LP doesn't really say how to get from a train station to any of the guest houses, no map of the town, no info at all. I have no idea what to do, but trusted that it will be ok. Tuk-tuks will know travelers guest houses, or will take me to a tourist agency from where I could book a trip. Still, I was a little bit anxious. The moment I got off the train, there was a woman passing by with brochures about the guest house, and all the tour options. This guest house is the most recommended one in LP! Free taxi to and from the train station is included! Can anything be easier than this?? The French guy who was on the same train as me said that India and Thailand are 2 opposites. In India you don't trust anybody, have to check and double check everything, if somebody offers you something, most likely it's a scam, while in Thailand you trust everybody.
We arrive at the guest house and 10 mins later I'm on a tour. We went for a swim and then to a bat cave. We saw bats flying, all 3 million of them(!) come out of a cave like a small twister flying in a cyclic motion. They hunt on insects and hawks hunt on bats. We stood there for half an hour and the stream didn't stop at all. Would've been cool if they all came out at once and spread out, but nope :(
I can't wake up again even though I slept for 8.5 hours. I'm trying to look for excuses when I glance through the window hoping it would rain. But I drag myself out of the bed and head for breakfast eating my eggs with toast while sitting across an arguing Belgium couple. In the jeep there was another French couple and they started talking in French between themselves. The awkward Taiwanese guys casually asked - "What language are you speaking?", they replied French. He's said "Oh, I don't understand anything you're saying" :) The jeep went quiet, and I was smiling to myself ... but I'm sure they could see my grin :) We arrived at a view point where we were given leeches socks. They're beige color, and come up to the knees. Oh leeches, awesome! We then saw 2 big toucan like birds, although through 5 telescopes that were set out for us. Seeing animals in the jungle is a myth. You're lucky if you'll spot one, and most likely you'd need a telescope to see it. LP describes this park as "up there on the podium with some of the world's greatest parks. It incorporates one of the largest intact monsoon forests remaining in the mainland Asia, which is why it was named a Unesco World Heritage Site". Even though it carries a Unesco World Heritage title, nobody of us was impressed. It's a jungle like any other jungle with no animals in sight.
At the next station, we saw a big Komodo dragon kind of lizard. One guy asked: what the difference between that thing and a crocodile is. I laughed at him, saying that this one is a lizard. Then I thought to myself. They're both prehistoric, look almost identical, swim in the same manner ... seriously, what's the difference ... suddenly it wasn't so funny anymore :) We then saw a yellow snake. It felt so smooth and rubbery to touch. Very cool. One little snake, and 20 people around it. It got quite an audience :)
We went for a walk in the jungle, but saw no animals, and I wasn't surprised. I'm thinking though, if we would've seen animals, as there are quite a lot of jungle walks, and say we bump into a tiger or a wild elephant ... what to do? How to act? We saw some spiders though. Oh man, these were huge spiders, the size of my hand, and it blends into surrounding so well. Every time I took my eyes off of it, I had to relocate it and to refocus my eyes again to find it. Too bad spiders are not camera friendly, and just as my eyes couldn't, the camera couldn't focus on it either. It blurred it, and focused past it. Other than that we saw mushrooms and big banyan trees. That's all :( It's a monsoon forest, and it gets quite a lot of rain. The path we went on lead to a valley, and we were sliding and falling while trying hardly to avoid the mud. It all went to vein because we then reached a place with knee deep mud and no way of getting around it. A few times, I thought that I'd lose my shoe in it, it just sucked my foot in, and it required a lot of strength to pull it out. I was very surprised that no buckles broke. All the way during the walk, we had to stop and check for leeches, I pulled out maybe 10, but none of them made it past the socks height :)
We stopped at one non impressive waterfall, where I spend most of the time cleaning my shoes. I could see its original color again, yeeiippiii :)
The rest of the trip we were driving around looking for more animals, and I didn't mind it at all because the road was absolutely beautiful. Deep deep jungle with endless lush greenery. We found a gigantic scorpion on the road. It was so beautiful, greenish blue in color and luckily non poisonous, or at least that's what the guides told us. Good for us, because they put it on their arm, and then asked if anymore wanted to take pictures. At first everybody hesitated and thought that it's a crazy idea, but then after the first girl tried it, a line formed. I was very hesitant, but at the end I agreed for them to put it on me as well. Where else will I get a gigantic scorpion picture with it sitting on my shoulder? :) What a rush ... my heart was beating fast ... very very fast :)
We then stopped to watch a family of monkeys monkeying around, checking for fleeces, ticks, mothers carrying babies. We were all spread out when we heard a call that an elephant was spotted, and to get into a jeep quick. It didn't even take 10 seconds for all the jeeps to fill up and to drive off with a maximum speed towards the elephant location. Earlier, the jeeps were crawling on the speed breakers, now it felt like we're gonna break the speed breakers. And forget about the speed limit, I think these cars just found out what their maximum speed is. Not very comforting when we're sitting in an open jeep with an open back, but luckily nobody fell out :) The elephant was like an elephant ... yeah ... :)
In the evening it rained hard and was very windy, and the mango tree that was growing on the property swung from side to side, dropping many many ripe and delicious mangoes which I of course collected and feasted on them for dinner and breakfast :)
The next day I arrived at a strategically good town of Khorat to see the nearby temples. While at the bus terminal, I had to find out the schedule of my next bus. I went to the ticket counter where they spoke no English. She wrote me on a piece of paper the time for the next bus. I asked her that I need to know all the times throughout the day, she didn't understand. When is the first bus? She didn't understand ... complicated. I pulled out my Lonely Planet book and flipped to a small dictionary section. I flipped through pages back and forth looking for the words I need. I found "Wednesday", pointed it to her, found "First" pointed it to her, and "Bus" ... success accomplished, she wrote me down all the morning buses :)
The hotel I went to is right near the street where all the intercity buses pass and stop to pick up passengers on the way. The lady in the reception was helping me for like half an hour, drawing me the map of the bus station, calling Tourist Police to find out the times and number of buses. I felt uncomfortable to bother her so much, and tried to leave, because I already had all the information, but she kept helping, and then asked me where I'm going tomorrow, and started to plan my day again. I realized that being bothered is more of a first world phenomenon. Here they'll help you till the end, till you get all the information, and be happy that they helped someone in need.
At the bus stop, all you need to do is stand there when someone will approach you and ask you where you're going in Thai of course, but the meaning is clear, they then will flag the right bus for you, because all the destination names on the front window are written only in Thai, and the bus number is only on the side which you'll see when the bus will be passing you by. The town with the temple was an hour away, and the temple wasn't that impressive. It's one of the must see sights, but actually since I left Bangkok, I would've happily missed all the sights I've seen. These temples don't stand a chance near Indian temples anyway, and I've already seen hundreds of them. I wasn't impressed by the temple, but what I liked more was just the experience of submersion into the Thai culture. I'm in a non touristic place right now, and the only tourist in the city is me. I love to feel the local way of life, and I don't mind to travel for an hour just to experience that. I also like trying new foods, and going into 7-11 grabbing a bag, and filling it with all the exotic things which I never tried before. Dried baby clams, tamarind candies, dehydrated longan meet, anchovy with fancy nuts, different candies and chocolates, yogurts, juices, jellies, teas ... So far so good, I just didn't like dehydrated longan meet, everything else was great! Oh, and the chocolates are not good :( I don't think they're good anywhere except Europe, so if I crave something sweet, I always get snickers, or M&Ms or Hershey’s :)
I'm practicing my Thai whenever I can. I'm trying to learn numbers now, but it took me the whole day to remember 1-5 :) Whenever I buy something I ask how to say it in Thai. One woman selling fruits tried to teach me the word for banana. Kloo-ay. I repeat, kloai, no klooooooai - kloowai? She's laughing, not a water buffalo, a banana! :)
Next day I went to another temple. This one was 2 hours away. If I had a chance, I would've skipped both of them, especially the 2nd one. They look almost identical. I had no idea how to get there from the next town, and LP says that it could be a little bit tricky. I asked the ticket checker how to get there? But he didn't know any English. Luckily one guy behind me started talking, they talked between themselves, and when the bus stopped, he motioned me to go with him. He pointed at himself and said the temple name. Great, he's going there too, and I can go with him! :) I thought that while we were at the bus station, we were waiting for the bus, but then a car came, and he told me to come inside. He pretty much dropped off a girl who was in the car to some university, and then gave me a ride to the temple which was half an hour away!! After we reached it, he gave me a low bow, a huge smile and drove away. I couldn't believe it. I hope he went somewhere near the temple and didn't go half an hour out of the way just to help me out! When I finished sightseeing, I had no idea how to get back. There was one Swiss couple and I asked them how they got here, they said that they have a driver, why? I said that I have no idea how to get out. They talked to their driver, and gave me a ride to the bus station. What a great way of getting around :)
I saw on the news that India has a 2nd power cut in 2 days, and now 600,000 million people are left without power. I wrote to Andy to ask him if he's ok because the power cut happened in his region. He said that he hasn't even noticed it. There are so many power cuts constantly that it felt completely normal :) Thank god that because of a very unstable electricity most of the places have generators, so in reality, unless the power is out for a long time, you wouldn't even feel it aside from the constant buzz in the air from the generators (I'm sure there isn't a generator big enough to power the whole subway though :) )
When I checked out of the hotel, the lady who owned it asked me if I had any comments about it. I said that it's one of the best hotels I've ever stayed in (for $10/night). It has a good location, it's super clean, nothing's broken, it's functional, the rooms are cleaned every day, there is a TV, mini fridge and a balcony in the room. She asked me if I had any suggestions for improvement, and I scratched my head in a response. She said that she's constantly upgrading and renovating it, and is always trying to make it better, because if guests feel well and welcomed in her hotel, it makes her happy. What a big contrast to India, where they'll just make their hotel get rotten over the years, and still charge the same price.