An Elephant Highway

“Its been agreed the whole world stinks, so no-one’s taking showers anymore.”– Paper Thin Walls, Modest Mouse

monkeycar - EditedI’m pretty sure Isaac Brock didn’t write Paper Thin Walls about camping, but waking up today that was certainly the song lyric that kept going round in my head. Since I woke up late (god, I hate that I consider 8am to be ‘late’ now) I only had time to eat the food that was shoved at me after leaving my tent before we all bundled into the car, leaving me showerless and feeling pretty horrible. I also felt a bit bad that I’d snapped at Bubpha after she shouted at me from the outside the tent to wake me up, but hopefully she understood that it was because I’m not much of a morning person.

I think I’m starting to see a pattern in my weekend travelling – I’ll arrive at a place, set my sights on a certain destination within that place, then spend hours getting distracted and lost before eventually arriving at it. The Nakhon Nayok waterfall we headed to today was no exception to this pattern, but since I was travelling in a group I had no say in what these distractions would be. To be fair, nobody had any say in the first couple. After we waited around at a nearby service station as Bubpha’s car had a flat tyre that needed fixing, we headed out on the road out of Khao Yai’s national park, only to be stopped by a procession of cars moving very slowly. It soon became apparent that there was an elephant in front of them, which is probably one of the best causes of a traffic jam ever.

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I got out and started walking towards it, figuring that its very slow movement would mean we’d be waiting for a while. Several other drivers had the same idea and there was soon a swarm of us taking photos of the elephant’s Sunday morning stroll down the motorway, before it finally made a turn into the forest and let everyone move on again.

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So that was a decent enough start, but everything became a bit too predictable after that. We stopped to eat at a Chinese restaurant that I assume was much closer to actual Chinese food than Britain’s interpretation of it is, and after that we checked out some markets. The first, only about 5 minutes away from the restaurant, consisted of a whole street of Thai sweets and fruit, whereas the second much further into Nakhon Nayok was massive and crowded, consisting mainly of cheap clothing shops. It was near impossible to move through the crowds of people and in my unwashed state I got very hot and moody whilst attempting to get from one side to the other. Eventually I ducked into a coffee shop and waited there for the rest of the group, since I realised that despite the size this clothes market wasn’t much different to all of the others I’d seen. Plus I had little interest in buying fake Abercrombie & Fitch shirts (or real ones, for that matter), so in general the appeal of these places to me is very limited when compared to coffee.

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We finally made it to the waterfall at about 3, by which point I was dying to jump in and actually bathe myself in some source of water. It turned out that the ‘waterfall’ was more of a river with a few small drops and a rapid current, but that wasn’t a disappointment. After submerging myself and feeling clean for the first time today I grabbed a rubber ring and was pushed around by Bubpha’s next-door neighbour’s son as we rode through the current and further out into the lake, eventually making it to the shore when I got worried I’d be caught by the current and swept out to sea.

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It became obvious very quickly that Nakhon Nayok was not the most popular destination for Western tourists, and looking around I could only see massive crowds of locals, all of whom seemed very excited about the presence of a westerner. This led to many people trying to take stealthy photos with me in them, including a girl who literally stood in front of me and posed as I was climbing onto shore with the rubber dinghy. My favourite was probably the guy who shouted “Welcome to Africa!” at me. Mate, I know tourists don’t always have the greatest local knowledge and can be exploited because of it, but we do generally know what country we’re in. It would have made my visa application a lot more difficult had I not.

I finally had one guy come up to me and ask for photos rather than taking them from afar, which resulted in us sitting with his work outing group for a bit in the water afterwards. Bubpha translated for me and told me the man in question was very drunk, although by that point I had worked this out from the amount of times he was trying to shake my hand.

We left shortly afterwards and unlike earlier I actually felt refreshed and relaxed. Driving down the motorway I took a photo of the forest mountain that dwarfed the view in front of us as if it had been painted on. In England you’d have to do a lot of searching to find a horizon like this – here you can turn your head and see one in front of you.

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Come on England, sort it out.

PS

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