Friday, July 12, 2019

Travelling Hopefully - Environmental Devastation Edition

We spent a couple of days in a guesthouse on the edge of Khao Sok National Park.  There were trees, flowers and a small but rather enthusiastic river flowing nearby.  Sitting in the river while clinging to a rock to avoid being washed away was a great way to cool down.  There were also a wide variety of animals, I didn’t see any of them but I heard them at night unless it was the staff hiding in the bushes making animal noises.

For those who were keen there was the opportunity to do a night walk through the jungle.  It will come as a surprise to no one that I wasn’t among their number.  Instead I satiated my urge for adventure, such as it is, by eating dinner.  Our guide had pointed out that most Thai food we had eaten had been toned down for western tastes and that proper Thai food was much hotter.  A couple of us, including me, accepted the implied challenge and with his intercession persuaded the staff to provide us with a genuinely Thai version of what we’d ordered.  I’m pretty sure part of what he said was “please don’t kill these idiots”.  The food was indeed rather hot.  Quite hot actually but both of us agreed, through the tears streaming down our faces that it was delicious.

The next day we were herded onto a minibus and driven into the hinterland or at least into land somewhat more hinter than we had previously encountered.  Our destination was Cheow Lan Lake a vast expanse of aquamarine water surrounded by jungle and limestone cliffs with karsts sticking out of the water in picturesque positions.  A long tail boat ride took us across to a raft house where we were fed lunch and allowed to mess about in kayaks.  I did a certain amount of messing about in preparation for my upcoming sea kayak excursion.  Strangely on a millpond flat surface I managed to keep the bulk of myself dry.  Flushed with this rather trivial success I put my hand up for a three hour jungle walk to one of the caves which pretty much come as standard wherever limestone and water meet.

The very first thing we saw on our walk was elephant dung.  My god were we excited.  I don’t think an actual elephant would have been greeted with more enthusiasm.  Of course the question was asked asked, “might we perhaps encounter the beast whose bowel movements had given us so much pleasure?”  And of course the answer was “no, the droppings were a few days old.  The elephant had moved on probably to defecate on some other tourist trail.  It probably has a route.

Nevertheless with this faecal encouragement we set out in good spirits.  It was hardly hacking through the jungle as the path was perfectly good but the canopy closed over our heads, providing some welcome shade and it was easy to believe we were the only people for miles around.  We weren’t of course as the occasional group of walkers coming the other way made clear but they were out of sight soon enough.  Along the way a fuzzy orange caterpillar posed for photos and on the way back our guide tapped a stick outside a tarantulas burrow prompting it to leap out and scare the shit out of us.

I’m an absolute sucker for caves for reasons I prefer not to explore but with which a psychologist would probably have a field day.   This one wasn’t too large (or at least we didn’t go too far into it but it had beautiful rock formations, creepily appealing stalagmites and tites (maybe I should see that psychologist) and even a few bats although the battery ran out on my camera before I could photograph them.

I have to say the lake and it’s surrounds are one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen.  It’s a natural wonder.  Only it isn’t.  The lake is artificial, the result of a wacking great dam.  It was built to provide the locals with a reliable supply of water when the rain wasn’t cooperative and to restrict the amount of water when the rain tried to make up for its earlier tardiness.  Along the way they tossed in a hydroelectric station so the locals could get their hands on some of that newfangled electricity everyone was talking about.  Almost as an afterthought they tossed in some fish farms and opened the place to tourists.  This is environmental devastation done right.  I don’t know what the place looked like before but the very least you can say is that here the Thais have improved on perfection.

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