Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Waterfalls

This weekend was one of the best I've had in Thailand :)

Several friends and I went to a national park in Nakorn Nayok province for two days and a night. The main attraction, of course, was a picturesque waterfall cascading off a mountain cliff in the middle of the jungle. 

We left Bangkok on Saturday morning in a rental bus big enough for about fifty people, though there were only about 25 of us going. 

We were also accompanied by Gorilla, a baby hedgehog barely three weeks old

On the two-ish hour drive to the park, we played Thai car games (which can be painful!) and watched as the scenery slowly turned from a dirty concrete jungle to a vibrant green jungle full of wildlife, mountains, and foliage. 

Bangkok, you see, is as flat as a rock. There are absolutely no mountains, no hills, not even a 10cm elevation difference in any part of the city (or so it seems). This makes for great bike riding, but it's not so appealing to look at day after day. In addition, the entirety of Bangkok is a whopping one meter above sea level - in combination with the tiny bit of wind that reaches the city, the sheer density of the air is as much a choking hazard as a happy meal toy.

That was one of the best parts about this trip - the air. It was 'mountain fresh' as Glade would say, and the air was much less dense in the higher reaches of the mountains. 

We arrived at the province around midday and went to a little trickling river where we played football and frisbee in the water after completing an obstacle course near the banks. A footbridge we were resting on collapsed into the frigid water as several of us were sitting on it. You could hear the shrieks of surprise for miles kilometers around.

I had the best ever coconut ice cream here, at this bank next to a river in the middle of a jungle in central Thailand, an unusual place for such a feat but nevertheless it was the best I've ever tasted. Unlike in America, isa-creem maprao, or coconut ice cream, is made from the water from young coconuts combined with palm sugar and frozen into a creamy delishesness - meaning it's completely vegan. Also, it's served on a hot dog bun with sticky rice and peanuts. It sounds weird, but it wins the award for my favorite dessert of all time. Get owned, brownies ;)

We played in the river for a few hours before heading to the 'resort' (so it was called) for the rest of the night. Since this was a sort of retreat, there were activities planned for us when we arrived at the resort. The first plan of action was to create a skit with four randomly chosen teammates. 

Photo by Khem 
I didn't really understand my group's skit but that's okay, I was the only foreigner on my team. They planned it out in Thai as I listened attentively trying to pick out words I knew. I wasn't really sure of my role either, but it all worked out in the end lol. My group got the award for best dramatic acting!

The next morning, we packed our bags and headed to the waterfall in a national park called Kao Yai. After our bus parked we still had about a ten minute walk to the entrance of the park, and all along this path were vendors selling fruits, nuts, and a host of other treats. 

We ate lunch before going to the base of the waterfall - I had pad seyoo, which is stir-fried wide rice noodles with vegetables. It wasn't what I ordered but that tends to happen relatively often. Luckily there was no meat in it so I ate it anyway. One time I ordered stir-fried vegetables and received a chicken dish. I told the waitress what happened, and a few seconds later she handed me a new dish. I soon found out that she took it to the kitchen, where I couldn't see her, and picked out the chicken. I know because there were still little bits of chicken left under some of the vegetables. 

After lunch we climbed the hundred or so steps to the base of the waterfall. There was a small pool at the bottom where we played frisbee and swam around. 

Photo by Khem
Several people wanted to go to the top of the waterfall, and since we didn't know that there was a path at the time, we started to climb up the face of the mountain in nothing but flip flops. It was extremely hard to climb and I thought at two different times I was going to fall off the cliffside. Luckily a friend helped me through those parts and I lived lol. My friend Goi was in a similar position - she said if I hadn't been there she would have fallen off the cliff. Obviously there are no pictures of this part, nobody wanted to take their hands off the rock holds lol

When we finally reached the top, there was a smaller waterfall feeding the larger waterfall. It cascaded into a deep pool that was quite a bit larger than the pool at the base. Several of us climbed to the top of the smaller waterfall and jumped into the pool. It was an experience - and I can now safely say that I have done a front flip off the top of a world heritage site :)

We had to leave the falls a few hours before sunset to go back to Bangkok. On the way out I bought some boiled peanuts (they were purple/blue inside), quite possible the best peanuts I've ever tasted. 

I met a lot of new people on this trip, and I will never regret going. The scenery was fantastic and it was an altogether exciting weekend.

In other news, the cool season went as fast as it came. It only lasted about a week - it is now the hot season! The high has been in the 90's consistently over the past couple weeks and is steadily climbing. It still has not rained since the rainy season ended over thirty days ago. Luckily the sky is a bright blue every day, something of a mood booster after five months of constant rainfall :)

This morning was the first time in my life that I have ever swam outdoors during December. And let me tell you, I love it. Judging from all the statuses on facebook, it sounds like America is experiencing quite a bit of winter weather. That is one season I am not going to regret missing ;)

coconut ice cream source