Your Southeast Asia: Tales From Thailand
Audley clients Judy Hilton, Katie Howe, Val Skinner and Matthew Osmond recently visited Thailand on separate trips. Highlights included being woken by the calls of gibbons and training as an elephant mahout for the day.
We were woken in the morning by the most amazing concert of animal noises, particularly the gibbons.
The most memorable part of our trip was a visit to Khao Sok National Park. The elephant sanctuary was magical. I felt truly honoured to come into such close contact with this majestic animal. However, it may take me some time to get over the fear of watching my ten year old son chopping the elephant food with an enormous machete! The fixed tent hotel was elegant, with a real feel for its location and clearly with an environmental passion.
Next we headed to the Chiao Lan reservoir. The boat trip across this enormous stretch of water gave us a feel for the enormous scale of the reservoir and national park, and the excitement of seeing our floating tents for the first time was enormous. Our son tried to jump up and down with joy in the narrow boat, which could have ended in disaster.
I would like to describe the accommodation as peaceful, but it was anything but. We were woken in the morning by the most amazing concert of animal noises, particularly the gibbons. The minute it was light (about 5am), the jungle came to life and sounded like a school playground. I lay in my bed and listened for an hour before going outside the tent to see the mirror-still lake with the crystal clear reflections of the enormous trees.
We went on the kayak trip and loved watching the gibbons, but the best moments were when we kayaked on our own as quietly as we could, floating and watching. On one of these trips we saw gibbons, a stump-tailed macaque and sun bears running away through the undergrowth. The colours and sounds will live with me forever.
The camp is completely surrounded by jungle and is totally self-sufficient so there are no distractions for the sights and sounds of the lake and jungle.
In February 2013 we were lucky enough to visit Thailand again and this time we visited Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp in the Khao Sok National Park, where we had a lovely time with a canoe ride on the Sok River and elephant feeding nearby. This was a lovely experience but what came next was amazing.
The second part of our trip was to the Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp where we stayed at the floating tented camp on Cheow Larn Lake in Khao Sok National Park. The sheer beauty of the surrounding was fantastic and the sounds of the animals and insects as the sun went down over the surrounding jungle, was magical.
The camp is completely surrounded by jungle and is totally self-sufficient so there are no distractions from the sights and sounds of the lake and jungle. We spotted langur monkeys and heard the gibbons chattering to each other. We heard the eerily booming sounds of other monkeys nearby and saw hornbills and fish eagles above when we were swimming in the lovely warm waters of the lake — we had steps down into the lake from our floating tent. Luckily, we thought this experience looked so good we booked ourselves in for two nights and we were so glad we did.
The setting, food and accommodation were all superb but ah, the elephants, they stole the show every time.
We were blown away by the Anantara Golden Triangle. Having invested quite a lot of our budget in a two-night stay here it would have been easy to fall short of our expectations, but it really was a perfect experience. The staff were wonderful; the service was just so informal but attentive and always with that Thai smile.
The setting, food and accommodation were all superb but ah, the elephants, they stole the show every time. From that distant dawn trumpet call to watching them emerge from the morning mist my heart was sold. Our day's mahout training was just the best day, especially when we were able to take them in the river for their afternoon nap. I must admit I was a bit nervous about this when it was mentioned but my elephant, Jenny, was such a sweetie that it felt like the most natural thing in the world.
The highlight among many of our trip to Thailand was stepping out from our floating tent to get into kayaks to paddle into the rainforest.
Gibbons at 6am. The highlight among many of our trip to Thailand was stepping out from our floating tent to get into kayaks to paddle into the rainforest. The complete freedom of being miles from anywhere as the sun was rising in the middle of a rainforest takes some beating. And then to top it all we saw our first gibbons. Not a bad way to start the day!
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