Sleeping With the Elephants: an Unforgettable Camping Trip in Thailand

Camping has always been about “getting away from it all.” As if moving to southeast Asia wasn’t away enough, it was only months into my time here that I felt compelled to find the next place to pitch a tent.

Based on my early judgments of the country and its people, I didn’t expect Thailand to have the caliber of camping that I had grown accustomed to in my Evergreen State of Oregon. Not that I assumed Thai people were “too good” for camping; to the contrary, I didn’t see how they could find enjoyment in the closeness with nature and the seemingly silly decision to sleep on the ground when such an unfortunately large number of them didn’t have any choice but to live that way already. My adventure in Khao Yai national park proved me very wrong.

Ryan Farley / Own Work
Ryan Farley / Own Work

The decision to attempt a camping trip grew out of a conversation with another English teacher working in a rural town, looking to get some space from the extended family vibe of our communities. There are several national parks within the country’s borders, but Khao Yai (which translates to “Mountain(s) Big”) is by far the biggest and the most accommodating for staying longer than a day.

My friend was fortunate enough to only be about an hour’s drive from the park and drove her scooter there after school on the Friday we had agreed to meet. My journey was a much more difficult four hour bus ride, and landed me just outside the park after the gates had closed. At 11pm, with no pre-paid credit left on my burner phone, I felt like MacGyver without a paperclip. There were simply no options and I begrudgingly checked in to the nearest dive hotel and crashed until morning.

Ryan Farley / Own Work
Ryan Farley / Own Work