At least we had seats. Many spent the hours standing as the bus crawled through traffic. Finally there, we tried to call Green Leaf on the pay phone with no success. The station attendant saw our struggles and dialed for us. Later we found that if you pause in dialing even a few seconds the line goes dead and you need to start over.
I cannot say enough here for Green Leaf. The rooms were all we needed, and the grounds were full of flowers. Great food was served on picnic tables in front and they were very accommodating, all at a very reasonable rate. We arrived too late for the tour that would take us to the bat cave. Instead, while we found our room, they found a driver and with a Green Leaf guide we rushed out to the cave to see the bats emerge. Our guide was well informed about bats. He knew about the bat colonies in the Austin area and found us great places to stand to best see the column of bats and the hawks that were diving for a bat snack. On the way back he showed us some noisy pale blue geckos with orange spots.
In the morning we jumped back into a pickup with another couple and a guide for Khao Yai park. On the park roads we saw many of the people who had clogged the roads in front of our bus. Meadows were jammed with tents and the roads around them with cars.
Past the jams appeared the first of the animals. A spectacular pair of Great Hornbills flirted from limb to limb in one of the tall trees. We were able to spot the pair at least 3/4 of the way up a very tall tree. It was mating season and this pair was obviously romantic. These enormous birds reach 1 1/2 meters in height with a 2 meter wing span. The female nests in a hole inside a very large tree. As you can imagine it is no small feat to locate such a large hole. The guide told us the hole usually begins with termites then birds eat the termites making a hole. Bees make a nest and bears claw it out to get the honey. Then squirrels may make a nest there. Eventually the hole is large enough to accommodate a hornbill. If there is no way for the hornbill to sit inside with only her beak poking out then the hole won't work. So once the mom is on her nest, the hole is sealed up with mud, except for the protruding beak, by dad to protect from the monitor lizards who love hornbill eggs. Then dad feeds mom and baby for three months. The pair will return to the same nesting site the next year. Across the road a monitor lizard searches in another tree.
Down the road a bit, we parked, put on leach socks and took off into the forest. You hear many birds and monkeys while seeing very few. The flora was interesting. We were there in the dry season so some trees lost there leaves and most flowers were dormant. In compensation we were not hot, wet, muddy and plagued with insects. Competing for the sun made the trees tall and slender and host to many ferns, epiphyte, and vines. One of the more spectacular vines, the strangler fig, begins high in the tree and drops many runners to the ground. When they root, the runners grow engulfing the host tree, cutting into the trunk until it dies. Eventually the tree rots from the ground up, leaving a hollow shell of fig vines. The weight of the intact tree top makes the arrangement unstable and eventually all comes crashing down.
We also saw the wild rubber tree, cinnamon tree and sandalwood. Sandalwood is so valuable that poachers will go in with little hatchets and carry out chips of the wood.
While we stopped for a snack of banana and sweet sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf, very tasty, the guide jumped up at the sounds of Gibbons. He could tell by the calls that one troop of Gibbons was crossing the territory of another setting off a squabble. We ran after our guide and were rewarded with the sight of these creatures high in a tree. One Gibbon quickly joined the chase. Graceful and fast it plummeted limb to limb down and out of sight to the right.