#7 from South East Asia — The ride south, wild elephants, pigs, monkeys, and tigers

#7 from South East Asia — The ride south, wild elephants, pigs, and tigers January 12th, 2011

Prachaup Khiri Khan

Sunk yacht along the way

We had the good fortune to head out of Bangkok on a Sunday morning. The traffic was still crazy, but just not as bad. Jeff and I struggled south through the maze of streets that arbitrarily shifted their one-way directions, with no clues from the maps. The maps did not show when there were two, or three, levels of highways at the same location.

When we finally came to the Chao Phraya River that divides Bangkok, we were relieved. We carried our loaded bikes up 6 flights of stairs to the bridge. Then we walked our bikes over the river. At least we knew where we were. How to get out of the city would be much more taxing. It is not enough just to ride away from the city. You must find the major road going in your direction in a script written on a map that you will never understand. Thai, you see, has 44 consonants and 32 vowels. None of them look anything like the western alphabet. At this point in my life, I am not going to learn them.

Eventually we got onto a road that was going southwest in the direction we wanted to go. We kept riding and following it until we realized that this actually was our desired road. What a relieve. It took 4 hours of hard pedaling to get out of Bangkok. We were still in traffic, but it was dropping off.

Drying and harvesting salt by hand

We worked our way along the western coast of the Gulf of Thailand, passing 100’s of kilometres of salt drying beds and shrimp farms. These are very labor-intensive industries. I watched large numbers of people working ever so hard under the sun. At times I wondered, ‘How can the US compete against people who work so hard, for so little?’ I don’t have the answer for for, and I can assure you that the US does not yet either.

Panhandling monkeys in trash

We were hit by garbage-picking beggars along the roadside. Macaque monkeys, going thru garbage, and asking for food. We kept pedaling.

500 miles of beach riding

We made good time to Prachaup Khuri Khan, averaging maybe a 100 kms a day including all the distractions. When I got there, a fellow traveler told us that we had missed a great national park, Kuiburi. It was there that the last of the wild elephants, tapirs, and tigers ran.

I hitched a ride back to the national park just in time to leave on a guided tour with 3 biologists from the World Wildlife Fund. I could not have had better company. Two of the biologists from the US spoke fluent Thai and had lived in Thailand 20 years total without leaving.

David and Peter, World Wildlife Fund directors and biologists

Their specialities were elephants and tigers. Rob was the tiger specialist. He spent large amounts of time setting up surveillance cameras to photograph tigers and document what they were eating. His serious scientific research was NOT encouraging. The price of wild tiger parts in China was at an all time high. The Burmese army poachers were not just killing the remaining tigers. They were also killing all of the tiger’s traditional prey. The remaining tigers were starving. Rob said that Thailand was one of the most tiger-friendly countries in the world, and he did not see tigers as having a chance in Thailand. And if not Thailand, Rob asked where did they stand any chance?

Peter knew the elephants. He could identify specific individuals within the wild herds. To me it was magical as we watched wild herds of elephants descend the mountains to the watering hole in the late afternoon.

Can you see any wild elephants in this deliberately unenlarged photo at sunset?

Thailand is in the middle of a drought and a heat wave. Peter said that the elephants are, for the first time, knocking down rubber trees and eating their tops. This kills the tree. The locals will not permit this to continue. Peter was most disturbed by what he could possibly to keep the elephants from the locals livelihoods.

On an even darker note, Rob said he had just returned from a major environmental conference in China. He said that the conclusion was that the world’s coral reefs were completely finished. The 2 degree C. increase in the tropical water temperature along with the increased acidity of the ocean has completely finished off the coral. Everything is in motion for this to happen and NOTHING that humans can do will reverse in time that which is in motion. There was some talk of environmental groups giving up on trying to save the worlds coral reefs because they were already a lost cause and there were better places to devote their resources.

Back in Prachaup Khuri Khan, I hiked up 392 steps to the Buddhist temple at the top. On the way, I heard Buddhist chanting all the way. But I was accosted by a large pack of macaque monkeys.

A baby macaque preening

As I watched baby preening its mother and eating the lice, I felt a tug on my right arm.

The little guy in front kept hitting my arm..

Again and again. I turned and there was a little dark-faced male monkey hitting my right hand. Every time it hit my hand, it ran from me. Then it would come back and hit me again. Was it trying to????

I jumped up and chased at it. It squealed and ran. Then it turned and chased me! We had game on. We chased back and forth for a few rounds until a large female jumped between us, bared her teeth, and hissed.

She put an end to our play time

And that ended our chase game. Mothers can ruin all the fun.

2 Responses to #7 from South East Asia — The ride south, wild elephants, pigs, monkeys, and tigers

  1. On coral–I’ve been reading the same thing. Here, for instance: http://climateprogress.org/2011/01/09/coral-reefs-second-worst-beating-on-record-2010/

    Great ending to the story.

  2. Truly a great blog. The photos are terrific. Please keep it coming. I can’t get enough. Oh, please name some towns / cities as you progress so we can tract you a bit better. Best of luck.

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