Sleeping With the Elephants: an Unforgettable Camping Trip in Thailand
I may be editorializing to say that my partner in crime and I made jokes about the goofy looking, baggy socks that other hikers were wearing; but at the very least, I noticed them without really comprehending their true purpose: Leeches. I don’t know how long they had been squirming and throbbing on my exposed ankles, because honestly, how often do you look at your own feet? I do know that I ripped off approximately twenty or thirty more than I’m comfortable with before returning safely to my tent.
Because it’s Thailand, there was an amazing one woman restaurant/shack just out of sight of our camp tent and we spent the twilight hours eating fried rice and coconut curry soup. The ratio of bites of food to checking the bites on our ankles (to make sure no new bloodsuckers had found us) was probably 1:3. It was at dinner that we learned of a nighttime safari to see the wild animals that roamed through the park after dinner.
The trek was in the back of a sputtering pickup truck with a silent guide whose spotlight spoke for her. The other participants were a shy family of five, my fellow teacher, and me. My inherent pessimism told me that this would be a relaxing nocturnal journey through a jungle of skittish wildlife, who had no interest in mingling with the likes of us. For the first twenty minutes of the ride I settled in to the cool breeze and the comfort of my accurate forecast.
I’ll never figure out how such giant creatures do it, but a herd (yes, a herd of 12 or 13) of elephants faded into view directly next to us. The two dozen metric tons of tusks and trunks swayed silently alongside the truck, taking little notice of our excited giggles and finger pointing. In the hour that followed we added monkeys, deer and hedgehogs to the roster. The guide broke her silence to tell us that if we were very lucky we would get to see one of the few clouded leopards that lived in the park. No such sighting took place, but we were hard pressed to feel disappointed.
Like all of my trips in Thailand, I spent the boring bus ride home reflecting on the weekend and its experiences. I wondered if there were other, equally exotic camping options available to be explored — and how much a pair of those goofy socks would cost me.