Had an awesome weekend of fresh air, good food, and lots of forest... I was equipped with a box of fresh 'curry puffs' to snack on (the pastry which Saraburi's famous for, although it has different sweet fillings and nothing to do with curry), and I found myself on the small local bus I needed, along with about 70 Thai people.
Arrived in Pak Chong (the nearest town to Khao Yai) and navigated myself through the bustling night market, and then back again, and then back through again, until I eventually asked a local where the train station was. I wasn't going to get a train, but I was told that's where Greenleaf Guesthouse pick up from. Later found out you can phone them when you get to the town itself, pass the phone to a Thai person who explains where you are, and then they come and get you from there. Instead I'd waited up a little dimly lit side-road near a old little train station which looked like it would be a good scene for a horror film.
When I got there I was escorted through a storage room full of boxes, pile of books, hats made out of old uht milk cartons, and a mattress, so I was very confused and wondered if that was my room. Then I saw the number 19 on a small door in the corner and tumbled that that was in fact our room. It was nice enough, with an 'interesting bathroom' (minus sink which I didn't think would be a problem until I had a mouthful of toothpaste), and for 2 pound each a night who can complain!
Emily arrived a few minutes later, she'd not had school that day and went on the half-day tour to see bats and things. We had a scrummy dinner of veggie green Thai curry (I've developed a new love of tofu), fried veggies, and singha. Staple meal. Had a good catch up and an early night ready for our 6.30am wake-up call. Actually didn't turn into quite such an early night as the neighbours of the guesthouse decided to have some late night Thai shouting and singing, which began to merge into my dreams. And we were woken up well before 6.30 by the half a dozen nearby roosters. Refreshed myself with a trickle of a cold shower before having a delish omelette and toast brekkie, first time I've had sliced bread, or bread which isn't sweet, for 6 weeks.
Three small vans (open back trucks with seats in them) of seven left just before 8am. We arrived in the park and admired the views across limitless green forest. Had to change from my shorts into the trousers I'd bought with me so I could put my sexy leech socks over them, although I deemed this fashion accessory somewhat unnecessary now it's no longer monsoon season. Had to scramble down a hill for some privacy whilst getting changed, but still had an audience of monkeys.
From there we drove to the visitor centre, spotting some gibbons and Great Hornbills along the way.Our guide took our group of seven on a great trek through the jungle, which I really enjoyed. Had to flit between watching my feet to make sure I didn't trip up over any roots, and watching straight ahead to make sure I didn't walk into a huge spider's web. We saw black squirrels, black gibbons, and lots of beautiful old trees which were all twisted with vines. Also saw lots of claw marks on the trees made my the bears, which made me grateful we were there in the day and not the night. We had lunch in a big open grassy space by an elephant watering hole (although the closest we saw to an elephant was the one printed on the tote bag Emily lent me!)
Then it was time for the Haew Suwat waterfall. Got changed into my bikini with great difficulty in the very small and wet squat toilet, only to arrive and find out that, due to a tourist a few months ago who decided it was a good idea to swim under the falling water, we can no longer swim there. I practically went swimming anyways as I scrabbled over slippery rocks to get near the water. It was very cold from the splashes I got, so I guess it was a small mercy I wasn't fully submerged.
After the waterfall we went on the search for elephants as it was nearing sunset. We saw deers, red deers and golden jackals, but no ellies. It was sooo cold up on the mountains at Khao Yai, I haven't been that cold since being here. When we stopped for a snack of watermelon (the juice of which I got all down me, literally on every item of clothing including my trouser belt!) and discovered the road was warm we all laid down on it!
Got back to the guesthouse about 7pm, although it felt like 10pm we'd done so much that day. Had another nice dinner, this time red curry, and singha with a lovely Dutch girl called Elles who is over here for work for a few weeks looking at volunteer projects and was enjoying the park on her day off. After a lovely chat with my bezzie on her bday I went to sleep and was snoozing away by about 10pm!!
Another early morning on Sunday as Greenleaf were dropping us back into Pak Chong at 9am, so I filled up on a double helping of toast. We all travelled back to Saraburi and were there by about 10.30am. Elles was supposed to be flying to Chiang Mai that day but what with all the cafuffle at the airports had to convert to night train from Ayutthaya instead. Having not had a chance to go there yet myself we decided to make a day of it and do some sightseeing together as she had time to kill before the night train and I had no plans except laundry.
We were told the bus was quicker, and seeing as the train only takes about 45mins this seemed promising, we paid out 40baht and set off. One hour passed and we stood up when we arrived in a biggish town assuming this was it (despite the notable lack of ruins). Apparently not. Another hour passed. Checked that we were on the right bus. Looked in the mapbook and checked the names of the signs we saw to see if we could gauge where on earth we were going. Eventually arrived, about two and a quarter hours later.
Got a tuktuk across the old part of the city for 50 baht to the TAT office so Elles could find out about trains and whatnot, then were driven about 3 minutes around the next corner to the nearest ruin for another 50 baht. He was angling for us to hire him for the day as 'no other tuktuk here, you not find another' he kept insisting as I noticed a huge rank of them out the corner of my eye.
We decided to just wander around and take in a few of the ruins, starting with the ancient grand palace (now just like a floor plan) and Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, saw a huge gold buddha, and then went down the road to Wat Mahathat which has a famous buddha which has had a tree grow around it. We were just strolling around the parameter of the ruins when we noticed a little set of steps over the wall. So we just wandered over, got chatting to some other tourists who mentioned about the ticket booth and 30 baht you're supposed to pay. Whoops. We sat across the road in a little restaurant and watched the ruins as the sun began to set. It was really beautiful.
Took ourselves off in a tuktuk to the train station where Elles booked her ticket to Chiang Mai, and I got a ticket for Saraburi for 9 baht (less than 20p!) It was delayed an hour and twenty mins, but only took an hour to get back once finally on it, so I know which mode of transport I'll be going on next time I visit Ayutthaya (and the train station's nearer my house than the bus station).
Typically was on a very empty train and the token old tipsy Thai guy decided to sit opposite me and gabble away in Thai. Was getting bored of his constant 'My name is?' and pointing at me to answer, and a lovely Thai lady in the same carriage obviously noted my exasperation and told me to go and sit with her. She spoke really good English and we had a nice chat. Made it back to my humble apartment around 10pm, very, very tired! Was a great weekend, Khao Yai was awesome and I'll definately be going back, and the spontaneous trip to Ayutthaya rounded it off nicely. It just shows how easy it is to meet nice people when you're travelling about to do things with.
Hope all is well at home and that you all feel better knowing I was a wee bit chilly too this weekend, hehe!