With KhunAnat, who later became Thai Minsiter of Agriculture, our heads rotated in circles as we stared at the swirls of rust and yellow pigment on a 600 foot vertical cliff in front of us. In 1985 there was nothing at all on Railei Beach, Krabi. A few weeks later I went with some friends and slept on the deserted beach, catching crabs and fish to cook over a fire.(Pramoen cooking pic) Even back then, we didn’t think it would last, but reveled in having a natural wonder all to yourselves. Today hotel rooms go for up to US$2,000 a night.
The North Andaman Region of Thailand is home to a large population of Burmese migrant workers who come with the hope of finding a living wage and a better way of life. Burmese children find themselves living as second class citizens without money to afford basic fees for enrollment, uniforms, and transportation to school. Their parents are often illegal migrant laborers, at risk of discrimination, arrest, and even deportation.
Until the school’s opening, there were no educational facilities for Burmese children in the Kuraburi area. The Learning Center can provide education for 80 children, following to the Burmese curriculum as well as lessons in Thai and English language. Additions like a secure fence and playground are still needed.
0:00 – (Walking time from start). My guide, Lek, and I were lucky enough to catch a ride to the alternate park entrance at KM111. At 8:30, we found ourselves a few kilometers up the highway from Khao Sok’s main road. This entrance is marked by a few signs and begins with a small wooden ladder. Make sure to pick up a stick from the pile, as they’re quite helpful on the steep, often slippery trail. This hike can only be done with a guide, as the trail is easy to lose and difficult to tread.
I first visited Thailand as a tourist in November of 2011 with two friends. None of us had traveled outside of the western world, and we were keen to see the exotic treasures that awaited us on distant tropical shores. We ogled at the pictures of the saturated blue ocean and the 5 star resorts that were only $50 dollars per night and thought it would be a cheaper, less-traveled version of Hawaii.
I arrived in Phuket and found many things: a few of them expected, many of them unwanted. The beaches were there, but so were the crowds, the trash. The things that struck me were the people trying to sell tourists pictures with their caged gibbons and langurs, and the children outside bars selling trinkets to drunken strangers at hours when they should be dreaming, not working.
Being there made me feel the negative effects of tourism like I never had before. For me, travel is a way of experiencing other ways of life and being inspired by the natural and cultural wonders of a destination. In Phuket it seemed that tourism had replaced Thai hospitality and natural beauty with second-rate resorts, overcrowded beaches, and a slew of problems that existed in between the tourist thoroughfares.
We left at about 3pm on a rainy day. I’ve always thought the best way to spend a rainy day in the jungle is to get in the water: this way you don’t mind getting wet along the hike because you’re going to get wet anyway! Here’s how you get there:
Khao Sok Homestay
Khao Sok National Park exudes a sort of uncommon beauty that attracts travelers year-round from all over the planet. With massive karsts and serene rivers, unspoiled rain forest and the unique wildlife within, Khao Sok provides unforgettable outdoor experiences in hiking, canoeing, and camping while still offering a space to slow down, relax, and breathe. After all, that is why you are staying at Our Jungle House – to have fun, to connect with nature, and to do so in a responsible way that ensures this land’s survival in the future.
Khao Sok’s relevant geologic history begins approximately 345 million years ago, during the Carboniferous period. At this time, the Shan Thai craton (a craton is an extremely old chunk of land that has been relatively stable) was actively eroding. Ancient mountains of the craton’s interior were slowly transferring their mass, via rivers carrying off gravels, sands, silts and mud, onto the continental shelf of the craton. This was similar to the modern day process of major river deltas (like the Mississippi or the Nile) extending out into the sea from the land. The sediments would accumulate on the edge of the shelf, just above a deep ocean basin. Every so often, the sediment pile would catastrophically collapse into the basin, sometimes triggered by earthquakes, to form chaotic deposits known as turbidites.
With a few minutes of preparation, headlamps, and water, we are ready to explore the night. Stepping out into the dark road, with Orion shinning brightly above us, we head out with hopes of a good hunt.
Khai and Mi are our two guides. Some initial small talk gets us a little background of our two experienced local guides. Khai, whose English isn’t too strong, still does a good job of explaining that he is 60 years old and comes from a small town nearby.