Let’s go to Khao Yai National Park

Despite my small role as a chaperone, the humidity, heat, and great fear of wild monkeys, I enjoyed our trip to Khao Yai National Park. Khao Yai is a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO, includes rain and evergreen forests and grassland, and is home to “more than 800 fauna species, including 112 species of mammals, 392 species of birds and 200 reptiles and amphibians.”

At our school, we have twenty students who are sponsored (due to their financial situation) by the U.S. government for after-school English language learning.

I had been teaching our 13-15-year-olds for only three weeks when our Khao Yai National Park trip was planned in coordination with BARGE, an organization that specializes in teaching environmental awareness.

Like many of my colleagues in Bangkok, who would be joining us for this excursion with their sponsored students, I didn’t really know what we would be doing except camping in one of the largest national parks in Thailand. And it’s not like I wasn’t given an itinerary, it’s just reading about the macro-invertebrate investigation is very different than doing it.

In short Khao Yai is a special place and we were going with some exceptional students. I’m grateful I was asked along. So let’s go!

DAY ONE:

We left around 7am, but we asked the students to arrive at 6.30. (This reminded me of high school when we’d organize events and asked friends to be at school a half hour earlier because of the chronically late. As a person who has been conditioned to be on time, not waste other people’s time, and be respectful of other people’s time, I was amused.)

It was a four and a half hour drive if I recall correctly. I do remember being the last school to show up so getting oriented, organized, and joining the other groups felt a bit chaotic. We were divided into four groups: A, B, C, and D, essentially by age. I stayed with D the whole time since each group allowed for all of us to pretty much do the same things, but at different times.

Parachute games were a great way to start off our group schedule.

The organizers kept us busy all day from activity to meals to short 10 minute breaks to get our gear and be out again. This made for tired students and staff, but looking back, they made sure we used our time wisely and got the most out of our experience.

After the parachute, we headed to the grasslands for some animal tracking. We found deer, elephant, buffalo, and possibly sunbear evidence. Scat anyone?
It was an easy walk that included a watchtower and salt lick (for the elephants – saw none, but lots of dung!).

DAY TWO:

Beware of monkey attack. Okay. Now, how about some tips if they do?

Like many of my colleagues and the students, I slept horribly. For me, being in a new environment did it. Also, we were warned about those horrible monkeys who could break into our rooms, destroy our belongings, and steal our food. Tack on noises that go bump in the night and I, for one, tossed and turned. But I was ready for the new day.

The Suratsawasdee campgrounds (at least for us adults) were better than I expected. Hot water!

Today we were going on a more “serious” hike through the forest. We divided into three groups within our group, so as to not make a lot of noise and probably for safety reasons as well.

It was lovely to be among such tall trees, breathe fresh air, and get some exercise!
The park ranger explains that this fallen tree is a cinnamon tree.

After the hike and lunch, we were exhausted. One of the BARGE leaders said it was the hottest that hike had ever been. And I didn’t expect some of the students to be so out-of-shape. I’m looking at you, smartphones. Plus, the children were working extra hard in English, not their mother tongue.

Deer spotting. (Actually, we saw a whole bunch of them.)

That evening was the night drive. Something I was looking forward to as we had watched two other groups go off the previous day. They luckily saw a leopard cat. We mostly saw deer, but we did see a porcupine which does not look like the ones from the U.S. These were so much more adorable.

For this excursion, I sat in the back of the truck with my students from another group. As we looked up at the stars and the spotlights looking for wildlife, they told me which students had crushes on who and who had a girlfriend or boyfriend. It was funny. I’ll have to conduct my own study in the classroom for the rest of the year.

DAY THREE:

We seem to hit our stride on day three. It might have been because we knew this was the last day or it might have just taken us time to adjust to the schedule. I suppose they were used to their BARGE leaders by now and I’m not ruling out a good night’s sleep either.

Today we went to the Lamtakhong Campground for macro-invertebrate hunting and clean water testing.

I rather liked this one because the kids were in the water trying to capture these little critters and then they did water testing to see if the water was clean. In other words, they learned that the cleaner the water is the more likely they will have macro-invertebrates living in it.

Afterward, we went to the Research Center and gift shop. The students had to ask a park ranger questions after watching a very good video on the park. I bought a t-shirt for the BF with the great hornbill on it. It’s an unusual bird that occupies the park. We saw and heard them on occasion. Actually, the park is a serious place for bird watching.

Lunchtime didn’t feel like the last lunch together, but when the students were sitting outside lined up by their school to head back into the vans to go home, that’s when it hit me. The students in unison said THANK YOU to the BARGE staff. There were speeches, and of course, group photos. (Actually, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s pictures.)

I was proud to hear from one of the staff that our students were their favorites by far. And I was pleased to hear from my students that they didn’t want to go home, they had fun, and were ready for the next adventure.

Thanks for the memories, Khao Yai.

19 thoughts on “Let’s go to Khao Yai National Park

  1. Wow, a three day school excursion to Khao Yai National Park. These excursions don’t come often. I remember at school we had school camps but I didn’t manage to participate in anything like this. I had no idea those monkeys could break into your rooms, and thought they would simply attack you if they say you hiking on the path outside. Now that you mention it, they sound vicious.

    The water testing part sounded like the hardest part of the trip – interesting the cleaner the water, the more macro-invertebrates living in it. I guess it makes sense. The cleaner the water, the more we drink that water too.

    That is a nice shot of your grinning with the peace sign. Did one your students take it for you? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha. I was taking so many photos of everything else that I tried to remember to take a few of myself – but yeah, I had to ask the students or staff.

      You brought up at good point which is these things don’t happen often. In fact, I was told this was years in the making both budget wise and planning. So, I’m really glad we were able to do this for the students.

      You know, when you’re in the moment it’s hard to tell the kind of impact these things will have. This week I’m in the class with the students so I’ll be keen to get everyone’s feedback.

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      1. You always, always should take a photo of yourself wherever you go, be it a selfie or ask someone to take that photo of you. Remember how much you were enjoying your time that way, or not 😀
        Hopefully the students remember the trip last week. If so, that’s class material right there.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This reminds me of my own school excursion decades ago. I remember being excited, happy and learned tons of real world stuff. I wish I went on more excursion back then and I hope they have it more frequent these days. We all need it! I wonder what’s the adult version of this? A retreat maybe?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, whenever we go to a museum or national park or whatever, I think about the tour guides and how we don’t always take advantage of them, but that’s what they are there for. But yeah, maybe a retreat. Often we have to create our own agenda, so it’s nice when you can sit back, so to speak, and have the schedule planned for you. I suppose that’s why old folks like packaged tours. Hahahaha.

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    1. I had to ask a birding friend. He said, “In Bangkok Suan Rot Fai (Railway Park) is a good place. Bang Poo in Samut Prakan is a good place for shore birds. ” Also, there’s a website thaibirding.com that you might want to check out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hugely helpful and much appreciated. I’m in bangkok next week for a city break and want to record some birds. I’ve looked at that park and it looks like a great location – I just pop up there and not have to risk getting eaten by anything! I’m looking through the website as well and have found another few as well because of it….so many thanks indeed Lani.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha. Well, you could find a sign shop? And ask for them to make you one?

      Glad you liked it. Cheers!

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  3. Fun! In South Africa, where people are also usually late, invitation start times often say, “6:30 for 7:00”. Like, “We’re telling you to arrive at 6:30 so hopefully you’ll be there by 7.” So confusing, I never know what to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is hella confusing. Hawaii is definitely a ‘late culture’ as in showing up at a party on time is considered rude. Thailand’s the same way, with expats becoming notoriously late as a result of conditioning – I guess. I’ve made my peace with it, but I still appreciate people who show up on time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a profound opportunity for the children to experience nature and understand its impact upon their lives. I’m so curious to find out whether any of it had any immediate impact upon the way they choose to make daily decisions about what they eat, the water they drink, or future hiking/camping trips they want to pursue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you’ve captured the core in your comment because this program normally works with international students. This was the first time they worked exclusively with Thais who will most likely con’t to work here and our hope is that they will take the things they learned and make a positive impact.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So much fun!! Doing something different is always nice (although I am always lazy BEFORE the event, just thinking about all the fuss, but then I actually have fun).
    I’m glad there were no monkey attacks, hahaha. God I hate monkeys…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Before the event I was too busy to get dread it, but having to work late and wake up early the following day for the trip made me wonder what I was getting into. Hahahahaha.

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  6. Glad to hear the trip and students went all well and had a good learning time. Social learning is good in the wilderness sanctuary.

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