The small train with wooden chairs to sit arrived at the Don Muang, Bangkok station. Many people do a day trip to Khao Yai from Bangkok but we wanted to stay over night and explore the park more. The train chugged along through towns and villages before the scenery changed to mountains and lush greenery. I was touring Thailand in July which is the onset of monsoon and the rain had given a fresh lease of life to the mountains and planes along the way. It was difficult to contain the excitement of nearing our destination and exploring the greenery. The train pulled into the station of Pak Chong and Khao Yai was about 40km from here. There are regular blue big truck type buses that take you to Khao Yai every hour. Khao Yai was a Thailand that looked so different. At one place there are high end resorts, themed farms and European style malls and complexes and on the other side it looks like a raw village with few guesthouses. Backpackers that we are, we settled into our guest house called Jungle planet.
It was 4pm by the time we reached our guesthouse and now it was too late to venture into the park. The clouds were already gathering in as it was monsoon season. I asked my host if there is anything we can check out at this time of the hour and Paaphon, our host, suggested to visit a bat cave where we can witness bats flying out of a cave. Am a little claustrophobic and was wondering if it was the best thing to do! Caves would definitely need some climb and that to just see smelly bats coming out, will it be worth it? Nevertheless we hopped into a hired taxi aka songteaw and he drove us to the bat caves.
We drove past the beautiful highways bordered with green grass and then came the endless farms bordered with mountains. There were farms of sugarcane, corn and casava(tapioca) stretching out endlessly as much as my eyes can see. We left the highway and drove into smaller roads and the smaller roads turned into a mud track. A small Wat (temple) below a mountain and our taxi came to a halt. The mountain was no small and it was already getting dark and I was wondering what was happening. Should I have to climb this mountain now in dark?
Our driver/guide hopped out of the car and flapped his hands like bird flying and asked us to wait here. Google translate was my savior in most of the places and here too I opted for the same. After a few exchanges he said the bats will fly out of the cave atop the mountain at around 6pm, when the sun goes down. These are wrinkle lipped bats and they all fly out at dusk towards the endless farms in search of food. Soon I saw more minivans and songteaws pulling in and realized this must be some must see thing for quiet a crowd had gathered. It started to drizzle and I was cursing my luck for I have to keep my camera in and pictures are not going to be good. Nevertheless I open the umbrella, look up and let the rain drops fall on my cheeks.
It was 6:15pm and I had lost hope that the bats will come out while its raining. I looked at my driver, he grinned and typed out “wait” in google translate. In few minutes I could hear the humming sound and my guide pointed up. Few bats emerged out of the mountain top. A bunch of them came out in a hustle and spread out. I frantically pointed my point and shoot camera towards it and few tiny dots came in the picture. I looked up again and another batch of bats emerged. There used to be a time in my childhood when I used to sit at the terrace of my house and watch huge batches of migratory birds crossing the evening sky. They were bigger and better, I thought to myself but little did I know what was in store for me.
Bats of Khao Yai
It was 6.35pm and soon a stream of bats were coming out. Like the mountain was spitting out bats. Like someone just opened the floodgates and the water had to gush out. Like their internal alarm clock went off and they knew its time to rush out. Out they came in groups and groups. The bats apparently when they come out they find it easy to follow the other bats rather than spreading out. They look out for prey and return to the cave by 7am, however when they return they do not come as groups. And so came out a stream of bats. Flying far away into the land. Swaying up and down in the sky. Like they were dancing to a tune of music that only they can hear. They were forming patterns in the sky, beautiful patterns. I wished if it was a clear sky day with a beautiful orange sunset these patterns would have looked so mesmerising. They danced their way into the fields. And my point and shoot was not so good to capture the wave patterns in the sky.
It was 7.00pm and there was not sign of stopping. The bats kept coming out. Millions and millions of them kept coming out. I went wowww aloud many times. I stopped taking pictures, sat on the open songteaw and watched the show of the bats of Khao Yai national park. The show that doesn’t seem to end. Some of the bats were zipping right past me close to the ground. The other vehicles had left by now and the rain had caught on speed. I put on my raincoat and was looking at them jaw dropped. My driver grinned at me to say it was getting late. I had no mind to leave the place, though it was getting dark and the visibility was getting poorer and poorer. We left the place around 7.30pm and still there was no sign of end to the show. The bats kept coming out. I strained my neck and looked longingly at the mouth of the mountain from where they were emerging. The waves in the sky continued as the darkness fell upon.
This was a wonderful spectacle that I have never seen before. It took my breadth away. I was amazed to realize that it is an everyday phenomena. And how these bats know exactly when to fly out and return to their dwellings. If you are in Khao Yai then this is a must visit place. I retired for the day still awed by the sight. The rain was now lashing hard and that means a wet slippery national park exploration tomorrow. Sighh.. Nevertheless today was a good day.
A short clip of the bats flying out of the cave,
How to Reach Khao Yai National Park
Best way is to reach Pak Chong and take Blue truck from the main road out of the Railway Station. Taxis are also available from Pak Chong.
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