19.05.2007 - 19.05.2007 36 °C
After breakfasting in Ayutthaya we caught a second train to Pak Chong. This was a third class train only, the same one as we had caught from Bangkok to Ayutthaya on our first day, except this time we had allocated seats. We sat opposite a 23 year old woman and an old man who seemed to doubt we knew what we were doing as he wanted to examine my ticket to check we were in the right place. We were.
We both enjoyed this trip as the train slowly climbs through rock out crops to the Isan plataeu. It took about 3 hours to get to Pak Chong. At the station we were accosted by several people who wanted to sell their guesthouse and National Park tour to us but telling them I had already made a reservation was a good foil. And true.
We were met by an old man who took us to the Greenleaf Guesthouse. We travelled on seats on the back of his truck, a common way to get around. The guesthouse didn't appear to be much on first glance. Our room was basic and there was mould on the bathroom walls. Katherine just about revolted after our lovely bungalow and gardens at Malee's in Chiang Dao. But she got over it when we discovered there was a coin-operated washing machine nearby. We had been handwashing all our clothes at Malee's as the laundry service was expensive at 50B per kilo.
It was very hot and I tried to rest in a hammock outside but was disturbed by bugs. Katherine tried to rest inside but it was hotter than outside. Finally at 4pm it was time for our half day tour. Four young UK women and a UK man were also on the tour. The women were travelling together and were amusing in their lack of preparedness and knowledge about Thailand. They were fun though. The man (who was travelling separately from them) was nice and had more clues.
The first stop on our tour was at a tree at the roadside. We were looking for a green parrot in a big tree with green leaves. We didn't see it so we moved on to the first bat cave. This one is in a temple complex and was only discovered 10 years ago. We thought this was surprising - how come nobody noticed the bats leaving the cave? So, we climbed down steep steps and the guide took us to several rooms to see the bats. He showed us a mother with a baby holding on to her and a bat adoption site - some bats care for other bat's offspring. They are actually social animals. In one small cave room the bats flew very close to us but not quite touching as they use their sonar to sense our position. There are ony 2-3000 bats in this cave.
We had a choice of exit points. Two people chose to return the same way but most of us followed the guide further into the cave. We came to a big room with a hole in the roof. Part of the roof was on the ground. Perhaps this is why the monks and nearby villagers hadn't noticed the bats until relatively recently. Maybe it was only when the roof fell in and the bats started using this as an exit point that they saw them. Our guide went hunting for a creepy crawly and came back with a scorpion spider. It's actually an insect as it has antennae and six legs, not a spider and it is harmless so I let it roam over my hand.
Our next stop was the bat cave with 2-3 million bats. They were already streaming out of the cave as we approached it. They take an hour or more to all exit the cave. We watched them for a bit - they are like a giant streamer blowing in the wind. We also saw a coupleof hawks circling then diving into the stream of batsin search of dinner. The first hawk was successful and flew off with it's prey. We watched through the scope as the hawk picked the unfortunate bat to bits. Good for the hawk, bad for the bat.
We ate fruits on the hill while watching the sun set. Still the bats streamed from the cave, but in smaller numbers now. Our last stop was a fresh water spring here some of the group went swimming. It was dark by now and almsot cold on the way back to the guesthouse. I had noodle soup for dinner (20B) and Katherine had some tofu, vege rice dish.