Author Archives: Paul

Short visit to Khao Yai

I notice there isn’t much written on Khao Yai National Park in here yet (or not that I could find). We, my family and I, just had a two day visit to there during Songkran and thought it was very nice. I would recommend anyone living in the area to visit.

Our access to Khao Yai National Park was through the Northern gate. As far as I know there are 2 gates that you can enter, one in the South and one in the North. All the accommodation within the park was full so we stayed in a Guest House just a few km from the gate, called Bann Kroo. Rooms in Bann Kroo cost us 300B per night and were small and simple but nice and exactly what we wanted. I thought it was a nice place and the owners were good people and I would recommend it for a simple, no fuss place to stay. There are many places to stay outside the park as well as accommodation within the park. However, within the park, the accommodation is often booked out on weekends and public holidays, so it is best to book in advance or be prepared to not stay in the park if you are there on a weekend / holiday.

Khao Yai is Thailand’s oldest National Park and one of the largest. It is not far from Bangkok and contains tigers, elephants, deer, monkeys, gibbons, bears, leopards, buffalo, crocodiles and much more.

Entry to the park cost 200B for me, 50B for the car, 20B each for Kanchana and her Mum and 10B for each of the kids. We drove the car through the park, looking for animals and stopping at a couple of lookouts. It was pretty nice scenery but nothing too exciting at first with the exception of reasonably fresh looking elephant poo on the road.

In many areas I could hear gibbons calling. I found a place where I could hear gibbons; there was room to stop the car and there was a track heading into the jungle. I headed into the jungle by myself to see if I could catch a glimpse of the gibbons. Kanchana (my fiance) and the kids were still quite unsure of walking in the jungle at this stage and wouldn’t come with me. After a 5 – 10 minute walk, keeping my eyes out for tigers and snakes, of which I saw none, I found the gibbons. I could only see one although there was at least three that I could hear. Interestingly I also noticed a nest, similar to an orangutan nest, which obviously belonged to the gibbons. I hadn’t previously realised they made nests. I watched them for a while and took some poor quality photos and then headed back to the car.

During the rest of our drive we also saw deer. We then walked a little around the Park HQ an saw a small cream coloured squirrel and a giant squirrel and heard more gibbons. Oh, also saw a few small lizards.

We also had a chat to one of the park rangers which was interesting. Khao Yai National Park is attached to some other National Parks and wilderness areas, making up a fairly large area of jungle. The ranger we were speaking to worked in an area that made up about a fifth of this jungle. Over the past 4 years he has had various cameras permanently set up in his area and in that time (4 years), they have taken 4 pictures of a tiger. I couldn’t understand enough to be sure, but I think this was the same tiger each time. Hmmm, the chances of tigers surviving in the Khao Yai area seem very poor. Judging by this, there may only be 4 or 5 tigers in the Khao Yai jungle, if that many. There are still poachers coming into the park to hunt for tigers and other animals as well as to take timber and other jungle products (Is this largely for the Chinese market???). There is a considerable effort to stop this, but it has not yet been totally stopped. Just another one or two tigers killed by poachers would be enough to guarantee the extinction of tigers in this region. The ranger said about 180 elephants lived in Khao Yai National Park.

In the evening we went back to the park to do a night safari drive which cost 430B for 5 people and included a truck, driver and spotter with spot light. We had paid for this during the day and so we didn’t have to pay to come back into the park. We saw a lot more deer and a civet. No elephants, which was a disappointment for Kanchana, who loves elephants.

The next morning we drove home via lunch at a waterfall somewhere near Saraburi.

Khao Yai was good and we already plan to go back.

Playful kids

Hi. I have been noticing, since my most recent return from Australia, that you see a lot of young kids in Thailand. Maybe some Thai readers may be surprised to hear that in Western countries it is unusual to see so many young people. They are not such a normal part of life as they are here in the Kingdom.

There are many reasons why Thailand is such a relaxed and happy place but perhaps this is one that is often overlooked. Having little kids running around being normal little kids is such a joy. The Dalai Lama suggests to the world leaders that they should hold their summits with their families, perhaps over a BBQ or picnic. Having children around reminds us of humanity and of the requirement for adults to be responsible. It also adds a sense of fun and innocent happiness.

In my Moo Ban there are lots of young kids freely playing around at the moment as it is school holidays. They are happy and a part of the community and everyone watches out for them and people drive a bit slower and stop and say hello to them. In Australia it is unusual to see so many young kids freely walking or riding their bikes around. Their parents live in fear of the strangers and so the kids are often kept inside out of harms way – but also out of the community and out of every day life.

When we go to lunch at the local restaurant here. There is a young toddler there. Her Mum works in the restaurant and her grandparents also (they own it). How wonderful is that?!? Three generations together every day. The young girl knows all the regular customers and comes and says hi and often collects our money. In such an environment it is very difficult for someone to be angry or depressed for long. Young kids take that opportunity away from people.

There is no great point to this blog, just to point out that it is great to have kids around and as a part of normal everyday life. I hope that doesn’t stop.

Health of Buddhism in Thailand

Hi. Sorry I have not written for so long. I have recently come back from working in Australia and am so happy to be back home in Thailand. The contrast between the two countries always makes me appreciate it here so much.

The Thai people are in general so nice and Thai culture is beautiful and even the current political trouble just leads me to appreciate that democracy here is live and well (compared to Australia where politicians can be as corrupt and immoral as they want and no one will raise an eyebrow).

However not everything here is perfect. One thing that concerns me is the state of Buddhism here. I am a Buddhist and I think it is a wonderful philosophy that can help people rid themselves of suffering and generate greater compassion to all living things. In short I believe it has the potential to greatly improve someone’s life and indeed the whole world.

But in Thailand it seems that for many people Buddhism is about merit making. About giving money to monks and about trying to improve your own social status. Sorry but to me this is not Buddhism.

Buddha clearly taught about not wanting such things as money or social status. It is of no value to pray to a statue of Buddha and ask for such things. The statue is just a statue. It has no power. All power to change your life is within your mind. By being greedy and wanting more, you are grasping. Buddhism teaches to stop grasping. Be happy with what you have and try to help others.

Meditation is a cornerstone of Buddhism. It is through meditation that someone can improve their mind. Yet giving money and rituals (that I believe have little or nothing to do with the teachings of Buddha) seem to be what many Thais understand as Buddhism.

Some of these rituals are harmless and may provide some good feelings to people. I am not suggesting that they need to totally disappear. But it seems they do need to be put back in their place and the Sangha here should do more to teach about the Buddha’s teachings and remove themselves more and more from the requirement for money and the performance of too many of these rituals.

What do people think of that? Expecially Thai people?

I hope people don’t think I am being rude or telling Thai people what to think, but it does seem to me that many people that think they are very good Buddhists have in fact totally missed the point. In fact if they could grasp the main teachings they would have a happier life.

Learning Thai language at a language school – GOOD

Yesterday I finished my 40 hours of learning Basic Thai language with Thai Solutions (www.thaisolutions1502.com). It was a bit sad to finish the course as it has been very enjoyable, educational and I will miss the interaction with the excellent staff at Thai Solutions who have been very nice to me.

I have been meaning to write about my experience learning Thai language for a while as I would like to encourage others to learn Thai. It is a very beneficial thing to do. But I must admit that now I have finished the course and experienced the wonderful teachers at Thai Solutions, I also want to blatantly advertise for them as well.

Learning Thai is much easier than it seems, although I am not yet fluent and certainly it does take work, it is possible. If you are lazy, like me, there are plenty of companies available (in Bangkok and Chiang Mai at least) that can teach foreigners Thai language. I have only experienced one, but I would assume and hope that most others are probably pretty good also.

My course cost about 5000 Baht (I think) and it was done 3 days a week, 2 hours per day. My teacher was an excellent teacher who taught us not only Thai language but passed on plenty of information about Thai culture as well. She spoke very good English and understood the learning difficulties that foreigners have with Thai language.

In the class were 3 other people, an English man, an Indian woman and a Filipino woman, who were all very nice and fun to learn with. The classes were relaxed and enjoyable (as you’d expect in Thailand) and there was plenty of opportunity to ask questions and go at whatever pace suited. Most of us could speak a tiny amount of Thai before we started and the group structure was very good for us, although our teacher suggested that perhaps some-one with absolutely no knowledge of Thai would be better off studying 1 on 1 with a teacher to start with.

By the end of the course, I am still not a fluent Thai speaker, but I am much closer than I was before. For example, I still cannot understand most of what is being said on Thai TV; however my conversations with taxi drivers can go for about 15 minutes with a reasonable amount of information being exchanged. Prior to the course, I could say hello, how are you, where I wanted to go, how much and thank you. Not exactly in depth discussions. My ability to communicate with my girlfriend’s kids has increased as has my ability to communicate to the people I interact with everyday, making my life and theirs, better.

About a third of the way through the course, I took some Australian volunteers to Chiang Rai and we traveled through some hill tribe villages and taught some Basic English. I was very happy to be able to communicate and understand much more from the local people than I previously could and pass that on to the volunteers. Having a bit more Thai language I was even able to help my monk friend and his Abbott teach meditation to the Australian volunteers.

One of the interesting things I learnt from being able to talk to the hill tribe people was this: One lady asked me how much I would sell the photos I was taking of her and the other hill tribe people for. I said that I would not sell them, they were to keep and show my friends and family. She said no, some of the hill tribe people had been to the city and seen the post cards for sale with hill tribe people on them. They had made the logical deduction that the westerners who travel so far with such expensive camera equipment and constantly take photos must be doing it to make money. She eventually believed me that only a few people sell their photos and for most they are just to keep and show family. It made me even more amazed at how polite, considerate and kind these people are, that they had thought that we were making money from them, but still they were always the most hospitable and kind people to us.

Clearly anyone who is living or staying in Thailand for a reasonable time could benefit from learning Thai. Your experiences and understanding will greatly improve and you will get much more from your stay. Added to that, I found studying Thai was fun and I am motivated to continue with my studies so as I can one day be fluent.

Suan Serithai

It is rainy season now and it has been bucketing down here. Loud thunder claps were going off nearby and the soi was full of big puddles. But now it has stopped and I can walk to the market for lunch. I walk down my soi and cross Thannon Serithai. Instead of going straight to the market I decide today to go through the park.

I live opposite Suan Serithai and love it very much. I come here almost everyday to run or use the gym equipment that is provided free by the government and some of the local residents. The other day as I entered the park for a walk I saw a squirrel running up a tree. Today I see a medium sized lizard just inside the gate. I look at him, he looks at me. As I go closer for a better look he dives into the lake to get away from me. I keep on walking. There are lots of sparrows and little fan- tailed birds dancing about.

It is almost 2km around the walking path. I go over the large bridge and stop half way over. The big fish are jumping today and giving me a good view of them. They seem happy with the rain. The turtles seem less happy and are sitting up out of the water. I watch them for a few minutes and then keep on walking. A man rides past on a bike, he smiles and says hello. Almost all the people I walk past always smile and many say hello (Sawat Dii) and quite often people stop and talk also. Thai people are very friendly.

As I go a bit further I see a small animal, about the size of a sparrow moving in the grass ahead of me. I don’t take much notice, but as I get closer it doesn’t fly away like a sparrow would. I look down. It is a small fish. How did it get here? WOW! It was raining very heavily, but was it so heavy that it was raining fish? A bird could have dropped it. There are lots of birds flying around in the park but I have never seen one, in the park, big enough to carry this fish. I don’t know. Maybe the Monitor Lizards dropped it here? But they could swallow this fish in a gulp, so why would they drop it? I can’t see any around and there are not many people here to scare them into dropping a fish. I don’t know.

Anyway, I pick it up. It slips out of my hands. I pick the fish up again and take it and put it in the water. I keep on walking.

Around the next bend I see 3 monitor lizards. 1 medium sized one and 2 big ones that are in an embrace. I have never seen them hug each other like that, with their front two legs wrapped around each other’s chests. Are they fighting or hugging? So, maybe it was the lizards that dropped the fish. The man on the bike rides past again but this time stops and chats. He tells me what these lizards are called in Thai language and mentions that it means bad luck if they come inside your house. Hmmm, they are big, so I think it would be very bad luck if they came into my small 1 bedroom apartment. The man has a son who studied in Melbourne. He met a Japanese lady there and they are married, now living in Bangkok. The man also has a daughter. She is a receptionist in a hotel. The man’s wife is at work. It is very easy to make friends with Thai people. The man rides off. I keep walking.

After a while the man appears again and stops and talks some more. He says I am very friendly looking. He goes again to do another lap and I keep walking. Now, near the end of my walk, I see a small animal about the size of a mouse moving on the path ahead of me. As I get closer it moves into the puddle. It is another fish. Hmmm, OK, it wasn’t the lizards that dropped the last one. The banks of the lake are very big and it would take a big jump for these little fish to get out of the pond and onto the ground. But I think this is what they have done. My theory is that these little fish, after heavy rain, jump from their homes into the puddles and perhaps into the next lake or river. In the wild this would help this species populate other rivers and lakes and would improve the chances of survival of the species. Now I think they did not come down with the rain, the birds did not drop them and neither did the monitor lizards. The fish are ‘programmed’ to jump from one water source to another, after heavy rains produce puddles and swell the rivers and lakes.

I pick this one up. It slips out. I pick it up again and put it back in the lake. I hope my theory is correct and I am not hurting the little fish by putting it back in the lake, but it cannot survive in that puddle. I keep on walking, in the Moo Baan and to the markets to get some lunch. I love it in Thailand. It is a beautiful place, filled with fascinating creatures and wonderful people.

Does anyone what these little fish are? Do you think my theory is correct?