It’s after 6 am as we enter the minivan and go on to the park. The trip takes some 45 minutes or maybe one hour. I have no idea as I consider it more important to get some more sleep rather than keeping track of time. On arrival at the park we pay the driver and arrange everything necessary for our camp. We already have two tents but some of us don’t have sleeping bags, so we rent some plus insulating mats and blankets. Renting this stuff is really cheap, 30 baht for a sleeping bag, 20 for a mat and 10 for a blanket, per night and person.

Scarf and Hat: a Must-HaveI should mention that the park is at an elevation of 800 meters and it is freezing cold when we arrive. Even colder than the coach from Bangkok. Really. So the first thing after arranging the camping accessories is to buy warmer clothes. I’ve got my sweater and a camping vest, but that’s not enough. Fortunately there are some shops next to the visitor centre of the park which have all we need. After having purchased a wool scarf and a hat I feel much more comfortable. Who said Thailand was a hot country? The next important step is hot coffee. No problem, there are also some small restaurants. Okay, now life can go on.

Our CampIt is 8 am already so we decide to settle down now and start our camp. On the campground itself we find a nice spot for out two tents and set them up. Jonas completes our camp by adding a flag to demonstrate our presence.

Soldier, raise the flagSince most in our group could not sleep long enough in the coach due to the cold, they go to sleep for another while now. Sebastian and I don’t feel tired, he decides to start making preparations for our dinner already and lights a small fire in a pot.

Yes, Thailand can be a cold countryI walk around the campsite to check out the area. Namnao National Park is famous for bird watching, there are said to be 352 different kinds of birds here.

So naturally I bump into a couple of bird watchers. They are Thai, which gives me the opportunity to practise my small talk abilities. Friendly people they are, they even lend me their binoculars and their guide book about the birds of Thailand, and within 10 minutes I’m able to spot a woodpecker and 4 other species.

Back at our tents, Sebastian has already started cooking. We’re going to have pumpkin soup, and it smells delicious already. Feels like heaven, I’m almost forgetting the cold weather. Yes, still cold weather. It is now almost 10 am, but still the sun has not come out from behind the clouds, so it is still cold. But it is quiet and the air is clean and refreshing, which is a nice contrast to Bangkok.

Pumpkin Soup: Aroy maak maakSome of our other friends are also starting to come back to life again, maybe inspired by the scent of pumpkin soup. By now my stomach is demanding food again, so me and the others toast some bread on the fire. Apart from that we do – nothing.

Around noon finally the sun breaks through the clouds and it starts getting warmer by the minute. At 1 pm we can even take off our t-shirts. The wind is still pretty chilly, though.

It’s a lazy day. Jonas, Bow and Kyro retreat to the tents again, I read a newspaper, while Sebastian and Glenny seek activity. Their project is “make fire the natural way”. Hm? This means no less than trying to get a fire going without using a lighter or matches. What can I say? Maybe they should’ve watched Cast Away before trying it.

While their focus is still on their potential fire, I decide for myself to discover the jungle on my own, so I follow one of the trails into the forest. There are lots of small creeks trenching the lush woods of trees and bamboo.

At one point, while I am stopping to look around myself, I suddenly realise a movement on the ground a few meters away from me. First I think it’s a lizard, but then I spot a snake, at least 2 meters of length, maybe even 3 meters. It is not in the mood to have a confrontation so it slithers peacefully away into the thicket.

Since I don’t know whether this fellow was poisonous or not and if it had any friends nearby, I proceed more cautiously from now on, frequently clapping my hands to announce my presence more clearly than before. But when the trail gets narrower I decide to return to the camp because I find it too risky to be bitten by a snake while walking alone without anyone to help.

Back at the camp, Seb and Glenny are still trying to light the fire. Their tools have greatly improved, I must say, and they are able to create lot of smoke, but not enough heat to actually get the fire going. I also try a few times but without any result but smoke. Well, we’ve had that before.

We grow tired of that fire. Seb focuses on his cooking again, while Glenny discovers a new project: making bow and arrow from bamboo. Myself, I go back into lazy mode, enjoying the warm rays of the sun and reading a little more in the newspaper.
But not for very long. Around 5 pm it is getting cooler again, with the sun moving closer to the horizon. Soon it is time to wear the sweater again. At 6 pm we’re finally having to long-awaited dinner, and it was worth waiting for. The pumpkin soup, served with grilled chicken, is delicious! When we’re finished eating, it is completely dark and quite cold already, so we collect some more wood and light the fire higher. Very comfortable.

In order to increase our comfort level even further, I buy some beer, a bottle of Sangsom Thai whisky (actually it’s rum, but they call it whisky), a big bucket of ice and soda. (Really cheap: all that stuff for just 320 baht…) The fun can start. The atmosphere around our campfire is just amazing. Above us a clear sky and a million stars, the fire to warm us, the alcohol in our blood and some Thai guys nearby playing the guitar and singing Thai pop songs.

At around 10.30 pm, after having poured down the last drop of alcohol (the shops are now closed), we are in a really good mood and head over to the other side of the campground to join a group of some 10 Thai guys. We, that’s the 4 guys of our group, Glenny, Jonas, Seb and I. The Thais welcome us 4 farangs with open arms, and immediately we have another whisky in our glasses.

The whisky has loosened my tongue at this point, so we chat away happily in my broken Thai. One of the Thai guys is evenly happy to demonstrate the little English he speaks. We learn that they are from Khon Kaen, a nearby province in Isaan, and they come to Namnao for camping every month. Needless to say, our glasses are quickly refilled with fresh Sangsom, so the fun can continue.
At midnight we say good night to our new friends and go back to our tents. Before going to sleep, I head over to the visitor centre to check for the temperature. It is a chilly 8 C.