food here was great, but it was eye-opening to see the Thai take on the American West!
After some navigating of small country roads, we arrived at the Atta Lakeside Resort, an incredible place with lovely suites overlooking the Sankamphaeng Mountains and one floundering tilapia in the lake below! Since we’d gotten a late start and taken so long at Farm Chokchai, there was no time for us to be out scouting for durians. So, I was forced to take a load off and relax for an evening with spectacular views. Poor me!
As night fell, though, we motored south into Khao Yai National Park for a night tour. Though the light was fading and the visitor center was getting ready to close, the park was far from sleepy! Huge troops of macaques frolicked on all sides of the road and harassed the concession owners! Two big sambar deer wandered among the tables without a care. This was the hour of awakening for the animals of the jungle!
As night fell, we boarded an open-air pickup truck and sped off into the forest. All around us, tiny blinking lights drifted among the black leaves. Fireflies! They were everywhere! For miles, it was the only thing we could see because the guide would not stop showing Pakpao photos of elephants on his phone. By the time we actually came across a real elephant, I had to tell the guide to point his light at it or we would have missed it!
It was a haunting image: a lone bull elephant in the darkness, wading through the grassland, lit only by a single spotlight! In that last fifteen minutes of the tour, we saw wild porcupines, a palm civet (prized for their poop), barking deer, and a rare type of buffalo called a gaur! They were all very far away, but it was neat getting to see them doing wild things at night!
It was a laid back introduction to Thailand, which is all right with me. I’ll have to hurry and find some durians, though. I don’t want to make Mom and Master Sae wait too long!
Jee gan prûng-níi!