Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mai Thai Paradise: From Tree Top To Tree Top

Our first full day in Thailand was spent outside of Bangkok, away from the scams, smog and fumes. The 6 of us (Steve, Jay, Travis, Meg, Mitch, myself) all piled into a 10-passenger van at 6:30 in the morning and headed out to the wild. The day was spent out in the jungle!

The hour and a half ride took us through some shanty towns and run down areas of both Bangkok and the Thailand countryside. Upon arrival at the Khao Kheow Open Zoo, those images were soon replaced with luscious green trees, stands selling hundreds of bananas and other foods, and the smell of nature and living things. It was a welcome reprieve from the concrete jungle we had all come to know as Seoul.

The first thing on the agenda was breakfast. Now this was not your ordinary, Friday morning breakfast. While the meal was very western (fried eggs, toast, ham, bacon, sausage, butter/jam, tea/coffee, orange juice), the special guest was anything but. That's right folks - we ate our breakfast in the presence of Lisa the Orangutan! Granted, she didn't sit at our table and eat WITH us, but she was about 6 feet away, on her little perch, chowing down on coconuts, bananas, a cup of yogurt (she got every last big mind you!), and some other fruits that are native to Thailand. We were so enamored with her that we forgot about our own breakfast, leaving to become a massive smorgasbord for the resident flies. But we didn't care! How often do you get to be THIS close to an orangutan??

Following our delicious and extraordinary breakfast experience, we piled back into our van and headed to our next stop - the Flight of the Gibbons, aka jungle zip-lining!! Now this was not my first time zipping through the trees. My first time was when I was in Costa Rica, which followed an amazing horseback ride through the jungle. I also went zip-lining while I was in Switzerland over the 4th of July two summers ago. That was more of an ropes course/zip-line combo, but it still counts. Needless to say, I was super pumped to add Thailand to my list.

After getting all geared up, we met our guides, Peter Pan and Mr. Tiki. Awesome names. Awesome guides. We made our way up into the jungle a bit and then came up Platform #1. 24 platforms later we had zipped our way through the trees, seen a live monkey, and had an absolute amazing time doing it. There were some breathtaking views of the tree tops and the mountains surrounding us. Heck, I had such a great time that I even bought a clock with my picture on it!

Geared up and ready to go!
The group!

After coming out of the trees, we headed back to base camp and had a magnificent lunch! Fresh fruit, rice and steamed vegetables, and an amazing chicken soup! It was such an awesome break from Korean food. Following lunch, we headed out to ride some elephants. We took a nice, leisurely stroll up a hill, around a bend, and back to the beginning. The ride was slow and methodical, but not much else is to be expected from an elephant. The elephant that Mitch and I were on kept trying to pass Jay and Steve's (more like push it along the way - literally!), but to no avail. It still was a cool little journey. Check that "To-Do" off the list!

We then headed off to a couple of shows - a bird show and a mammal/tiger show. Prior to the tiger show, we had some time to walk through Den of Cats. Lions, Tigers, and Jaguars! Oh My! There were about 4 different kinds of tigers. I also learned that Siberian tigers are not just white! Did anyone else know this? Surprise of the day! During the tiger show, the heavens opened up and rain descended upon us. Luckily we were under an awning, so we didn't get TOO wet, but this also meant that we weren't able to feed the giraffes, hippos, and rhinos. This was a bit of a bummer, but still didn't put too much of a damper on the entire trip!

We all piled back into the van, exhausted, but fully satisfied with our day in the jungle. It was so great to be back out in nature, breathing in fresh air, and interacting with non-human beings. Hello Thailand!

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