Teacher Waryuna, (which, until quite recently I’ve been mistakingly pronouncing as ‘Wallender’) one of the English teachers I help, invited me to go with her family to ‘see big mountain’.
On Saturday morning, Waryuna, her husband, their daughter and her mother picked me up for what was going to be a classic family-with-young-child day trip. Despite reiterating for the whole journey that I’d already had breakfast, Waryuna insisted that I eat another. We stopped at a road side stall where we were presented with plates of Pad Thai, fried pork, soup and somtam, amoungst other things that I don’t want to eat before 9am ever again.
Having eaten copious amounts of food, we set off for Khao Yai National Park. Our first stop was Dasada, a Thai version of Kew Gardens which I firmly believe only photo opportunists visit. Giant greenhouses are filled with hanging seats, pretty carriages and benches, with the odd exotic plant or flower bed.
Much to my dismay, Waryuna insisted on having our picture taken at every plausible moment, resulting in in me looking like Moby Dick next to her size zero self. Humiliation paused for a moment, we finally drove up into the national park, where they charge foreigners triple the price of what it costs for a Thai national to visit. We steadily climbed the road in the pick up truck, passing numerous trails leading to waterfalls and other secluded areas of the forest. Eager to get out and explore, I realised Waryuna’s adorable daughter was to be the Clayton to my Tarzan dreams. Mountain trekking and waterfall frolicking just aren’t viable with a one year old in two, and for it I dread to think on what I missed out on. The scenery from the truck however was phenomenal and we got out at several viewing platforms where the sprawling jungle below was breathtaking to behold.
For lunch we had the most amazing Thai food that I’ve tasted. Stationed just outside of Khao Yai, we ate at a bustling roadside restaurant. Waryuna’s husband ordered an array of main courses that we all shared, despite still being outrageously full from my two breakfasts. The best dishes are always the simplest here, with my favourites on this occasion being the deep fried scrambled eggs and a delightfully sweet and salty sautéed young sunflower seeds.
Dragging my food baby along with me we set off for Palio, a bizarre Venecian looking village hidden behind the motorway. The shops and cafés are all very quaintly European, and very much out of place in the middle of rural Thailand. From organic farm shops to patisseries, Palio was a welcome change from the repetitive market stalls that dominate the rest of the country, and I happily bumbled along with a box of macaroons in hand and bags of strange exotic fruits to take home.