What is the purpose of leeches??

Trip Start May 13, 2007
Trip End Jul 26, 2007

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Friday, May 25, 2007

My trip to Khao Yai National Park did not start well.  The morning I was due to leave, I  was packing everything back into my rucksack and the zip on the bottom of it broke.  Great.  So I had to rush to the 7-11, luckily for me, they had safety pins on display, or I don't know how I would have explained what it was I wanted!  So I got back, and with much difficulty, managed to pin the bottom of my rucksack together! 
My train was supposed to be leaving Ayuthaya for Pak Chong (a town just outside the National Park) at 10.45am, according to the train timetable on display at my guesthouse.  So I got to the station with half an hour to spare, so I'd have enough time to get my tickets if there was a queue.  There was no queue and when I asked for my tickets, I was told the train time had changed and it would not now be coming until 11.25, so I had over an hour to wait in the heat!  I just sat and minded my own business reading my book.  That is, until and old woman in her 70's came and sat next to me, put her hand on my leg and said I was very beautiful.  She then proceede to say something in Thai and started rubbing my leg!  Obviously, I didn't have a clue what she was talking about, so I just smiled politely and moved my leg away.  She kept saying something in Thai then eventually got up and left.  What the hell was all that about??  Anyway, my train was then delayed another half hour, and when it finally did turn up, it was the most rickety old thing I've ever seen. 
I got on and was shown to what I thought was my little seat, but turned out was actually a seat for 3 people.  So I pend the 2 and a half hour journey squished in the corner of a hard wooden seat.  Thankfully, unlike the 3rd class buses, the windows on the 3rd class train were all wide open, so it wasn't too hot!

When I did get off the train, a man from my guesthouse was waiting at the train station to take my to the guesthouse, so at least I didn't have to take a taxi!  It's costing me about 3 pound a night and I have a huge room with a double bed and my own bathroom, complete with a resident giant snail, who I have named Cecil.  Today he was joined by a toad, who I haven't got round to naming yet!

I arrived at 2.30 and just had time to get  quick shower and something to eat, before I was off on an evening tour to a hot spring and a bat cave, and then to watch the sunset.  There's only me and another English man staying at the guesthouse, a man about 40 called Ash, so it was just the 2 of us on the trip.  The spring was lovely and I had a nice long swim in it.  Our guide found us some weird looking bugs, and after much persuasion, I allowed a cicada and a giant millipede to be put on my hand.  The cicada just sat there, but I didn't like the millipede, it wriggled around too much and its legs felt weird!

From there, we were taken in the back of a pick-up truck to the bat cave.  We went down some very steep wooden steps to it and inside there were stalamites and stalagtites (they didn't come out too well on the photos) and lots of buddha shrines.  Our guide told us that monks go down there and sit in the dark for hours to meditiate.  As we got further and furthre into the cave, you could hear the bats sqeaking and feel their wings brushing past your face.  When the guide turned on the torch, they were flying everywhere and were hanging all over the roof.  They were so cute!  I captured a few of them with my camera, but they fly so fast!

After that, our guide drove us a little way away, so we could see the cave opening at the top of the hill.  As the sun started to go down, million of bats started to come out of the cave in a stream.  They were so dense it looked like smoke.  They all flew in formation.  A hawk was following them, trying to pick some off, so the kept changing direction.  It was amazing to watch.  The stream of bats lasted a good 40 minutes and I would estimated there must have been at least a million bats in that cave, probably more.  From there, it was back the guesthouse, but I didn't eat.  I seem to have lost my appetite recently, it must be the heat.
I had a beer (no my appetite for that has not disappeared!) then went to bed and read for a bit.  It was an 8am start in the morning for my all day trek in the park.

So, the next morning we left bright and early at 8am for the 40 minute drive to the National Park.  Again, we were in the back of a pick-up.  I like travelling this way, you get all the wind in your hair and it reminds me of how I used to travel in Malawi.  Only in these onese, there are padded benches built into the back, in Malawi you had to make do with the floor!  On the way, our guides kept stopping with their telescope and pointing out toucans and hornbills in the trees.  I got some good photos that my guide took through the telescope.  When we got to the park, we were given leech socks, which basically look like a xmas stocking.  You put them on, tuck your trousers into them and tie the tops as tight as you can to keep out the leeches.  And God was I thankful for those!
As soon as we stepped into the jungle, you looked down at the floor and could see leeches everywhere.  They wave their heads in the air, smelling for you, then as son as they can smell your blood, they come towards you like lightening.  We were trekking in the jungle for a couple of hours and every few minutes we had to check our legs and feet, and brush off the leeches that were climbing them.  If it wasn't for the socks, I would have been bitten all over my legs.  The trek was hard work but fun and the jungle was really beautiful, you could hear all the gibbon in the trees.  We didn't really see any wildlife, but I was secretly quite pleased not to come face to face with a tiger! After the trek, we stopped for a simple lunch of rice and vegtables lunch at a watchtower.  I was so impressed with our guide.  Everywhere looked exactly the same in the jungle to me, but somehow he knew exactly where he was going.

After lunch we were taken to the waterfall that Leonardo DiCaprio jumps form in 'The Beach' and our guide told us that every year tourists die trying to jump form it because there are so many rocks in the water at the bottom.  You'll be pleased to know I didn't attempt it!
I did get in the pool at the bottom though but didn't stay in too long as there were just too many rocks to swim.  We sat there for a while in the shade.  We then went back to the pick-up and drove around the park for a while to try to spot some animals.  We saw a massive troupe of gibbons, some of them with little tiny babies clinging to their stomach, so cute.  We also saw a giant black squirrel, some more pretty birds and a scorpion, which our guide picked up and put on his back so we could take photos of it!  Unfortunately, we didn't see any wild elephants.  We stopped to have some watermelon and watch the sunset, which was stunning then it was back to the guesthouse.

My appetite still hasn't returned, so I just had a beer and no dinner, beers got calories in it though!

My last day was spent doing my grammar assignment which I need to have finished before I start my teaching course in less than 2 weeks!  At 4 me and Ash took a local bus into town to visit the nightmarket, which is lots and lots of little food stalls that they have in most towns.  I found a sushi stall, which made me happy.  I'm yet to find a wine stall though!  I also saw some fried locusts and larvae, but I wasn't brave enough to try them!  I did settle for some gianormous grilled prawns which were yummy.  Guess my appetite is starting to return!

That night was spent back at the guesthouse, where quite a few other people had now arrived.  I ended up sitting round til quite late drinking cheap Thai Whiskey with a group of Canadians and a German couple. 

I've been eaten alive by the mosquitoes here and have huge red bites all over my legs and feet - very attractive!  Its a good job I'm taking antimalarials!

Again, all photos can be seen at: www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=23391&l=ae804&id=559965371

Hope everyone is well,
Lots of love
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