Khao Yai National Park, Thailand


This is the final article about the Khao Yai area in Nakhon Ratchasima, a province in northeast Thailand. The first post featured Palio Khao Yai, an Italian-themed village, and the second Farm Chokchai, home to Thailand’s largest dairy ranch. This article showcases Khao Yai National Park.

Khao Yai National Park is Thailand’s oldest and second largest national park covering 2,168 square kilometers (1,350 square miles) in the foothills of the Dong Phaya Yen Mountains. It lies two hours by car northeast of Bangkok and is a popular getaway destination.

The Royal Thai government designated Khao Yai a national park in 1962. In 1984, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations named it an ASEAN Heritage Park, and in 2005, UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site under the name Dong Phaya Yen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, noting that it “contains more than 800 fauna species, including 112 species of mammals, 392 species of birds and 200 reptiles and amphibians. It is internationally important for the conservation of globally threatened and endangered mammal, bird and reptile species that are recognised as being of outstanding universal value. This includes 1 critically endangered, 4 endangered and 19 vulnerable species.”

The name “Khao Yai” originated from a small mountain township (in Thai, tambon) incorporated in 1922 and abolished a decade later when the residents were relocated to the nearby plain.

Humans and animals continued to co-exist in the area after the national park was established. In addition to small villages along the park’s feeder roads, large-scale developments, from dairy farms and wineries to hotel resorts and residential communities, have sprung up in and around Khao Yai. This has led to debates over land use, local development, conservation, environmental sustainability, and wildlife protection.

We spent a weekend in February 2012 camping near the park. It was an odd setting for a camping trip as we stayed in tents on the grounds of Cabbages & Condoms Resort (also known as “C&C” for those who avoid mentioning its full name). Camping on manicured lawns on a terraced hillside amid uniform palm trees in the shadow of a Buddhist monastery was a far cry from the wilderness camping that I enjoyed while growing up in the western United States. Nevertheless, it was an excellent introduction to camping and “roughing it” for my young son.

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (1)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (3)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (7)

During our campout, we went hiking in the park and enjoyed its scenic beauty. The trail passed through subtropical forest that reminded me I was in Southeast Asia.

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (10)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (15)

I couldn’t quite forget that we were staying in a resort. Tempting as it was to use the pool, I resisted the urge to soak in the chlorinated water. If I couldn’t have an authentic camping experience, at least I did my best to rough it.

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (16)

Although we didn’t see any of the big game animals — elephants, tigers, or Asiatic black bears — along the way, we encountered some monkeys, lizards, geckos, and other wildlife as well as gorgeous flora.

We also saw some not-so-wild creatures such as an ornery gaggle of geese and the biggest rooster I’ve ever seen. After he crossed the road, I tried to ask him why, but he gave me a “don’t mess with me” look. I left him alone.

Signs of humans were evident throughout Khao Yai. Small farms lined the road all the way to the park’s doorstep. Unlike the large developments built in recent years, those who had lived in the area for decades seemed to have found a way to inhabit it without leaving an intrusive footprint, as evidenced by the “school bus” truck taking students home after school.

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (28)

On the last day of our camping trip, we drove through the rest of the park. Along the way we passed by villages, vineyards, homesteads, and gated communities. One moment we saw villas that reminded me of Tuscany and the next,  a Buddhist temple. It was an odd mix of development that left me amused and bewildered. I wondered whether the park would survive in the long term with this kind of encroaching sprawl.

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (30)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (31)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (32)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai (33)

2012_02_17 Khao Yai

I think the area will ultimately find the right balance. Thailand has found a way to flourish organically, and Khao Yai is a heterogeneous microcosm of all there is to love about this wonderfully diverse place.

If you’re looking for a fun daytrip out of Bangkok that will give you a taste of the eclectic side of Thailand, Khao Yai is a great choice.

More About the Khao Yai Area of Thailand:

Palio Khao Yai, an Italian-themed shopping center near Khao Yai National Park.

Farm Chokchai, Thailand’s largest dairy farm with theme park-style attractions and entertainment reminiscent of the American Frontier.

Map picture

 

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Plant Life of Kilimanjaro


buythumbPlant life is featured in my book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, which chronicles my attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The book is on sale now as an e-book for $3.99  and in paperback for $9.99  from Amazon and other booksellers.

Diverse vegetation from different climate zones graces the slopes of Kilimanjaro. One of the more unique places on Earth, the mountain lies in Africa‘s Afromontane region that straddles the Equator with clusters of freestanding mountains and plateaus surrounded by lowlands. A sky island more at home in the far reaches of the northern and southern hemispheres than the equatorial tropics, Kilimanjaro has amazing biodiversity.

Within days, mountaineers can hike through five different climate zones. These are:

  • Lowlands: Between 2,600 and 5,900 feet (790-1,800 meters), this is the subtropical area located just above the Serengeti plains. An area with heavier rainfall, its vegetation is dominated by banana, coffee, and other plants grown as crops.
  • Rainforest: Between 5,900 and 9,200 feet (1,800-2,800 meters), this is a subtropical rainforest rich with plant and animal life. The widest variety of flowering plants range in this zone.
  • Moorland and heather: Between 9,200 feet and 13,100 feet (2,800-4,000 meters), this area has less vegetation and is dominated by a few plant and animal species, including groundsels, lobelias, heather, and tree moss. Trees disappear above 13,000 feet.
  • Alpine or high desert: Between 13,100 and 16,400 feet (4,000-5,000 meters), this arid, semi-desert zone has no trees and few plants. Sage grass, hearty helichrysum flowers, moss, and thistles are common there.
  • Arctic or summit: Above 16,400 feet (5,000 meters), this is an arid zone with intense sunlight, thin air, and heavy snow and ice. Few to no plants grow there.

The southern and western slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro are wetter than its northern and eastern sides. The city of Arusha to the west of Kilimanjaro sits in a tropical bowl, while the Serengeti Plains to the northeast are dry.

Here are some of the species of plant I encountered during my climb.

Mackinder’s Gladiolus (gladiolus watsonioides)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (1)

African blood or fireball lily (scadoxus multiflorus)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (2)

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (3)

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (6)

Protea kilimandscharica

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (4)

Kniphofia thomsonii

Giant fern

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (8)

Stoebe kilimandscharica

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (9)

Helichrysum meyeri johannis

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (11)

The south side of Kilimanjaro is a fertile landscape filled with windswept views of stunted forests and swaths of vegetation. In the subtropical lowlands, wispy bunches of tree moss hang from the trees like tattered voiles ready to spring back to life when the rains return, transforming the forest into a fantasy land.

Tree moss, also known as old man’s beard or Spanish beard (usnea lichen)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (14)

Tree moss

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (15)

Tree moss

Tree moss

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (16)

Kilimanjaro impatiens (impatiens kilimanjari)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (17)

Kilimanjaro impatiens (impatiens kilimanjari)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (26)

Hebenstretia (the white flowering plant)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (19)

Hebenstretia

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (20)

Daisy bush (euryops)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (22)

Dead daisy bush (euryops)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (27)

Golden daisy bush (euryops brownei)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (24)

The north side of Kilimanjaro offers a more Alpine landscape with heather and moorlands dominated by tussock or bunch grass. The view there is more desolate and, in some ways, more intriguing as the vegetation quickly gives way to the exposed mountain. Mountaineers who climb fields of rust-tinged rocks are often left with the impression that they are on the surface of Mars.

Tussock or bunch grass

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (35)

Hypericum revolutum

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (25)

Dead helichrysum newii

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (23)

Helichrysum newii

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (28)

Stoebe kilimandscharica with bird

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (30)

Dead philippia excelsa with bird

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (34)

In the highlands, the view is dominated by groundsel trees, or dendrosenecios, with trunks like palms and topped with spiky leaf rosettes, as well a cactus-like flowering plant known as the lobelia deckenii.

Giant groundsel (senecio kilimanjari)

Giant groundsel (senecio kilimanjari)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (38)

Giant groundsel (senecio kilimanjari)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (39)

Giant groundsel (senecio kilimanjari)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (40)

Giant groundsel (senecio kilimanjari)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (42)

Giant groundsel (senecio kilimanjari)

Giant lobelia deckenii with bird

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (31)

Giant lobelia deckenii

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (32)

Giant lobelia deckenii

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (33)

Because few plants grow in the high desert, those that do such as sage grass and lobelia deckenii are photo ready. Unlike humans, the vegetation is hearty enough to survive the harsh climate on Kilimanjaro. Still, the mountain has a way of twisting everything at this altitude into bizarre and fascinating shapes.

Helichrysum meyeri johannis and lobelia deckenii

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (44)

Helichrysum cymosum

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (45)

Helichrysum cymosum

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (47)

Sage grass

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (48)

Dead thistle (carduus keniensis)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (46)

If you’re thinking about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, imagine yourself hiking through these places over a few days. If you’ve already been there, I hope that these photos will bring back memories and help you put names to some of the beautiful foliage you saw on your way to and from the summit.

Kilimanjaro Plant Life

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (29)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (37)

Kilimanjaro Plant Life (43)

More About Mount Kilimanjaro:

Click here to learn more about the book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill about the author’s attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

Click here to read about the dedicated guides, porters, and cooks who work on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read the story of the iconic wooden sign on Kilimanjaro’s summit and the metal one that replaced it in January 2012.

Click here to read about the vanishing glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1936 semi-autobiographical short story by Ernest Hemingway, the 1952 film, and the main character, Harry Street.

To learn more about the fauna and flora of Kilimanjaro, visit:

Bill and Cori’s Excellent Adventures

Kilimanjaro Flora

Marijn van der Brink’s Photos

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

New Prometheus Movie Trailers


Prometheus is a new science fiction movie directed by Ridley Scott set to release between May 30, 2012, and June 8, 2012, by 20th Century Fox. A prequel to the 1979 classic movie Alien, Prometheus is one of most highly anticipated films of the year.

A major reason for this is how the studio and Scott have done a great job keeping the project under wraps and built buzz through intelligent marketing. They’ve steadily rolled out teasers, trailers, and even a corporate web site for the fictional company Weyland Industries to build anticipation, giving away enough information to leave viewers in suspense but not spoiling the story.

Whether Prometheus lives up to the hype is yet to be seen, but it is arguably one of the best, if not the best, marketed films of all time. Here are the four major teasers and trailers, including three released over the March 17 weekend. Note how they unravel the story bit by bit.

Warning: The following clips may not be appropriate for all viewers.

Trailer 2 (International)-released March 18, 2012

 

Trailer 2 (U.S.)–released March 17, 2012

 

Teaser 2–released March 17, 2012

 

Teaser 1-released December 22, 2011

 

This fictional video clip of Weyland Industries’ founder and CEO Peter Wayland at the TED conference in the year 2023 (not a typo) lays the philosophical groundwork for the Prometheus Project, androids, and other concepts featured in the Prometheus movie universe. It does not appear to be connected to the movie, but has created quite a buzz online.

Peter Weyland, head of Weyland Industries, at TED 2023–February 28, 2012

The Glaciers of Kilimanjaro


Buy from Amazon.comThe glaciers of Kilimanjaro are featured in my book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, which chronicles my attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The book is on sale now as an e-book for $3.99 and in paperback for $9.99 from Amazon and other booksellers.

When I attempted to summit Kilimanjaro in 2010, I noticed that it had few glaciers and virtually no ice or snow. I thought this odd for a mountain that rises 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level — even one located near the Equator. Kilimanjaro often appears in photos capped with pristine white snow. When I climbed, however, it looked more like the photo below — mostly brown with a few glaciers near the summit. I saw the large Northern Icefield and a small glacier to the south but none below the rim of the crater on Kibo Peak pictured in the photo.

Kibo Peak is the tallest of three dormant volcanic cones that cap Mount Kilimanjaro, a massive mountain that covers an area of more than 750 square kilometers in northeastern Tanzania. The other cones, Mawenzi and Shira, have little or no ice or snow.

kilifull

As I gathered research for my book, I came across some photos of Kilimanjaro taken by NASA in 2003 from the International Space Station. The glaciers in these photos were larger than they were when I was on the mountain in 2010. According to NASA, Kilimanjaro’s glaciers will disappear completely by the year 2020. Based on my own observations, I think it will happen sooner.

kiliaerial

kiliglaciers

I took the same NASA photo above and identified below the major glaciers on Kilimanjaro to see which ones have melted or still exist.

kiliglaciers2

Based on a recent satellite photo taken by the Harris Corporation, most of Kilimanjaro’s glaciers, snow and ice have already melted. The Northern Icefield, the largest glacier, was intact, as were some remnants of the Southern Icefield and Heim Glacier. Some of the more famous ones such as Furtwängler Glacier, Rebmann Glacier, and Arrow Glacier are extinct or on the verge of being consigned to history.

Theories abound as to why the glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro are melting. Some say that it’s due to climate change and decreased precipitation caused by global warming; others believe it’s a natural occurrence. Some attribute the melting partly to the body heat and footprints made by the thousands of people who climb Kilimanjaro every year. What is certain is that its glaciers are melting, and the beautiful snowcap on Africa’s highest mountain is almost history.

More About Mount Kilimanjaro:

Click here to learn more about the book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill about the author’s attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

Click here to learn about the fauna and flora on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about the dedicated guides, porters, and cooks who work on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read the story of the iconic wooden sign on Kilimanjaro’s summit and the metal one that replaced it in January 2012.

Click here to read about The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1936 semi-autobiographical short story by Ernest Hemingway, the 1952 film, and the main character, Harry Street.

Map picture

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming travel novel, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available on March 31, 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

Copyright note:  The first photo has been licensed from Shutterstock. Photos taken from the International Space Station are public domain courtesy of NASA. The Bing map is courtesy of Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Trees in Bloom


2010_10_10 Trees in Bloom (24) Zambia is beautiful this time of year.  The jacarandas and other flowering trees have started to bloom in vivid colors around the country.  Most of their flowers are a soft lavender, while a few are brilliant red or yellow.  The latter spring from other species of tree.  The jacarandas are similar to the ones we saw when we lived in Paraguay.  Known as lapachos in Spanish, the jacarandas in South Africa bloom with lavender, orange and yellow flowers.  Their flowers’ lifespan is mere weeks, after which the petals fall and blanket the ground like a royal carpet.  Even one who is not fond of flowers can’t help but admire its beauty.

The flowering trees bloom at the end of the dry season when the weather heats up just before the monsoon-like rains set in, as if God were commanding the trees to bear fruit before the rains washes it all away.  Once pollinated, the flowers produce seeds that fall to the ground and wait for water from the rains to spark new life.  Whatever the biological reasons behind this phenomenon, the cacophony of colors that spring forth from the trees is a wonder to behold.