Biting my fingernails, my eyes were fixed to the ceilings; I had been dealing with this lingering question on my mind. What I shall do this holiday? A little while, a friend had called me, telling me about a trip organized by my University (Siam University). On my arrival to the University, I confirmed a three day field trip away from Bangkok to Khao Yai. As I haven’t been to Khao Yai, I concluded to myself that the trip would be boring. But, little did I know that the trip was something beyond my expectation and imagination, of which I later exclaimed that Khao Yai is WORTH IT ALL!

 ben

The Story:

I woke up with a frowned face, staggered my way to the bathroom to take my bath. As soon as I came out of the bathroom, I checked my phone, and I saw two missed calls from a friend who we previously agreed to leave home together to join the crew members. I had to call back to tell him I will be on my way soon. I sluggishly packed my stuff, slipped my feet into my shoes and majestically walked out of the room.

Getting to the university, I realized that everybody had been seated, waiting for me to arrive. When I got closer to the luxurious bus I saw a few of the crew members waiting outside with glaring faces as if I’d forgotten what the time was. I had to show some sign of remorse by apologizing for arriving late. The trip coordinator ordered everyone into the bus, for us to begin our much-expected journey. We kicked off from there to enroute Khao Yai. I asked the trip coordinator the distance to Khao Yai from Bangkok. He told me it should take no later than 4 hours.

Inside the bus, we had a note pad connected to the screen at the top of the bus. I could tell that most of the crew members if not all, were excited knowing that our first stop would be at Khao Yai. After for some time, I felt silence in the bus and decided to see if things were normal. I looked from where I sat to the far end of the bus. I noticed more than half of the crew members had fallen asleep (you know that feeling, when you can’t wait to arrive at a distant place, to make your journey shorter, you doze off with the intention that when you wake up you would be at your destination point) while, the rest were on their headphones. I capitalized on the silenced bus by reaching out for the book I came with (Barack Obama: Dreams from my Father). After I perused for some time, I thought of taking a nap before getting to our destination. A few minutes later, we stopped at the gas station for a 10 minute break and went back in the bus. After for some time, we had arrived in Khao Yai. I stuck my head out from the window to see things; all I could see was a quiet environment—as if we were in a graveyard. We all came out of the luxurious bus, assembled in the courtyard for some instructions from the trip coordinator on how our day would go before we headed our way to the lounge.

group picture
Some of the crew members with me second from the right.

 

Before the excitement began, we were told to place our bags on the seats of the bus for some time, in order for the trip staffs to arrange our rooms before sunset. We did as instructed and went our separate ways in search for the available games on the forecourt. Some of the members were seen taking pictures and selfies. I sneakily, left the crew to discover the purpose of travelling all the way from Bangkok to Khao Yai. I later found out there were a good number of games to be played such as: ATV, Paint Ball, Jet Rider, Mini Cart and etc. Of which I partook in some of the games. At the jet rider (that’s the water, rope swing), my turn into jump to the pond I didn’t tighten my water safety vest well enough, as I laid off my hands from a loop of webbing that was slung over the rope to a locking carabineer. Falling into the pond, I landed with force and was drowning and screaming for help. Two lads reached out for their hands to grab me out from the pond. The second time I jumped into the pond, it was totally a different scenario. Amongst, 9 game tickets that we purchased, I played at least 4 games before our day ended.

At 7.pm, we headed out for dinner, contemplating inside the bus on where to dine, as we were 42 members in the big luxurious bus it was really hard for us to find a restaurant that could serve us meals. We later concluded to dining at the Tesco Lotus where members can purchase their favorite meals. We spent a few hours there then headed back to our lounge. On our way back, the trip coordinator made an announcement about the next day’s program, he said we will be awake by 6.am, at 7.am we will have breakfast, and then at 9.am we will leave for another resort from there, and we will prepare for the big day ahead of us. We had arrived at the resort from Tesco Lotus at 10.pm, and I had gone to bed by 12midnight.

On the second day of the trip, we rose up at 6.am to prepare for breakfast. I went straight to the lavatory to brush up as I was given the coupon for the buffet and headed to the refectory for breakfast. After breakfast, I went back to the lounge to take my bath and prepare for the long day ahead. At 9.am we boarded for another exciting place, where we will relocate to a new resort. We arrived at another resort and we were told to keep our luggage and prepare for the stream and national park. The crew members were excited to hear national park. For me, as an African it sounded more like a normal thing. Even at the backyard of my village could be considered a national park on its own way. I rushed to the room and grabbed my Sony camera (model: Sony Cyber-shot H200) for the day. We headed our way to the stream.

cool stream
At the stream in Khao Yai: superb green algae at the depth of the stream. It’s so natural.

 

At the stream, the first thought that came in my mind was to strip off my clothes and start swimming as the stream brought back old memories (those days back in my village I used to visit streams almost every week). I could not swim because we were told not to, only to walk around and wait for the time to the national park. I looked around; I saw some of the crew members taking pictures and selfies and others littered around and villagers swimming and screaming in joyful mode whilst I was in search for a pen and a paper to compose a poem (at the stream in Khao Yai). I sat on a cornerstone that was right in front of me to jot down my observations in a poetic style. After for some time, we were called to assemble together, to set for the national park.

sunset
This is what Khao Yai National Park looks like as the sun prepares to set.

At the national park, getting out of the luxurious bus we came with, we were welcomed by the national park gate spectators in their army uniform. A friend whispered to me from a corner that “it’s going to be an exciting day,” and I responded “let’s wait and see”. We assembled beside the national park’s tall wrought-iron gate for some instructions and group photos before going into the national park in 4 separate pickup vans that would contain the whole crew. The van I boarded was the last to set off to the national park, as we drove through the narrow, and scary sloped-sided sides of the national park roads, I was terrified with this wooden sign post at the corners of the roads that read “beware of wild animals”. On the way, the van was silent, so I reached for a pen to write another poem (at the national park in Khao Yai). A few minutes later, we encountered a “family elephant” blocking our way all of a sudden our driver intensely stamped on the brake pedals as we lurched forward, lumping over a curb to vanish from the sight, as the other vans screeched from the elephant’s emergence. I stuck my head out from the side window and stared at the passing “family elephant”. I saw some of the crew members from different vans screaming and shouting in jubilation from encountering the elephants. It was terrifying and at the same time amazing. It was the best scene that made my day. I felt like I was in a scene in one of the national geographic documentaries.

elephants
Encountering the family elephant as they appeared from nowhere

After the elephant’s unexpected appearance, we kept going we saw different kinds of monkeys along the side roads, including little baboons and I immediately thought to myself; baboons are only found in Africa I never knew they could be seen in Asia, Thailand precisely. Well, we were still in the national park; we encountered several media operations, I was told that most of them were magazine publishing companies taking a distant photograph of a calf and a deer eating grass in a Serengeti. In my mind, I thought there were more to see than that. We continued to the waterfall.

waterfall
At the waterfall, dropping heavily and harsh

At our arrival to the path that will lead us to the waterfall, I rushed to the nearby latrine; coming out from the latrine I found out that some of the crew members had gone separate ways finding the paths that will lead them to the waterfall. In my mind, the environment seemed unsecured reading from a wooden sign with a simple white-script-type found at the entrance to the waterfall it reads the same terrifying warning I had earlier seen, but this time more specific as it recites: “beware of wild animals ranging from 4.pm onwards”. Immediately, I looked at my wristwatch the time was about 3.10 pm. I trembled in fear, so I hesitated in anxiety to join the remaining members of the crew that were left behind. As we were going down the hill toward the waterfall, we saw some foreigners returning, I was tempted to ask them how the place looked like, but they looked very busy and, were not in the mood to talk. I wondered if the place would meet my expectations. As we kept going, it felt like the more we went down the more terrifying it became. For some time, I decided to keep a bit pace from some of the crew members I was with because; I was walking with a pen and a paper to jot down some encounters. Instantly, I heard heavy, harsh waters dripping down from the high hill that we’ve since been toned down on. Finally, it was the anticipated waterfall.

Undoubtedly, it met my expectation. I tentatively smiled and sat on a wooden bench at the corner watching the waters as it dropped, meditating and writing another poem (at the waterfall in Khao Yai). The crew and I spent judicious time there and deliberately balled out. We went out to our respective vans and headed to the taxidermy located in the national park, where we had to wait in the lobby until sunset to go for animal night watch. I thought to myself we’ve seen it all; I didn’t know there was more to see. At 7.30pm; less than 22 degrees Celsius, we boarded again in the same pickup vans to go for the night watch. It’s going to take at least an hour I was told by the caretaker who at this time accompanied us with a handheld-spotlight with a large reflector. We left again for the night watch, on our way we saw one elephant and a doe (a female deer). It wasn’t special. We arrived back to the taxidermy lobby at 9.pm; from there we went back to the national park main exit tall wrought-iron gate where we parked our luxurious bus. We assembled before leaving for a dinner. After dinner, we arrived back to our resort at 11.pm and went to bed.

group shot in the road
Some of the crew members relaxing on the main road in Khao Yai national Park

On the last day of the trip, I woke up at 7.am prepared for breakfast and found my way to the refectory. After our breakfast, we were told to pack our luggage at once and this time we won’t be returning to the resort. We packed our luggage and left the resort at 9.am. We headed to the Palio (the Italian site) there, we spent two hours until noon. We left for the zoo. We arrived at the Khao Yai national zoo. There we saw so many different kinds of animals. The place was beautifully designed with animal cages, artificial rock caves for the big mammals and paved yards with tree lined boulevards. I asked a friend, “we should have come here earlier, it looks nice and worth spending the whole day in”. He responded, “how would I know, I haven’t been here before”. We spent at least three hours there before heading back to Bangkok. Inside the bus, almost all the crew members were sleeping including me due to the stressed day we had. One hour before Bangkok, I woke up to reach for the same book I came with, and I read until we arrived in Bangkok. At our arrival the Bangkok the roads were clogged with traffic. It was at the time I realized that we were truly in Bangkok. We arrived safely and got down from the bus before we headed to our respective apartments and condos.

I got to my room, offloaded my luggage in hesitation, immediately went to the lavatory to take my night bath and headed for a well deserving self-treat dinner. I came back to my room to ask myself, if the trip was worth all the stress and hassles. The answer was clear as I pulled a smile on my face and switched off the room light to sleep.

Note: At this point, I wonder if you still need a prophet to tell you to visit Khao Yai.

 

THE POEMS

  1. At the stream in khao yai

I sat on this abandoned cornerstone
watching kids swim and scream
I’m wondering without to bone
how this can be their dream.

Looking at the green meadows, my eyes were blessed
seeing nature as it takes its course
river shore shattered and messed
isn’t it exciting? Yes, of course.

I heard a splash of water from a corner
a boy threw himself fiercely to swim
swinging his arms like a drowning Rooster
he stumbled in the river as the sun dims.

Blatantly, I was filled with grin
as I see men grooving in joy
don’t take me away, this place is green
I dropped my pen as we deliberately balled out.

  1. At the waterfall

At the waterfall in Khao Yai
I fantasized, if it were my home
seeing as waters passed by
I was left to break a social norm.

I hear noisy water dripping from high
I prayed the water wash away my sins
I stared steadily as I was so nigh
it has been like this ever since.

Instantly, I was in nature mode
imagined what it will be without me
I came closer, I couldn’t believe I was bold
my friends said I was so mean.

Does it drip 24 hours? I asked David
he said “all year long”
suddenly, I was told to leave. It left me livid.
Leave me alone this is where I feel belonged.

  1. At the National Park

My eyes were filled with amazement
just like a floating man roving around.
The place reached my expectation,
toward, my arrival at the national park.

To the national park,
the entrance seemed unending.
The wind cries, as I trembled,
to take us to where animals dwell.

In a pickup van with a noisy crew
disturbing my meditation on this poem,
so freezing as I had goosebumps
I barely opened my eyes as the wind carried on.

On the way we encountered,
the family elephant blocking our path,
so terrifyingly, as we screamed and wailed,
but, the horrified scene made my day.

Oh! Khao Yai National Park,
I don’t want to be told the story with sighs,
I travel all away from Bangkok to be nigh.
Thanks to all the crew members and Mike.