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In the second part of my series about our adventures with Greenleaf Guesthouse in the Khao Yai National Park, I’m writing about our half day tour package.
When you finished with this instalment, if you want to read the others then just click below.
We arrived at Greenleaf on a train from Bangkok to Pak Chong, in just enough time to have some lunch before heading out.
With a mix of couples from around the world (Poland, Italy, France and Belgium), we headed off for our evening of adventures.
Greenleaf Guesthouse Half Day Tour
Stop 1 – Ban Tha Chang Spring
The first stop off on the trip was the Ban Tha Chang Spring. With it being the weekend of Labour Day, it was really busy, with the local people coming to enjoy a splash around in the rejuvenating pools.
Ban Tha Chang Spring is famous for it’s crystalline blue waters, caused by the high calcium carbonate content. The spring is at the bottom of a limestone mountain, and it’s this that gives the water its beautiful blue colour.
Whilst we were playing around at the edge of the water, Joe our guide headed off and returned with a massive millipede! What a whopper! He let it have a walk on us. They are so strong, even when walking vertically it managed to cling on, giving us a little tickly massage.
Stop 2 – A Flock of Parakeets
The birding skills of the guides at Greenleaf Guesthouse are legendary, and they proved it as we were driving to our next destination. They pulled over to the side of the road, and asked us all to jump out.
After setting up the scope, they pointed out a big flock of parakeets settling down for the evening at the top of a tree. I have no idea how they managed to spot them from such a distance!
Stop 3 – Keaw Sara Pad Neuk Cave
The next stop was our first bat cave.
We were issued with torches, before heading down an incredibly steep staircase into the darkness.
It was an amazing place, also used by monks for meditation. Kudos to them for sitting down here by themselves in the dark. That is some serious commitment! There were lots of small shrines and statues that occasional appeared from the darkness to scare the life out of us!
One of our guides disappeared into the darkness whilst Joe was telling us about the history of the cave and came back with various little monsters, including this tailless whip scorpion. This little guy is technically a spider, but it only walks on six legs, with the front two modified for sensing its way around in the dark. Despite a rather menacing appearing, it is in fact completely harmless.
A little further on in the cave we found a tarantula sticking its head out a little alcove. Thankfully it was far too quick for Joe to catch it, a blessing if ever I’ve known one!
The main reason we were here was not for creepy-crawlies though, it was bats.
And whilst this was only a starter before the main course of two million later on, it was really impressive.
Joe took us gradually through the cave, using a number of different tactics to help us learn about them.
The best moment, was switching all the lights off and cupping our hands to our ears. He then made us creep slowly forward into a different part of the cave. The tinny squeaks grew louder, and the whooshing of wings seemed to be travelling right past us. When we switched the lights back on and looked up, we were underneath hundreds of them, stretching and testing their wings ahead of a long night of bug-catching.
It was a great experience, but not one for the claustrophobic or chiropterophobic (though if you are scared of bats, surely you’ve signed up for the wrong tour!)
One last gift in this rural location. We came out of the cave by a different entrance, and were greeted by the temple of Wat Sa Nam Sai with it’s striking hillside statue of Buddha protected by the seven headed Naga.
With the light fading, this was an unexpected addition to our nature-watching trip! As we wandered back to the truck, we saw monks sitting around drinking tea, looking completely content with the world. In a location like this, it’s not hard to understand why.
Stop 4 – Khao Luk Chang Cave
Our final stop was the ultimate one, and an experience that will rank right up there at the start of the highlight reel of our three month stay in Asia.
As dusk set in, and the sky turned from blue into an inky darkness, great waves of bats poured out of the cave above our head. We’d set up down the hill from the cave, as access is restricted, so we had the perfect viewing point to see the bats head off out into the distance.
The most striking thing was the noise. I’ve seen big murmurations of starlings like this as home, but I don’t recall the sounds that accompany them being quite this loud. Here the air was filled with the hum of wings beating. It was like an amplified version of the sounds you hear from a rotating fan, building as the bats came closer, and then quieting down as they made off over the hills. They came out in cycles, a constant stream, but not consistent numbers, giving a rise and fall to the sound.
We stood and watched for 15 minutes, and still they came. The official figure is somewhere around two million bats in this cave, that’s alot of logistics to work out for them! Eventually it became too dark to see them anymore, so we headed back to the truck.
With the full blood moon rising behind us, we bounced off down the dirt track back towards the Guesthouse, still dazed by an unforgettable experience.
One final surprise on the way back. One of the tour group had mentioned how much they loved mangoes so we stopped at the side of the road to do some negotiating with a local farmer. This was made much easier thanks to our Thai speaking guides!
I think we got a good deal? There was alot of shouting, pointing and squeezing, but we eventually walked away with two fresh mangoes to enjoy over the next couple of days.
All done for the day, we enjoyed green curry and fried rice back at the guesthouse, and headed to bed before another big day tomorrow.