Eggs & Aliens in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands)

May 2017 – There’s a wonderful natural treasure to be found in northwestern New Mexico at the Bisti Badlands — or Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness — just 40 miles south of Farmington.

Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico Photographing the Eggs

Hanging out with the alien eggs at Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness in New Mexico

We had a very magical experience in this exotic location five years ago and we wanted to get back once again.

Exotic Landscapes Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

There are all kinds of hoodoos in the Bisti Badlands

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a huge area filled with crazy rock formations that resemble everything from spacecraft to furniture to alien eggs. Because it is a wilderness area, there are no trails and no vehicles are allowed either. The only way to see it is to walk on in and start exploring.

The hoodoos and colorful mounds make for a great day of fun just getting lost in a maze of crazy shapes, and on our last visit we roamed all over the place climbing up and over red and black and orange striped conical hills that easily stood 50 to 100 feet high.

Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

There are no hiking trails in Bisti Badlands, but walking in any direction takes you to cool rocks!

But the “prize” in Bisti Badlands, if there can be such a thing, is the tiny group of stones that look like alien creatures emerging from their cracked egg shells.

Cracked eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

In one corner of the Bisti Wilderness there is a collection of rocks that look like alien eggs or pods.

Alien eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Cracked egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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This is a favorite area for photographers, and we headed out in the late afternoon as the shadows were getting long.

Alien egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Some of the rocks look very much like eggs sitting on a dish or embryonic alien life forms emerging from the shell.

Eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Each one is a little different, and some look as though they might come to life.

Eggs on pedestals Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

A creature from afar?

Alien eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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As we wandered around the perimeter of these fantastic rock formations and crouched down to see them up close, I suddenly heard Mark yell “Help!”

I turned around and saw his hand reaching out… he’d been swallowed up by an alien egg!

Human eating alien egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Oh no!!

Not really, of course, but these little guys were very engaging and we were having lots of fun getting photos of them and playing with effects.

Eggs alien egg factory Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness

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Sometimes we couldn’t help but get in the photo in one way or another, even if it was just a shadow of ourselves.

Photography at the Eggs Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

With such long shadows sometimes we had to incorporate our own shadows!

Hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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As the hours went by, one by one, each egg lost the sun’s golden glow. Then the setting sun threw some pretty colors across the sky.

Hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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One of the things I love most about these alien egg rocks is that each one is decorated with a different pattern on its surface.

Some have a wonderful pattern that seems very deliberate, as if carved by a divine hand.

Exotic egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Each egg was decorated with a unique pattern.

Some are very bold, with definite lines and carvings.

Alien shellback Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Others have finer lines and have started to fade in places.

Decorated egg Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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And some don’t have any decorations at all.

Egg in shell Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

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Decorations or no, you just can’t beat seeing one of these crazy egg rocks set off by a pink sunset.

Eggs at sunset Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

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And then, with a flash from the west, the sun was gone.

Sunset Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness

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We decided to stick around to see what this other-worldly place looked like at night.

We’d brought our big flashlight with us which is like a car headlight (review here). We put it on its lowest setting and began playing with it doing “light painting” on the rocks. Cool!

721 Cracked eggs at night Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

We did a little “light painting” on the eggs with a flashlight as it got dark.

A few stars began to twinkle in the rich light of dusk. The moon was rising and looked like a huge street light above us. Mark was using his favorite wide angle lens and it made a fabulous starburst out of the moon!

Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

The nearly full moon created a starburst in the sky at dusk.

Back at the trailer when we were going through our photos, Mark emailed this cool shot to a friend who’s a video arts and Photoshop expert. Suddenly he got an email back that looked a little spooky!

Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico with UFO

What’s that flying over the cliffs?

As a gag, he emailed the revised photo to another good friend who is also a photographer and Photoshop expert, and suddenly it came back looking even spookier!

UFO Full moon starburst Bisti-De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti Badlands New Mexico

OMG – They’re shining their spotlight on our rig!

But before we could play with our photos in the rig, we had to get back out of Bisti Badlands in the dark.

I was glad the moon was so bright. Like our old days of sailing on our boat when we made long ocean passages at night, the moon was like a very dear friend in the sky. The eggs around us were easy to see, and it even cast shadows on the ground.

Stars at cracked eggs Bisti Badlands De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Eggs by the light of the moon.

Even with the moon so bright, more and more stars began to appear in the sky above us.

Stars at night Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

As we hiked out we saw more and more stars.

Hiking out in the dark was quite a thrill. We heard some coyotes very close by and were hoping to catch a glimpse of them, but they must have caught our scent and heard our footsteps because they soon headed off into the night.

Stars over hoodoos Bisti De-Na-Zin Wilderness New Mexico

Stars over the hoodoos.

Every so often we could see the lights of a power plant in the distance, keeping us more or less on track! We ended up scaling a few more deep washes on the way out than on the way in, but we made it out just fine!

Some notes and a word of caution for folks heading to Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness with RVs:

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is a very special place that is well worth a detour to visit.

RVs are allowed to park overnight in the fenced off parking area which can hold a few truck campers or perhaps 3-4 larger RVs. The “RV” end of the parking lot can get very muddy when it rains and the ruts from RVs that had been there during recent rains were quite deep.

This parking area is located about 3 miles down a dirt road off of Route 371. When we went to Bisti Badlands in late September of 2012, the 3 mile dirt road was well graded and it wasn’t difficult to drive on with our fifth wheel trailer.

Now, however, it appears that the road has not been graded in a very long time, and it is absolutely terrible. We drove at 3-9 mph the entire way in both directions, no joke. Not only was everything in our rig badly shaken up but we discovered the locking nut on one of the bolts that goes through the equalizer in our fifth wheel suspension actually fell off. Without a locking nut, the bolt had worked itself almost all the way out during our drive in. Luckily, Mark was able to fix this right there in the dirt parking lot. More on that coming soon!

More importantly, it seems that Bisti Badlands has been “discovered.”

In 2012 we were the only RV there for one night and we had just one companion RV another night. This year the parking area was quite busy every night with cars, vans, truck campers and short Class C’s crammed in, and lots of people came in cars to hike for the day as well.

In 2012 there were no footprints beyond the gate into the wilderness area, and this year there were footprints everywhere, especially leading to the eggs, and there were lots of people out hiking. In 2012 there were a few boondocking areas down the road, but now there are markers at those spots saying “No Vehicles.”

As we were packing to leave Bisti Badlands on a Saturday morning, four cars arrived and joined the RVs that had stayed overnight. During the 45 minutes it took us to drive the dirt road out to the highway, 12 more cars and trucks passed us on their way in. I have no idea if or how all those vehicles could fit in the parking lot!

So…. if you own a bigger RV, it might be wise to leave it in Farmington and make a day trip to Bisti Badlands in the tow vehicle or toad. Mid-week will be quieter than weekends, especially during the peak seasons of spring and fall.

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More info about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness (Bisti Badlands):

The website for the BLM is undergoing many changes and doesn’t have information about Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness at the moment. We describe how we found the eggs on our previous visit at this link.

Location of Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Parking Area – Interactive Google Maps

If you go into the Bisti Wilderness with a friend or spouse, it’s a good idea to stick close together or take a set of two-way radios. We used both our radios and a hand-held compass. A hand-held GPS can be a helpful tool too (although we just used our compass). We also used all three of our Lumintop flashlights (reviews HERE (searchlight) and HERE (pocket flashlights).

Other blog posts from New Mexico:

Night hikes and starry skies:

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Canyon de Chelly – Breathtaking Views Under Vibrant Skies

April 2017 – We left the wondrous Petrified Forest National Park with its incredible hikes and nearby Route 66 nostalgia and headed due north from Holbrook, Arizona, on Route 77 towards Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Route 77 in the Navajo Nation Arizona

Wide open lands on Route 77 in the Navajo Nation, Arizona

This interesting (although occasionally bumpy) rural road goes through the vast Navajo Nation. We were mesmerized by the classic southwestern vistas that filled our views for the first twenty miles or so. My long lens was in the trailer (sigh), so I didn’t get good shots of the amazing rock formations we passed.

A few years back we made a similar trek on the parallel Indian Route 12 and really enjoyed it. So, again, we decided to forego the more major highway (US Route 191) and take another scenic route instead.

Little did we know it was going to snow on us as we got into the higher elevations!

Snow on road Navajo Nation Arizona

When we climbed from 5,000′ to 6,500′ elevation, we got a spring snow storm!

This was our third trip to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon d’Shay), but like all of the National Parks and National Monuments, there always seems to be something new to see.

In past visits we explored the overlooks along the northern scenic rim road through the park and hiked to the jaw-dropping White House Ruin. So, this time we decided to explore a few spots along the southern rim road.

Tunnel Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Tunnel Overlook, Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly is a massive canyon formed by uplifts and the relentless flow of water, and today the sheer red rock canyon walls tower 700 feet above the lush green valley floor.

Far below us we saw trucks bashing through the water from recent rains.

Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Tsegi Overlook.

The only way to see the valley of the canyon is to take a private guided tour offered by the Navajo who live on the reservation that surrounds Canyon de Chelly National Monument. However, the North and South Rim Drives are open to everyone to enjoy for free without a paid guide.

Car driving in wash at Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

The only way to get into Canyon de Chelly is on one hiking trail (White House Trail) or on a commercial tour.

As we zipped in and out of the overlooks, the skies began to brood…

Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument RV trip Arizona

The clouds were moving fast at Tsegi overlook.

…and the red rock cliffs seemed to swirl around each other in fabulously exotic shapes.

Junction Overlook Canyon de Chelly South Rim Road Overlook Arizona

The rocks formed beautiful shapes that were so much fun to climb on.

Sliding House Ruin Overlook at Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Sliding House Ruin Overlook

Eventually, we made our way to Spider Rock Overlook, one of the iconic images of Canyon de Chelly. We reached the overlook right at the golden hour before sunset when the rock itself was lit in rich burnt orange hues.

Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Spider Rock.

The day had been very cloudy and windy, but as if by magic, right as the sun began to set, we were blessed with the most astonishing display of colors in the sky.

Sunset spider rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

As the golden light faded on Spider Rock and the red rock cliffs, the sky began a light show of its own.

We each ran back and forth on the rim, unsure where to get the best views and which part of the sky would light up next.

Sunset at Spider overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Mark lines up his shot on the next rock outcropping (upper right corner).

Spider rock lost its glow but the fire in the heavens was just getting started.

Spider Rock sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona RV trip

Sunset’s brilliant display begins at Spider Rock.

Once the drama had played itself out in shades of orange, the skies turned vivid pink.

Pink sunset Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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The light show intensified and our two-way radios crackled as we called each other from opposite ends of the overlook.

“Did you see THAT??!!”

Colorful sunset Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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That sunset was breathtaking, but when morning came the next day and we ventured back out on the south rim drive, the drama in the sky was gone. We returned to Sliding House Ruin overlook because there is such a huge area to prowl around there, and looking down into Canyon de Chelly was as astonishing as ever.

Valley at Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Sliding House Ruin Overlook.

At Sliding House Ruin overlook there are endless stretches of flat and undulating boulders that head out in all directions on a promontory. Before we knew it, we had been there for hours running around on the tops of these cliffs and peering down into the tree-filled valleys below.

Of course, if you get too close to the edge in a place like this, it’s all over. A sign near the rim was a good reminder!

Sheer cliff warning sign Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

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Red rock cliffs and green valley floor Sliding House Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

It’s a long way down…but what a view!

When I finally had gotten my fill of staring at the immense views in front of me, I glanced down at my feet and was taken with the rich hues and artistic patterns of the colorful lichen that was growing in and around the creases in the rocks.

Nature's artwork Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Nature’s artwork on the rocks.

Standing back and surveying the vast flat lichen covered boulders that stretched in all directions around me, I felt like I was looking at a modern art painting. Perhaps this is where Jackson Pollack got his inspiration!

Lichen on red rocks Jackson Pollack painting Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Jackson Pollack — Or colorful lichen on red rocks?

A little movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I turned to see a lizard scampering past. He stopped and stared at me as I snuck closer and clicked my camera’s shutter.

Lizard Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A lizard looks over at me as he runs by.

The spring wildflowers had started blooming, and Mark found a beautiful bouquet of Indian Paintbrush flowers.

Indian Paintbrush Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A dash of scarlet…

We stuck around and soon the sun was sinking low in the sky, and the shadows were growing long and deep.

Shadows at sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

Long shadows made for a surprise selfie at Sliding House Overlook.

The clear sky meant there were no colorful theatrics in the sky for our sunset at Sliding House overlook, but the sun gave me a coy wink for a split second before it slipped out of sight.

Starburst sunset Sliding House Ruin Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

A fleeting starburst at sunset…

It was hard to set the alarm for a pre-dawn hour the next day, but we bundled into our truck with hot tea and coffee in hand and drove out to Sliding House overlook once again where Mark caught the sun giving us a wink on its way up.

Sunrise Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

…and another at dawn.

Canyon de Chelly is a special place deep in the heart of the immense Navajo reservation. There is a dry camping campground in the town of Chinle that is run by the Navajo, and a few sites are big enough for a big RV.

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Blue Mesa Trail – Lavender Beauty in Petrified Forest National Park

April 2017 – When we visited Petrified Forest National Park a few weeks ago with our RV, we discovered two true jewels in the park: Jasper Forest and Blue Mesa Trail.

Ready to hike Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Ready to hike Blue Mesa Trail in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

It is really easy to blast through Petrified Forest National Park at 50 mph and miss it all, and we’ve made that mistake in the past. We’ve also done the less spectacular hikes and later wondered where all the petrified wood was! How funny!

As seen in our last post about Jasper Forest, there are some breathtaking landscapes where petrified logs are in stunning abundance.

Blue Mesa is another fabulous region in the National Park where rolling hills are beautifully striped in shades of purple and lavender. There is a wonderful and very easy hike on a paved path at Blue Mesa that wanders through all these hills.

Blue Mesa Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The overlook at Blue Mesa in Petrified Forest National Park

At the start of the hike, high up on a plateau overlooking a vast expanse of exotic beauty, we saw a pretty spray of yellow spring flowers and spent a few minutes admiring them.

Yellow wildflowers Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

A vibrant sign of spring greeted us right away.

Mark took advantage of the “Color sketch” option in his Nikon camera to get a very cool effect from this photo:

Color sketch Yellow wildflowers Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The “color sketch” option is available in most Nikon DSLR’s. Fun!

The Blue Mesa trail begins with a wonderful plunge down to the valley floor, and we got a few shots of the spectacular purple/blue landscape as we descended.

Descending on the Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Blue Mesa trail took us down to the valley floor right away.

As we made our way along the pretty, winding trail, the breathtaking views of these colorful hills surrounded us.

Blue and purple on Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

The purple stripes were magnificent!

Rock striations Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Nature has a wonderful artistic flair!

But where was all the petrified wood? It didn’t take long for us to find the gorgeous rock logs spilling down the gullies between the hills.

Falling petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Did a woodsman just cut down a tree?
No! Nature did this over 200 million years ago!!

Every crevice between the hills was loaded with perfectly hewn petrified logs. Incredible!

Petrified log pile Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Solid rock logs that look for all the world like they are wood!

Petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Every crevice between the hills was filled with stone logs.

We couldn’t help but scurry up a ways to get different perspectives on these logs. Suddenly, I lost my balance and slipped. I brushed myself off and looked around, a little embarrassed and wondering if anyone had seen me fall. Luckily I was the only witness.

That is, I was the only witness until I saw what my camera did when my finger hit the shutter button on my way down!

Falling on hiking trail at Blue Mesa Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Oops!

I don’t think I could have staged that shot more perfectly!

Blue Mesa trail was largely surrounded with waves of gravelly hills that are horizontally striped in lavender hues. But a few of the hillsides and cracks were gray, and these were strewn with exquisite crystallized tree stumps too.

Tumbling petrified logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Pile of petrified wood logs Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Surprisingly, even though this was peak season for visiting Petrified Forest National Park, with absolutely perfect sunny, dry, warm weather, there were very few people on the Blue Mesa trail. Every so often, though, we caught sight of someone in the distance.

Tumbling logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

We shared Blue Mesa with very few other hikers.

Petrified Forest National Park has several “Off the Beaten Path” hikes, and there is one that originates at Blue Mesa trail and heads out to the Tee Pees formations. I had hoped to hike at least some of that trail because we had enjoyed the Off the Beaten Path trail at Jasper Forest so much.

Hiking Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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But I was so caught up in admiring the awe-inspiring views surrounding us on all sides that I forgot to double check the page of notes the ranger had given us to see where the gravel trail intersected the paved trail we were on. I think I’d kind of expected it to be obvious when we got there.

Hikers and petrified logs on Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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The National Park Service is a little coy with these special Off the Beaten Path hikes.

First, I’d only learned about them when I asked a ranger to recommend some areas for photography and then watched wide-eyed as he pulled a huge 3-ring binder full of photocopied trail notes off a low shelf behind the counter. More importantly, though, the trail intersection itself isn’t marked with a sign!

Blue skies on the Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Somewhere out here there’s a neat unpaved hiking trail!

I learned later that the intersection is to the right of the one plaque that is out on the paved trail at Blue Mesa, and unfortunately, we’d walked right by it. Argh!

Purple striations at Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Lavender shades all around.

Oh well, it’s a good reason for us to come back to Petrified Forest National Park another time!

Hiker Blue Mesa Trail Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Purple haze…

If you take your RV to Petrified Forest National Park, don’t miss the Blue Mesa trail, and keep an eye out for that plaque and head out on the adjoining “Off the Beaten Path” hike! I suspect there are some cool views back there.

RV at Blue Mesa Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

A cute teardrop trailer at the top of the Blue Mesa overlook.

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Petrified Forest National Park RV Trip – Magic in Jasper Forest

April 2017 – One of the highlights on Route 66 is the Petrified Forest National Park where the enormous trunks of 200 million year old trees have turned to stone.

Photography at Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

The solid stone tree stumps at Petrified Forest National Park are truly impressive!

We have been to Petrified Forest National Park twice before, but it was on this trip that we finally found the true magic there.

Stumps Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Those tree stumps are solid rock, through and through!

We knew that the best way to see Petrified Forest National Park, like all the National Parks, is to get out on the hiking trails away from the crowds.

Jasper Forest petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

We loved seeing how the logs split over millenia, due to the pressures of moisture and ice,
and revealing the tree rings — still perfectly intact — inside.

But it wasn’t until this visit that we discovered which hiking trails are the most stunning.

Logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Was the woodsman just here with his ax?

On our first foray into the Park on this trip we explored the area called Crystal Forest.

Logs Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

The logs were scattered everywhere. But there wasn’t a living tree to be seen anywhere!

In every direction we saw the enormous trunks of trees that had been growing millions of years ago.

These trees had toppled over during torrential rains millenia ago, and had floated downstream only to end up in a deep and muddy logjam where they slowly and very gradually crystallized.

Over time, the pressure of moisture and ice within the logs broke them into segments.

Out on the vast treeless plain, we saw countless tree trunks that looked like a lumberjack had just sliced them up with a chainsaw in preparation for splitting them into firewood!

Petrified log Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

We saw many 50+ foot long logs lying on the grass and split into sections.

Here and there, the stump of a tree trunk stuck up from the ground and looked for all the world like the tree had just been felled.

Wildflowers with petrified wood tree stump Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

A rock and a wildflower.

All the tree rings were perfectly visible in a rainbow of crystalline colors.

Tree rings Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

Brilliantly colored minerals have crystallized the tree rings in this ancient tree.

The logs lay scattered all over the place, and in between were beautiful shards of petrified wood.

Colorful agate Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

There were exquisite shards of rock EVERYWHERE as far as the eye could see in all directions.


Some logs had been split so the tree rings were visible while others had been severed lengthwise showing vertical striations from the interior of the log.

Colorful agate Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest-2

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In one area the shards that surrounded the logs look like woodchips. It was as if the lumberjack had just laid down his ax! These pale wood chips were very thin, just like ordinary wood chips, but these slivers of rock tinkled like a bell when dropped on each other!

Petrified wood chips at Petrified Forest National Park Jasper Forest

The light colored “wood chips” on the ground were brittle rock shards that sounded like bells
when they fell on each other.

We had wandered out at the “golden hour” about an hour before sunset, and as the sun sank below the horizon we were blessed with a beautiful sunset over these exotic rocks.

Sunset at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Sunset in Petrified Forest National Park.

Even better than Crystal Forest, however, is Jasper Forest which is just a little further north. The overlook takes in a sweeping view.

Jasper Forest Overlook Petrified Forest National Park Arizon

Jasper Forest overlook has an incredible view — see the logs below? — and the trail to the plain below took us down among thousands of logs.

In the distance, far below the Jasper Forest overlook, boulders and petrified logs intermingled.

Overlook at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Huge waves of eroded rock formations were littered with tumbled boulders and petrified logs.

When we stopped at the Visitors Center to find out where the best collections of petrified wood were in the Park, the ranger took out a large 3-ring binder labeled “Off The Beaten Path Trails.” He took out the trail directions, complete with photos, for a few trails and handed them to us. One set was for Jasper Forest.

Sitting on petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Down among the petrified logs at Jasper Forest.

The trail directions were a bit confusing, but they are actually very easy:

  • Go to the north end of the Jasper Overlook parking lot and look for a narrow trail heading north from the last parking space in the lot.
  • Follow this trail north and then west onto the wide plain that stretches out below the Jasper Forest overlook.
Petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

Two faces from the same log reveal gorgeous tree rings.

From there you can go in any direction you want, and we quickly ran off in opposite directions!

Log with a knot Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

The “bark” on this 200 million year old log even had a knot in it.

We were there in the harsh light of noon, so even though the rock logs were mind boggling, we knew they would be even more beautiful in the rich light of late afternoon.

Petrified logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

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Petrified wood logs Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

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So, we returned a little later with our cameras, and suddenly the logs came alive in vivid shades.

Petrified tree stump Petrified Forest National Park Arizona Jasper Forest

At the “golden hour” an hour before sunset,
all the logs began to glow.

The skies were darkly overcast but the sun snuck through underneath and cast a brilliant light on all the stone tree logs.

Storm clouds Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Storm clouds darkened the skies while the sun peeked through.

Golden light at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Looking at the tree root ends of the logs — in rich light.

As the sun sank towards the horizon, we were in awe of the beauty around us. We were also frantically running around trying to capture it as best we could while the sun teased us mercilessly!

At one moment the sun would pierce through the clouds and light everything up in bright orange and yellow, and at the next moment it would disappear all together behind the clouds!

Petrified logs at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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The clouds were flying across the sky, making an ideal opportunity to use long shutter speeds to make them blur dramatically just as the sun set in a starburst.

Sunset at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

Drama in the sky above an ancient world of stones.

Wild skies at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona

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Dramatic clouds at Jasper Forest Petrified Forest National Park Arizona 2

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Petrified Forest National Park is a great place to go with an RV, and it is surrounded by many of the most spectacular natural wonders of America’s southwest.

RV motorhome in Petrified Forest National Park Crystal Forest

A motorhome passes the Crystal Forest turnoff.

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More info about Petrified Forest National Park:

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Getting Our Kicks on Route 66 by RV in AZ – Cool Springs, Winslow & Holbrook

April 2017 – Back in the 1930’s to the 1960’s, Route 66 was a 2,448 mile long road from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California, that passed through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It was established in 1926 but was gradually replaced with the US Interstate highway system starting in 1956.

RV on Route 66 Arizona

We’ve been getting our kicks on Route 66!

Portions of it still remain, and we have been bumping into it in our RV travels through Arizona.

RV on Route 66 Arizona

Cool Springs Station Museum on Route 66 between Kingman and Oatman

Route 66 is memorialized in all kinds of songs and folklore, and one of the most iconic songs was (Get Your Kicks) on Route 66 written by Bobby Troup in 1946.

Cool Springs cabins antique Mobil gas station Route 66 in Arizona

Antique gas pumps and an old Mobil Oil sign at Cool Springs Station Museum near Kingman

We’ve been getting our kicks on Route 66 lately starting with a stop we made at the Cool Springs Station Museum between Kingman and Oatman, Arizona last fall.

Antique Mobil Gas station Route 66 in Arizona

What luck – A retro Royal Enfield motorcycle pulled in and parked next to the antique gas pumps while we were there!

This is a cute stone building that has big antique gas pumps out front that will be familiar to our older readers and Mobil Oil signs that were familiar to us from our childhoods.

Inside we found all kinds of charming memorabilia from decades ago, and outside we saw several antique cars that at one time might have rolled down this famous American highway.

Mobil Lubrication or Mobil Oil Antique wooden sign Route 66

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Route 66 chair in Arizona

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Antique car on Route 66 in Arizona

Ready to roll…in a bygone era

Cool Springs Station is in the northwest part of Arizona near Kingman. Way over on the northeast side of the state we stopped in at the town of Winslow in northeastern Arizona a few weeks ago.

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

Route 66 goes through Winslow Arizona

Winslow sits on old Route 66 but it is much more famous for the song Take It Easy, which was written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey and recorded by the Eagles, and features the very memorable lyrics:

Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona,
and such a fine sight to see:
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

Winslow has memorialized the Eagles song “Take It Easy.”

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona Route 66

A painted mural reflection and the real thing:
“It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me!”

This corner is now a favorite tourist attraction. Every year the town hosts a huge “Standin’ on the Corner” festival. This year’s event is on May 6, 2017 (link at the bottom of the page).

Five years ago on our way back to our boat in Chiapas Mexico we zipped through Winslow and got a selfie at the corner. This year the corner was a little busy with other people getting selfies, so we’ll just go with the old pic!

Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

From the archives back in 2012!

Nearby, Mark found an electric guitar…

Route 66 Guitar corner Winslow Arizona

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The opposite corner is dressed up with a vintage coffee and soda shop that has old fashioned seating on stools at the counter inside.

The other corner Route 66 Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

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This building won the Good Job Award in 2004. I like a town that gives out Good Job Awards!

Good Job Award sign Standin' on the corner in Winslow Arizona

The world needs more Good Job Awards!

Although Winslow sits on Route 66 it was also an important train depot for the Santa Fe Railroad.

Eagle on Route 66 sign Winslow Arizona

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Wandering around town, we came across La Posada Hotel and Gardens which is a meticulously and lovingly restored Grand Hotel from the heyday of the railroad era, built by Fred Harvey for Santa Fe Railroad and designed by Mary Colter.

Entrance La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, Arizona

Built in 1929 to the tune of $60 million (in today’s dollars), La Posada Hotel and Gardens gave tourists a reason to take the train to Winslow. They could stay in an elegant hotel home base and visit Arizona’s many very cool sights that lie within a day’s chauffeured drive from town.

Balcony La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

La Posada was southwestern elegance at its best in the 1930’s and 40’s.

The hotel was beloved by the well-to-do from its opening in May of 1930 until it closed in 1957. When it closed, all of the museum quality furnishing were sold off, and the building was turned into offices for the Santa Fe railroad. Over the next 40 years it was slated to be demolished several times.

La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

The restoration has been lovingly done.

Chessboard table La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

Visitors can watch a fantastic video that explains the details of the original design and restoration.

Fortunately, when the Santa Fe Railroad planned to abandon the hotel, news of the its uncertain fate made its way to Allan Affeldt. After three years of negotiations with the railroad, in 1997 he moved in with his wife, Tina Mion and they began a $12 million restoration.

Hallway La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

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We knew none of this when we walked in the door, but we were smitten with the beautiful renovations and artsy decorations in every room.

Elegant La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

There are endless common areas where guests can relax and socialize.

The windows and French doors were thrown wide in every room, letting the warm air from outside flow in, and we wandered around the property enchanted by all we saw.

Room with a view La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona

Room with a view.

Balcony overlooking courtyard La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

Let the outside in!

La Posada Hotel and Gardens is a fully functioning hotel today and there is a very popular restaurant that was packed to the gills when we stopped by. We didn’t stay to eat, but unusual goodies drew us to every corner of every room in the hotel.

Piano in La Posada hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

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Turning a corner, we came across a “hall of mirrors” which is part of the hotel’s gift shop.

Hall of Mirrors La Posada Hotel Winslow Arizona Route 66

Beautiful mirrors are for sale in the gift shop.

The gift shop had all sorts of things for sale, but the ones that really caught our eye were the adorable antique trailer bird houses!

Trailer bird house

A bird house for the RV crowd!!

Not far from Winslow, Arizona, we drove through Holbrook, Arizona, and just had to stop at the Wigwam Motel.

Wigwam Motel Route 66 Holbrook Arizona

Wigwam Motel in Hobrook Arizona – A Classic Route 66 stopover.

Unlike the very upscale La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, this is a fabulous Route 66 motel that reflects the funky and slightly cheesy tourist traps that filled Route 66 in its day.

Wigwam Motel antique cars Route 66 Holbrook Arizona

Have you slept in a wigwam lately?

The wigwams still rent out each night, and we saw people loading and unloading their bags for a night’s stay.

Antique cars and tee-pees at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

Modern travelers come in modern cars, but antique cars were parked in front of each wigwam!

The motel’s owners have parked antique cars in front of each wigwam, lending an authentic air to this classic Route 66 stopover.

Antique cars Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Wigwam and antique cars Wigwam Motel Hobrook Arizona Route 66

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Antique car Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Of course, there’s plenty of room for Wigwam Motel guests to park their modern cars by the front office, but part of the mystique of sleeping in one of these wigwams is the fun historical context of being immersed in early American car travel on old Route 66.

Antique Ford at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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Studebaker truck at Wigwam Motel Holbrook Arizona Route 66

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If you are traveling east-west in northern Arizona, in the neighborhood of I-40, take a detour off the freeway to one of these stops near Kingman, Winslow and Holbrook and get your kicks on Route 66!

RV on Route 66 in Holbrook Arizona

A service shop from yesteryear… Luckily we didn’t need a new muffler or garage mechanic!

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More info about Route 66, Cool Springs Station, Winslow, La Posada Hotel & Gardens and Wigwam Motel:

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RV Camping with the Rock Art Petroglyphs in Gila Bend, AZ

For years we’ve driven back and forth between San Diego and Phoenix on I-8, zipping by the exit for Painted Rock Petroglyph Site. I’d always look out the window thinking wistfully, “Oooh, that must be so interesting!” but it is a ways off the interstate and we were always on a mission to get wherever we were going and didn’t have time to stop.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Sunset at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend in Arizona

On a recent trip we decided to make Painted Rock Petroglyph Site our destination, and we scooted off the freeway onto a paved side road that wandered off into the desert.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Petroglyphs cover all the rocks and boulders at this site.

In a few short miles we arrived at the site and were delighted with what we found.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Some images are recognizable like the double parallel squiggly lines that probably indicate there’s water nearby.

The sun was setting and it cast a wonderful pink glow across the desert and the pile of rocks that is the centerpiece of the site.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend AZ

Sunset on a sun rock!

Following a trail around the rock pile, we found that petroglyphs literally covered almost every boulder, rock and small stone.

Unlike so many petroglyph sites where the rock art is located high up on a wall or far across a canyon, these petroglyphs were right there in plain site at our feet.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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On one side of the huge rock pile there’s a dry camping campground with lovely widely spaced sites. A few of the campsites are right alongside the trail where campers can have a view of petroglyph covered rocks right from the RV window!

The next day we wandered further and were amazed at the wide variety of patterns, designs and images we saw on these petroglyph adorned rocks.

Patterns Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A saguaro cactus stands watch over some petroglyphs.

Some of the designs were easy to decipher, like parallel squiggly lines that surely describe the water sources that can be found nearby in the Gila River.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Others were just crazy designs that seem indecipherable.

Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Crazy patterns!

Almost every face of every rock had at least one design on it.

Pattern Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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There were also lizards with tails — very similar to the little guys we saw scurrying between the rocks — and some images of people too.

Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A lizard and a bullseye.

It was also intriguing that there were quite a few bullseye types of designs. Some were concentric rings.

Man and Bullseye Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

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Bullseyes and animals Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Concentric circles form two bullseyes.

And some were spirals. Was this accidental or did the two styles of circular designs have different meanings? Or were these things just random doodles after all?

Spiral Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A spiral pattern.

It is thought that these petroglyphs were pecked out of these rocks by the Hohokam people who lived in this area between 350 AD and 1400 AD, the same time frame spanning the Mayans in Central America and the ancient Khmer in Cambodia and Thailand.

There are ancient dwellings and rock art sites all over the southwest and they are impossible to protect from roaming vandals. Sometimes they bear scars from bullets or spray paint and sometimes an over eager collector has cut the entire face of the rock off to take elsewhere.

Navajo pattern Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

A cool and complex pattern defaced with bullet marks.

Stealing defacing petroglyphs Painted Rock Petroglyphs Gila Bend Arizona

Someone chiseled the whole surface of the rock off to take elsewhere.

But there are still thousands of pristine images carved on rocks all over this area that have survived as much as 1,000 years or more in the hot desert sun. Staring at them stirred my imagination as I pondered what motivated the ancient people to leave this legacy of art work strewn across the massive expanse of barren and inhospitable landscapes that makes up this part of the Sonoran desert.

If you find yourself traveling on I-8 with your RV about 18 miles west of Gila Bend, Arizona, take a detour off the highway and check out the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site!

More links below.

RV camping boondocking Arizona

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site is a little gem for RVers about 90 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona!

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More info about Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend, Arizona:

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Ta Prohm Temple – Exotic Ancient Ruins at Angkor in Cambodia

February 2017 – When we began planning our trip to Thailand, our friend that inspired us to go sent me an email saying, “As long as you’re going that far, make sure you go see Angkor Wat in Cambodia.”

As soon as I saw images of the fabulous and mysterious ancient Khmer ruins that dot the landscape deep in the jungle at this breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site I was hooked and made plans for us to fly from Bangkok, Thailand, to the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia.

When we arrived in Siem Reap we were astonished by what we found.

Tuk-tuk driver with passengers at Angkor Wat in SIem Reap Cambodia

A tuk-tuk driver takes tourists to the ancient Khmer ruins at Angkor Archaeological Park in Cambodia.

Siem Reap hums with life and the streets are filled with people on motorbikes and tuk-tuks going about their daily business. We took a walk to the heart of town from our hotel and couldn’t believe the crazy traffic in the street as one motorbike or tuk-tuk after another whizzed by.

Motorbikes in Siem Reap Cambodia

Families scoot around town on their motorbikes.

Whole families climbed aboard their motorbikes to get around town, often with mom, dad, the kids, and maybe even the baby all hanging on as the family zipped around town doing their errands. Sometimes even a teddy bear got to come along for the ride!

Family on motorbike with teddy bear Siem Reap Cambodia

Even Teddy gets a ride on the back!

Cars mingled with the busy two-wheeled traffic, and we saw little buggies of all kinds that weren’t familiar to us. We couldn’t stop our cameras from clicking constantly as we tried to capture the wild scene.

Little minibus Siem Reap Cambodia

We saw some cool vehicles we don’t see back home.

Standing on an insanely busy street corner where four streets came together and crammed themselves into one before going over a bridge, I took my camera down from my face and closed my eyes to listen. Small engines and narrow tires whooshed past in a constant stream, but the air was filled with life and there was a peacefulness to it, a happiness and contentment I couldn’t put my finger on.

Tuk-tuk drivers in Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Tuk-tuk drivers and motorbikes in Siem Reap, Cambodia

The rare toot of a horn was just a notice of “I’m here,” rather than an angry honk yelling “You’re in my way!” and everyone seemed to zig-zag around each other and get to where they needed to be without pushing or shoving or being mean.

Tuk-tuks and motorbikes Siem Reap Cambodia

The traffic was insanely busy and non-stop.

I looked over at Mark to say something about this to him, and noticed he was no longer taking photos either and was in the same kind of trance I was in. “It’s like flowing water,” he said, mesmerized.

We began to stroll along the river and suddenly saw bunches of schoolkids walking home from school, smartly dressed and carrying huge backpacks on their backs. A group of boys raced each other and bounced around on the sidewalk, laughing and teasing each other, and then they swung themselves into a tree to dangle from the thick vines in total glee.

What a cool place and what a great vibe!

Cambodian school children playing in Siem Reap

Schoolkids walking home from school stopped to take a quick swing on the vines.

The traffic of motorbikes and tuk-tuks continued to flow past us endlessly, and we saw vendors going about their business selling their wares from bikes and carts.

Bicycle with a heavy load in Siem Reap Cambodia

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Rolling cart in Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Junior gets a ride underneath!

And if anyone had a heavy load to carry but relied on a motorbike to get around town, well they just strapped it onto the back of the bike! Where there’s a will there’s a way!

Motorbike carrying a large cannister Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Wide load!

Our friend who had suggested we go to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat had emailed me the most enchanting story of when he had hired a tuk-tuk driver to take him around town and show him the sights. I loved this idea and hunted around online for a tuk-tuk driver.

I found the website of a very sincere sounding young man of 25 that had started his own tuk-tuk business by investing in one of these unusual rigs and hanging out his shingle online as a driver (website here).

Tuk-tuk driver in Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia

Mark with our tuk-tuk driver Pisal Rom.

His name was Pisal, and I emailed him a few weeks before our trip. I was tickled to get an email right back with a quote for his services. It would be about $20 a day to have him chauffeur us around town and take us to any of the temples we wanted all day long. Signing up with him was a no brainer, and a few email exchanges later we had worked out the days and times and which temples we would go see.

Siem Reap tuk-tuk driver for Angkor Wat in Cambodia Pisal Rom

Being a tuk-tuk driver is an entrepreneurial and independent business venture in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

He even came to the airport to greet us, and because I had sent him a link to our website he recognized us right off the bat! This was very handy because at least 50 cab drivers and tuk-tuk drivers greeted our plane holding up signs with names on them. All of us tourists were in a daze after going through customs and getting fingerprinted electronically (thumb and then all four fingers of each hand), and we stood there lamely trying to find our names in the sea of signs!

Tuk-tuk driver in Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia Pisal Rom

Pisal picked us up at the airport when we arrived and took us to our hotel.

The next morning he picked us up at our hotel and took us to the Visitors Center where we bought tickets to the Angkor Archaeological Park. Just like the very formal process we had gone through at the airport where we had been fingerprinted in order to obtain printed visas in our passports to enter the country, our one day tickets to Ankor Archaelogical Park were adorned with our mug shots!

Angkor Wat National Park entrance tickets Cambodia

Our one-day tickets for the Angkor Archaeological Park had our photos on them!

We hopped in the back seat of the tuk-tuk and enjoyed a quick ride to our first temple of the day. Almost all the vehicles on the road were tuk-tuks like ours with tourists sitting in the back. In various spots we saw groups of tuk-tuks parked, waiting to take someone for a ride.

Hammock in a tuk-tuk at Angkor Wat temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

One tuk-tuk driver we saw had an ingenious way to relax between customers!

And then we arrived at Ta Prohm temple, a magnificent group of structures built in 1186 by the ancient Khmer king Jayavarman VII.

Entrance to Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Entrance to Ta Prohm temple

Like most of the ancient Khmer ruins, the buildings are carefully positioned and laid out. Ta Prohm has entrance gates facing in each direction of the compass.

Ta Prohm ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

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I hadn’t fussed over the history of these ruins before our arrival, preferring instead to let the experience of seeing them wash over me as if I were an archeologist discovering them for the first time.

Courtyard Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Angkor Cambodia

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As we looked down a hallway with columns on one side opening into a courtyard, I was struck by how the shape of the arches was identical to that of the Mayan ruins we had visited at Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico.

The ancient Khmer temples were built about three hundred years after the Mayan empire fell, so who knows! Certainly, many aspects of the ruins reminded me of the Mayan ruins at Yaxchilan.

Hallway in Ta Prohm Angkor Wat ancient Khmer ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

The shape of these arches reminded us of the arches in the Mayan ruins in Mexico.

Doorway Ta Prohm Temple Angkor Cambodia

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We found all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore.

Ta Prohm temple columns Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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One of the things that is most impressive at Ta Prohm temple is that almost every stone used in its creation was carved with decorations. The carvings are on doorways, lintels, windows and in every corner.

Dancers stone carvings Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Almost all the stones on the walls, windows and doors were carved with wonderful sculptures.

I wandered down one hallway and found myself standing next to a wall that was intricately carved with a floral pattern from floor to ceiling.

Intricate stone carving Ta Prohm ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia 2

This pattern was repeated, floor to ceiling and a few feet wide. Ancient wall paper!

Stepping outside, I noticed that the outer wall of one building had carved sculptures inset into the entire length of the wall.

Wall carvings Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

The outer walls had statuary built in.

Stone carving Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

The ancient Khmer people were Hindus when the temples were built and later changed to Buddhism.

Stone carving Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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The more we looked, both outside and inside, the more carvings we saw.

Elaborate carving at Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

Every inch has elaborate carvings!

The doorways — and there were dozens — were truly ornate.

Ta Prohm ancient Khmer ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

The dozens of doorways were all similar but no two were exactly the same!

Oddly, the entire Ta Prohm temple ruin was strewn with enormous boulders that had once formed the walls and ceilings and floors of rooms that were no longer standing.

Doorway and fallen blocks Ta Prohm temple Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

Both outside and inside the temple buildings were rubble piles of large stones that had fallen. These piles were often waist high or more!

Ta Prohm temple ruins Angkor SIem Reap Cambodia

Wonderful columns — and lots of rubble, including a column piece to the left.

Rubble at Ta Prohm Temple Ruins Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

Beautiful – but what a mess!

Looking closely at the rubble, we could see stones that had been carved.

Carvings on blocks at Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Many stones in the rubble had carvings on them.

It was like an enormous jigsaw puzzle that just begged to be put back together again.

Ruins and fallen blocks at Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Sometimes it was easy to see how the stones had gone together before the wall or roof collapsed.

Carved stone rubble Ta Prohm ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia 2

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But what Ta Prohm temple is actually known for is the gargantuan trees that have enveloped the ruins with their roots. It is known as a “Jungle Temple” because it has truly been engulfed by the jungle.

Walking along the outer wall of the temple, we saw the most incredible tree and root system snaking over the wall.

Giant tree roots engulf wall at Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Ta Prohm temple is known for the Invasion of the Giant Trees.

If this looks like a modest tree and a knee high wall, look again:

Enormous tree covers wall at Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

Yes… the Giant Trees!

Trees like this were all over the place, their gnarly roots reaching out across the walls and buildings.

Tree roots covering wall at Ta Prohm temple Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia

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Huge tree roots engulf wall Ta Prohm ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia 2

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Jungle temple Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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In some places it seemed like the roots were flowing from the tree down across the temple buildings.

Tree roots on doorway Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

A waterfall of roots!

Roots on wall at Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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I turned one corner and noticed the head of a sculpture peeking out at me from between the tree roots!!

Face in tree Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

Hey… there’s a face in there!

Everywhere we turned, the trees and roots had taken over the temple.

Tree and roots engulf ruins at Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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The temple of Ta Prohm was used as a location in the movie Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie, and some of the places were recognizable to tourists and were favorite spots for selfies.

Tourists at jungle temple Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

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Ta Prohm is undergoing renovation and construction to put various bits back together again and to make it easier for tourists to get around, and we saw construction crews here and there with hard hats and cranes.

Reconstruction at Ta Prohm ruins Siem Reap Angkor Cambodia 2

Construction workers in hard hats watch a stone being lifted to the roof.

Eventually we wound our way back to the entrance gate where the crowds were growing ever bigger.

Tourists at entrance to Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

When we returned to the entrance there were lots of tourists coming in.

We spotted a sign suggesting we slow down a bit.

Cambodia sign to Slow Down

Cambodian letters are not from the Roman alphabet.
But they’re not Thai letters either!


Nearby we saw lots of tourists who had been approaching Temple Sightseeing Overload (which is easy to do in this part of the world where Ta Prohm is just one of dozens of exotic ruins). They were taking a load off in the shade.

Resting at Ta Prohm Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

Time for a break!

But we were still fired up. We found Pisal waiting for us and hopped in the back of his tuk-tuk for more temple adventures!

Fabulous ancient Khmer ruin Angkor Siem Reap Cambodia

This area is so rich with ancient Khmer ruins it would take many months to see them all.

We’ve seen quite a few ancient ruins in our travels now, and I found it fascinating to put together a timeline of who was building and living in which places at various times in history.

The meso-American ruins of Mexico and Central America predate all the others by a few hundred years. Interestingly, the ancient Khmer temples and kingdoms of southeast Asia were built about the same time as the cliff dwellings of America’s southwest!

  • 600 BC – 850 AD – Monte Alban – Zapotec step pyramids near Oaxaca, Mexico
  • 100 – 650 AD – Mitla – Zapotec ruins close to Monte Alban near Oaxaca, Mexico
  • 359 – 808 AD – Yaxchilan – Mayan pyramids on the river between Mexico and Guatemala
  • 431 – 800 AD – Palenque – Mayan pyramids in Chiapas, Mexico. One of Central America’s major Mayan sites
  • 580 – 800 AD – Bonampak – Mayan site in Chiapas, Mexico, with truly evocative fresco paintings depicting battles and coronations
  • 921 AD – Koh Kher – Ancient Khmer temples (upcoming post)
  • 1113 – 1145 AD – Angkor Wat – Ancient Khmer temples (upcoming post)
  • 1182-1225 AD – Wupatki Pueblo – Sinagua People multistory stone dwellings north of Flagstaff, Arizona
  • 1186 AD – Ta Prohm – Ancient Khmer temple described on this page
  • 1190-1300 AD – Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings – Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in southwestern Colorado
  • 1200 AD – Angkor Thom – Ancient Khmer temple (upcoming post)
  • 1330-1450 AD – Tonto Cliff Dwellings – Salado People in central Arizona

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More info about Ta Prohm, our tuk-tuk driver and our accommodations:

Other blog posts from our travels in Thailand:

More Glimpses of National Parks through our eyes:

National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites – North America and SE Asia

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Snorkeling Ko Rok with Dive & Relax – Underwater Magic in Thailand!

January 2017 – Thailand is a tropical country known for its stunning, palm tree lined, white sand beaches and exquisitely colorful reefs, and during our stay on the island of Ko Lanta in the southern part of the country, we took a fabulous snorkeling tour with Dive & Relax Tours to snorkel with the fish at Ko Rok in Mu Ko Lanta National Park.

Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour to Ko Rok on Ko Lanta Thailand

Hi there!

The Andaman Sea on Thailand’s southwestern shore is strewn with gorgeous islands. Each has a personality of its own, from busy tourist islands to crazy party islands. The island of Ko Lanta is known to be a quieter island, and it has nine huge beaches to explore.

Ko Lanta Thailand

Ko Lanta – An island of beaches.

Just offshore of Ko Lanta lies one of the best snorkeling and diving destinations in the country: the tiny uninhabited pair of islands known as “Ko Rok,” or more specifically, “Ko Rok Yai” (the more northern island) and “Ko Rok Noi” (its southern neighbor).

Because we would be renting our snorkeling gear as part of the tour, we visited the Dive & Relax office a few days prior to our tour to get fitted for the masks and fins we would be using. They’re located right on Long Beach (Pra-Ae Beach)!

Dive and Relax Dive and Snorkeling Tours Ko Lanta Thailand

The relaxing side of Dive & Relax!

On the morning of our tour they sent a shuttle over to our hotel to pick us up, and before we knew it we were on the Dive & Relax power boat headed out to Ko Rok. It felt awesome to be out on the water.

Boat ride Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour to Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

It was a blast zipping out to the Ko Rok islands on their speedboat.

Unlike many diving and snorkeling outfits on Ko Lanta, Dive & Relax specializes in intimate tours with small groups of snorkelers and divers. Our group had six divers and four snorkelers. To accompany our group of ten tourists there were three professional dive masters, the captain of our boat and an assistant.

A few years ago Ko Rok was relatively undiscovered as a diving and snorkeling destination, but it is such a phenomenal spot that it has recently become quite popular. However, these folks know the hidden spots around the island where they can tuck into a bay and be the only boat there.

After about 45 minutes of speeding along through the water, we arrived at Ko Rok Noi and our captain tied the boat to a mooring provided by Mu Ko Lanta National Park in a gorgeous bay. There wasn’t anything around us but the beautifully rugged shore and the shockingly clear aquamarine water.

The divers all climbed into their gear, and one by one they jumped off the back of the boat and were joined by two dive masters.

Diver jumps off boat Dive & Relax Ko Rok Snorkeling Tour Ko Lanta Thailand

One by one, the divers jumped in.

Then it was our turn to jump in. The water was wonderfully warm.

Snorkeler on Dive and Relax Ko Rok Snorkeling Tour Ko Lanta Thailand

Big fish!

Almost immediately we began to see fish all around us.

Snorkeling with fish Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour to Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

We saw beautiful fish within seconds of hitting the water.

Reef Fish Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

These guys were everywhere.

Reef Fish Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Big fish, small fish, red fish, blue fish!

Our dive master kept us together and pointed out unusual things as we drifted slowly over the colorful spectacle below us.

Snorkeler on Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Our snorkeling dive master free dove to the reef to point out special sightings.

First she pointed out a sea cucumber, something I never would have noticed on my own.

Sea cucumber Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

A sea cucumber!

Then she pointed at a fantastic giant clam with ruffled purple lips.

Purple clam Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Wow… A giant purple clam!

Purple Clam Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

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After about an hour in the water, we returned to the boat, and as we munched on pastries the captain took us around to the channel that separates the two islands, Ko Rok Noi and Ko Rok Yai. The water was breathtakingly clear and inviting.

Clear water Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

How gorgeous is that?!!

Clear water Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

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The captain anchored our boat and we all climbed down the ladder off the back and waded onto the soft sand of this hidden tropical beach in paradise. I looked around and had to smile when I realized that ours were the only footprints in the sand.

On the beach with Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

We are the only ones on this remote beach.

Ko Rok beach Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Lanta Thailand

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Suddenly the three dive masters spread out a blanket and brought out a collection of coolers that were filled with a yummy Thai lunch. We had all worked up an appetite after an hour in the water and we chowed down!

Thai lunch break Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Our three dive masters set up a fabulous hot lunch for us on the beach.

As we explored this uninhabited beach, seeking shade under the trees, we got chatting with the other divers and snorkelers who hailed from all over the world. A German mother/daugher pair were our companion snorkelers, and our snorkeling dive master was a Japanese woman who has spent the last few years chasing seasonal dive master positions in all the most sought after tropical locations in the world.

What intrigued us most, however, was when we learned that two of the divers were a Swedish couple that had sailed across the Pacific with their kids twenty years ago in a 35 foot boat. They now had a 43 footer back in Sweden, and they were gearing up to go on a round-the-world cruise!

One couple was very seasoned divers who had come to Thailand for a few weeks specifically to go diving every day. They had signed up for just about every diving tour that Dive & Relax offers, and she even had a tattoo of a sea turtle on her foot!

Sea turtle tattoo Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Talk about being a diving enthusiast —
One of the divers in our group had a sea turtle tattooed on her foot!

Soon it was time to go to our second snorkeling site and our captain started up the engine and took us around the bend. He dropped us off and we spent an hour slowly sightseeing along the reef and making our way into the next cove where he anchored the boat and waited for us.

Diving Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Underwater sightseeing.

Ko Rok snorkeling Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour in Ko Lanta Thailand

Mark loves free diving.

We saw all kinds of marine life and coral that we had never seen before.

Ko Rok reef coral Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour in Ko Lanta Thailand

Fabulous coral is home to all kinds of pretty fish.

Coral reef at Ko Rok Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour in Ko Lanta Thailand

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Suddenly I spotted the most exotic looking purple sea star in the distance.

Purple Sea Star Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

A purple sea star!

Mark grabbed the camera and free dove down towards it to get a closer look. Wow!

Purple Sea Star Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

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A little further on we saw a sea anenome. And who was peeking out of the gently waving tendrils but Nemo!

Nemo clown fish Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Hey… We found Nemo!!

Nemo wasn’t alone in this anenome. The soft tendrils swayed and a few more clown fish emerged.

Nemo clown fish Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Clown fish swim around their anemone home.

During our lunch break the dive masters had been very excited because the water was especially clear on this day.

Reef fish Dive and Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

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As we entered the next cove we saw our companion divers deep below us. While we floated about twenty feet above them, their bubbles rose up from the bottom.

Divers Dive & Relax Snorkeling Tour of Ko Rok in Ko Lanta Thailand

Suddenly we saw the divers in our group below us.

Eventually we all reached the Dive & Relax boat and we gathered around the swim ladder — all smiles — and made our way back onto the boat and out of our gear.

As we zipped back to Ko Lanta, the dive masters made sure we not only had cold water and fruit juice to sip on, but they brought out a fantastic tropical fruit plate too.

Fruit snack aboard Dive and Relax snorkel tour boat Ko Lanta Thailand

A smorgasbord of tropical fruit!

We are both certified divers, but we loved the ease and simplicity of snorkeling on this trip and not worrying about the complexities of diving. I just wish we’d signed on for another tour with Dive & Relax, as there are many islands and reefs near Ko Lanta that they visit.

Dive & Relax Ko Rok snorkeling tour near Ko Lanta Thailand

Next time we’ll sign up for more than one tour!!

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Cheow Lan Lake Tour in Khao Sok with Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House

January 2017 – During our stay at Greenery Panvaree floating raft house resort in Khao Sok National Park, we had an absolute ball with our cameras, taking endless photos of this incredibly scenic little fairy tale hideaway on Cheow Lan Lake in Thailand.

Photography at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Taking sunrise photos on the main dock at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House

Kayaks are available for guests to use any time for free, and I took off to explore the coves nearby. As I pulled into one small cove after another and drifted along the shore, I was amazed that each cove had a song of its own as one resident bird or another sang its heart out deep in the trees that clung to the steep slopes.

Kayak Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House

I jumped in a kayak and went for a spin through some of the small coves near the resort

The construction of Ratchaprapha Dam to generate electricity for all of southern Thailand ended up displacing many families that lived along the river as the waters rose and Cheow Lan Lake formed.

So, there is a unique tradition at Greenery Panvaree to honor the people whose lives were so terribly disrupted and to say thanks to river goddess and to the jungle for this beautiful and precious place.

Every night Greenery Panvaree combines their personal tribute to Cheow Lan Lake’s origins with a small reenactment of a traditional annual Thai ceremony called Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง) that takes place nationwide on the full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai calendar (usually in November) .

After dark, all of us guests at The Greenery section of floating raft houses gathered on the main dock, and we were each given a candle embedded into a small loaf made from bread flour. We climbed into a longtail boat for a short ride to the next cove and soon found ourselves drifting silently on the silky water under a canopy of stars.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park

After dark, guests took a longtail boat ride to honor the spirit and history of Cheow Lan Lake.

As the boat rocked gently in the waves I looked up and saw Orion sparkling in the sky. The dark night air embraced us as our hostess, Yohke, told us a moving story that took place in this exact spot about 50 years ago when it was the edge of a river rather than the surface of a huge wide lake.

A young man named Jong Dong had lived and worked on the river, and he was deeply in love with his beautiful young bride-to-be, Kaew. Just days before their wedding, he had an accident with his boat and he died. His young fiancée was so overcome with grief that a few days later she died from a broken heart.

A spirit house, or shrine, stands on the shore of the lake near the place where he died and is dedicated to the memory of “Grandfather Jong Dong” and “Grandmother Kaew.” We couldn’t see the spirit house in the dark, but we were all very touched as Yohke told this story, first in Thai for the Thai guests and then in English.

Spirit House Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok Greenery Panvaree

The spirit house for Grandfather Jong Dong and Grandmother Kaew — in daytime.

As night’s gentle breezes caressed us, we each held out our candles and Yohke lit them. Then we each silently made a wish and thanked the goddess of the river and the goddess of the rainforest for the beauty of this unique spot.

One by one, we reached over the side of the boat and placed our candles in the water. The little bread loaves that carried the flickering candles slowly floated away. This is the essence of the Loy Krathong celebration in which the light of the candle venerates Buddha and the water symbolizes the cleansing away of one’s cares and frustrations.

To keep the National Park’s lake as “green” as possibly, by morning the bread loaves would disintegrate and become food for the fish.

Longtail boat Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Cheow Lan Lake at dawn.

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn for another longtail boat excursion out onto Cheow Lan Lake. As we drove out onto the lake we learned that the name “Panvaree” is a fun play on words with “Pan” meaning “1,000” in Thai and “Varee” being the name of the owner’s mother as well as the word “river” in Thai.

Riding in a longtail boat Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Greenery Panvaree

Along with our companion Greenery Panvaree guests (a local Thai family enjoying a family reunion), we took an early morning longtail boat ride with our hostess Yohke (left).

Mist and fog clung to the mountainsides as we cruised along.

Morning mist Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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In many places the tallest of the trees that once lined the river’s edge stuck up above the surface of the water.

Misty morning Chiao Lan Lake Chiew Larn Lake Khao Sok National Park Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House

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And everywhere around us the jungle slowly awoke and the sounds of exotic birds and other creatures filled the air.

Longtail boat Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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Eventually our driver stopped the boat and let us drift right up to the shore in one cove. He pointed up at a tree and we all gazed up in wonder as we heard something very big moving around in the tree.

Longtail Boat Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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Tree limbs shook and leaves rustled, and then we saw two huge Great Hornbills high above us. These are hefty birds that are about the size of a pelican, and they made guttural noises as they moved about on the branches. They seemed to be ignoring us in our longtail boat just below them.

Suddenly, one took off into the sky with a majestic sweep of his huge wings. Then the other flew away too. Wow.

Great hornbill Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

A Great Hornbill takes flight above us… Magnificent!

When Yohke had told us before the boat ride that we might see hornbills, I had no idea what she was talking about. But when we returned to our room and I into our bathroom, I suddenly recognized the image that was hand painted on the lovely ceramic sink basin!

Great hornbill on a plate at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Khao Sok

The handmade sink basin in our room was decorated with images of Great Hornbills – Cool!

It was special touches like these that made Greenery Panvaree floating raft houses such a unique spot to visit. We learned that the great hornbills hang around in the jungle by the lake quite a bit, and they are a mascot for Greenery Panvaree.

We then had a traditional Thai lunch in the main raft house restaurant, and Mark got a wonderful photo of the pretty young women who had been taking care of us during our stay.

Greenery Panvaree Floating House Restaurant Khao Sok National Park Cheow Lan Lake

The staff at Greenery Panvaree took great care of us.

Then our captain brought our longtail boat around to the dock once again for an afternoon excursion on the lake.

Longtail boat Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

More adventures ahead!

Again, the exotic scenery of towering limestone cliffs in the background with lush jungle vegetation in the foreground caught our imagination as we slipped by on the lake.

Lush vegetation Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Incredible scenery on Cheow Lan Lake

Eventually we pulled into a cove where the mist of the rainforest moisture hung heavily in the air.

Coral Cave Tour (Pakarang Cave Tour) Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park with Greenery Panvaree Resort

A small settlement emerges on the misty shore.

We got off the longtail boat and began a trek through the jungle to another lake. The path was wide and it was an easy walk despite the truly sultry heat that enveloped us.

Suddenly, someone up ahead pointed into a tree. As we approached we saw something dark and then caught a glimpse of a pair of eyes peering out through the leaves.

Dusky Leaf Monkey Khao Sok National Park Thailand

A Dusky Leaf Monkey peaks out at us.

It was a dusky leaf monkey, and he was as happy as could be as he quietly sat in the shade of the leaves.

Dusky Leaf Monkey Jungle Tour Khao Sok National Park Thailand

What a cutie pie. Look at that tail!

We had seen longtail monkeys in Kanchanaburi when we visited the Lawa Cave, but this was a monkey of a different color and totally different personality. What wonderful good fortune that he was in the trees watching our parade of humans go by!

Dusky Leaf Monkey Khao Sok National Park Thailand

“Sittin’ on a corner watchin’ all the girls go by.”

The path opened up and some buildings appeared, and off to one side we saw a pineapple growing.

Pineapple growing in Thailand

Down on the ground a pineapple was ready to pick!

Then we saw the lake we had been hiking to, complete with long bamboo rafts waiting for us on the shore.

Bamboo raft tour Coral Cave Pakarang Cave Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Long rafts made of bamboo logs were waiting to take tourists out to Coral Cave (Pakarang Cave).

These are very cool rafts that are 100% bamboo. Because the bamboo logs have sealed hollow chambers, they are extremely buoyant and easily support lots of people sitting on them.

Bamboo raft Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Bamboo raft.

We all climbed aboard and our raft pilot maneuvered the engine to get us turned around and headed onto the lake.

Bamboo raft tour Khao Sok National Park Jungle Trek Thailand

Our pilot turned the bamboo raft around to head out on the lake.

We zipped across the small lake and were delivered to a very short hiking trail to Coral Cave (Pakarang Cave). The trail was a little slippery in one spot because of the moisture of the rainforest and the cave, but there were railings to help us keep our balance.

Once inside, we were greeted by fabulous stalactite and stalagmite formations. Some were very long fins.

Coral Cave (Pakarang Cave) Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Coral Cave was filled with beautiful formations.

Others were little crystaline formations and still others were like mammoth fall leaves or giant clams.

Coral cave (Pakarang Cave) formations Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Greenery Panvaree Floating House tour

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After a refreshingly cool meander through the cave, we hopped back on the bamboo raft and hiked back through the jungle to our longtail boat which was waiting for us on Cheow Lan Lake.

Longtail Boat Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Tour

Our longtail boat was waiting for us!

Along with pretty flowers growing here and there, Mark spotted a wonderful pinwheel shaped dried flower on the ground.

Wildflower petals Khao Sok National Park Cheow Lan Lake Thailand

Nature’s pinwheel.

There were a few shops and resting areas under simple bamboo shade ramadas near the boat and we roamed around a bit.

Jungle hike tour Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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We’d been drinking water like mad, but what fun it was to get a Coke with the beautiful Thai script letters on the side of the can!

Buying a coke at an outdoor shop in Thailand

Have a Coke and a Smile! (Or a Leo beer!)

As Yohke explained to me later, Thai people love to have organized activities as part of their vacations, and after a brief few hours of relaxing back at our delightful floating bungalow at Greenery Panvaree, we set out on one last longtail boating excursion on Cheow Lan Lake.

Raft houses Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Mountain views on Cheow Lan Lake.

The sun was setting and it cast a wonderful golden glow across the tall limestone rock formations on the water’s edge.

Longtail boat tour Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

What a ride!

Our captain took us to Little Ha Long Bay, which is named for the much more famous Ha Long Bay in Vietnam because of the resemblance in the rock formations.

Little Ha Long Bay Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park

Little Ha Long Bay is a miniature version of its renowned namesake in Vietnam

This is a favorite spot for selfies, and we all took turns getting our photos taken with the rocks behind us. What a hoot!

Selfie Little Ha Long Bay Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Our stay at Greenery Panvaree floating raft house will always be a treasured memory. It is an unusual destination that few foreign tourists know about, and we feel blessed that we found this jewel on the internet prior to our trip and arranged to spend a few days there.

More info and links below.

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Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House – Khao Sok National Park… Wow!

January 2017 – While sitting in our fifth wheel trailer in Arizona and planning our Thailand adventure, I wanted to find the most exotic and beautiful landscape possible and to stay in some truly unique lodgings.

We found just that at the Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok National Park.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Thailand

We had 3 days in paradise at the Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House in Khao Sok National Park

Cheow Lan Lake — also spelled Chiewlarn Lake and Chieow Lan Lake — is the jewel of Khao Sok National Park in the southern jungles of Thailand. It was created in 1982 when the Ratchaprapha dam was built on the Klong Saeng River to supply electricity to the southern half of the country. No one knew at the time just how exquisite the scenery on this lake would soon become.

Now it is a little known gem that offers sublime beauty without the crowds of tourists that are found in other parts of Thailand.

The best way to see the lake is to get out onto it in a longtail boat, and when we arrived, lots of longtail boats were waiting to take people on day trips and to deliver them to unique overnight accommodations at floating raft houses scattered in little coves around the lake’s extensive shores.

We had arranged for a three day and two night stay at the Greenery Panvaree Resort floating raft house, the finest and most deluxe floating raft house on the lake.

Longtail boats Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Exotic Longtail boats shuttle tourists on exquisite Cheow Lan Lake

Before heading out on the boat, we needed to purchase a ticket to enter Khao Sok National Park, since we would be staying within the boundaries of the National Park. It was 300 Thai Baht per person, or a little less than $10 US. The ticket was very pretty!

Khao Sok National Park Ticket Thailand

Our entrance ticket to Khao Sok National Park – what a neat souvenir!

In no time, we boarded the longtail boat that was bound for the Greenery Panvaree floating raft house. We were joined by an extended Thai family of parents and grown kids (who all live abroad) with their significant others enjoying a family reunion vacation together.

Khao Sok National Park Thailand Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake longtail boat

We saw longtail boats in the distance as we traveled across the lake

The magic of this lake is not only the extremely clear green water but the towering limestone mountains that encircle it. As we rode along on the water, we were mesmerized by the views in all directions.

Longtail boat Khao Sok National Park Thailand Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake

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Longtail boats were skimming across the water both near and far.

Limestone karst Longtail boat Khao Sok National Park Thailand Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake longtail boat

Limestone karsts rose up from the depths of the lake.

Longtail boat Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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The ride was about 30 minutes from the pier out to the Greenery Panvaree floating raft houses. When we turned a corner and saw the row of little bungalows perched on the water, a collective “Ahhh!” went up from all of us on the boat.

Greenery Panvaree Floating raft house Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Our first glimpse of the Greenery Panvaree floating raft houses. What a setting!

These charming little villas are nestled into a cove backed by enormous cliffs, and they looked utterly inviting and romantic.

Greenery Panvaree Floating raft house Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Family Zone

What an exotic place to spend a few days.

There are two groups of raft houses on either side Greenery Panvaree’s small and private cove.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Khao Sok National Park Cheow Lan Lake Chiew Larn Lake Thailand

Greenery Panvaree has two groups of floating raft houses, the Family Zone (left) and Greenery Zone (right)

The Family Zone is made up of five raft houses with nine rooms that are designed for families along with a main raft house with a common kitchen and restaurant building where meals are prepared and served.

The Greenery Zone, where we were going to stay, is made up of four rooms on two floors designed for couples. They are all located in one building that has a breezeway hall on the first floor. The Greenery Zone also has a main raft building with a kitchen on the first floor and a lovely restaurant with a view on the second floor.

Greenery Zone Greenery Panvaree Resort Floating Raft House Resort Khao Sok National Park Cheow Lan Lake Chiew Larn Lake Thailand

The Greenery Zone has two floating raft buildings.
One has four rooms for guests (left) and the other has a restaurant and common area (right).

As we slipped by the Family Zone, we saw a collection of kayaks in a wonderful rainbow of colors tied up out in front of their restaurant building.

Kayaks at Greenery Panvaree Floating raft house Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Plentiful free kayaks were waiting for guests to take them out for a paddle at the Family Zone.

As our longtail boat slowed down, a couple paddled by us in a kayak. What fun!

Kayak on Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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When we arrived at the Greenery Zone, which is about 100 yards from the Family Zone, anchored to the bottom of the lake with its own mooring system, we stepped off our longtail boat at the dock in front of the main building and were greeted with a delicious and cold fruit juice “welcome drink” that was dark red and incredibly sweet and tasty.

As we sipped this ambrosia with our fellow guests and gaped at the views around us, our bags were whisked away to our room.

Longtail boat Greenery Panvaree Resort Chiewlarn Lake Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Our driver takes our longtail boat to its dock out back.

We hung out on the front dock of the Greenery Zone for a while, chatting with the staff and each other, soaking in this very unique spot.

The clear emerald water was warm, and the air was blisteringly hot and humid in the sun. One of the great things about staying here is not only enjoying the gorgeous setting but being able to jump in the water from anywhere, including right outside your own room!

The main dock by our restaurant raft house had both colorful kayaks for guests to use and big round floating couches and a swing set too.

Kayaks at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House resort Cheow Lan Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Chiewlarn Lake

Water toys.

Swing and water toys Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park

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We weren’t ready to swim just yet, so we made our way to our floating raft house room. When we looked down into the water we were floored that it was teeming with fish!!

Fish at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park

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The raft houses are linked together with floating walkways, and we were as excited as little kids as we strolled around this very cool and very unique kind of accommodations.

We spotted our longtail boat tied up to the raft house where the staff stay.

Floating raft house Greenery Panvaree resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

All the raft houses were connected by floating walkways.

For those who don’t want to walk, another great way to get around is by kayak!

Kayaking Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Not only were guests playing in the kayaks, people used them to get around!

Kayaking Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

“This is Our Happy Place”

We were absolutely smitten with the charm and beauty of this very cool spot.

Docks at Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Super cool…

As we approached our room, we entered an open air hallway, or breezeway, that had a fun waterfront view in each direction.

Hallway View Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Looking one way down our “hallway.”

Hallway View Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

Looking the other way down our “hallway.”

When we got to our room, we just stopped and stared!

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Greenery Room

A beautiful waterfront room in every sense of the word!

The glass doors opened right onto the water with a small walkway, and a set of stairs led right into the water for easy access to go swimming right from our room!

Bedroom view Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Greenery Zone

We opened the doors to our view…

Across the little cove, we could see the sweet floating raft houses of the Family Zone backed by towering limestone pinnacles.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

…And what a view it was from our room!

Our raft house was two stories high and had four rooms in it, two on each floor. Our curiosity got the better of us, and when we noticed that two of the rooms were still unoccupied, we snuck in for a look.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand King bed room Greenery Zone

Before anyone got settled in, we explored the other rooms in our Greenery Zone floating raft house. All wonderful!

Greenery Zone room Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

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In the early evening, dinner was served in the dining room on the second floor of the main raft house. Staying at this resort is a very intimate experience, and dinner was served family style. The Thai family staying in the Greenery Zone with us was seated nearby at the next table, and they showed us how to eat some of the more exotic foods.

When we noticed a very yummy looking dark red drink being delivered to their table, I asked for one too. It is called Blue Pea Lime Juice. But it isn’t made from blue peas! It is actually made from a flower, and it is such a wonderfully refreshing drink I had it with every meal after that!

Blue Pea Lime Juice drink in Thailand

Blue Pea Lime Juice — Delicious (and not made of blue peas)!!

After dinner we wandered around the docks of this unique floating hotel in dusk’s magical light.

During the day, every so often the docks would move ever so slightly if a longtail boat went by on the lake and made a big wake or if the wind came up and rippled the water into waves. But as night fell the lake was still and the lights of the raft houses cast a warm light.

Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand Twighlight

The main raft house glowed at twilight.

Cheow Lan Lake is in Khao Sok National Park, and the Thai government prohibits any building construction along the lake’s edge.

There had been people living on the river before the lake was built, and the government gave them new tracts of land located about 10 kilometers away so they could move and build new homes and lives.

The people who owned land that eventually got buried by water were given permits to build bamboo raft houses since all construction on land was prohibited.

Twelve raft house permits were granted on Cheow Lan Lake, which is about 15 miles long and several miles wide, and the grantees built twelve very simple and truly rustic floating hotels around the shores of the lake. Some were so rustic, lacking electricity and other amenities, some upscale international tourists were a bit unhappy with the accommodations.

As tourism expanded, the government gave out four more permits for prospective raft house developers to purchase, but they required them to be made of better materials and built to a higher standard.

Greenery Panvaree was one of those properties, and the young Thai couple who owns the resort, Ton and Yohke, have created a spectacular retreat that is without doubt the most beautiful and well appointed raft house on the lake.

Twilight Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

The restaurant and kitchen building in the Greenery Zone.

Many of the raft houses, including Greenery Panvaree, are also used for packaged day trip tours. Mini-van based tour groups coming from the town of Khao Sok or Surat Thani or Khao Lak drive to the lake, jump in a longtail boat for a ride out to the raft house, spend a few hours enjoying swimming from the raft house or doing a hike in the jungle or to a cave and then return to their hotels by longtail boat and minivan.

I found it really difficult to figure out how to put together a visit to a raft house on Cheow Lan Lake that would be a 5-star adventure, despite reading endless TripAdvisor reviews and some blogs. Most people seemed to have arranged their tour to Cheow Lan Lake and a floating raft house once they arrived in a hotel that was within a one to three hour drive from the lake.

I also found travelers’ experiences at the raft houses varied tremendously, since some are simply too rustic for the tastes of many international tourists. But it was difficult to find detailed information about each individual floating raft house destination, especially contact information for the hotel managers, to be able to compare one hotel to another and get answers to questions.

Greenery Panvaree stood out as unquestionably the finest and most luxurious raft house on the lake, and reviewers loved their stays there, whether on daytrips or overnight. But again, I couldn’t figure out how to arrange to visit Greenery Panvaree specifically, as most pre-packaged tours don’t explicitly state which raft house would be on their itinerary.

Khao Sok Floating Raft House Resort Greenery Panvaree Chiewlarn Lake Thailand

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I finally found the Greenery Panvaree website, but it was written mostly in Thai. I began to realize that this is a special resort that Thai tourists cherish but that international tourists don’t visit very often. How cool is that — visiting a place in Thailand where local Thai people choose to vacation!!

I emailed the resort, and the owner, Yohke, who is fluent in English and is very well traveled herself, answered all my questions.

When I met her during our stay at Greenery Panvaree, I found out she lived in Seattle for a year and she was also a flight attendant on international flights for over a decade. No wonder she is so comfortable with English!

Because this is a small operation, Greenery Panvaree requires a 50% deposit to book a room to insure that the customer is serious about coming. Because this resort has been primarily a destination for Thai people, the transaction is done via wire transfer, which is a common method of payment for Thais in Thailand.

Western Union is easy for foreigners to use, and even though it seems scary to wire money to a far distant country to book a room, the rich reward is an incredible experience at Greenery Panvaree.

Sunrise Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

The view of sunrise from our room was breathtaking.

The remaining 50% is paid at the resort. This remaining portion must be paid in cash because the floating raft house is so remote there is no signal for credit card transactions. There is a low grade cell phone signal some of the time, and the TV in the restaurant broadcasts a Thai station. But who goes to a place like this sit on Facebook or watch TV?

Sunrise Cheow Lan Lake Chiewlarn Lake Khao Sok National Park Thailand

A day of adventure awaits…

The owners of Greenery Panvaree are working on setting up PayPal so they can accept online credit card transactions for room deposits to make it easier for foreign tourists, but until that is up and running, tourists shouldn’t be concerned at all by the requirement to wire funds to book their room.

Greenery Panvaree was our home base for three glorious and fun-filled days. Pics and stories from those adventures will be coming soon!!

More info and links below…

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More info about Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House:

  • The Greenery Panvaree Floating Raft House Resort – Official Website
  • Be sure to choose the “English Only” menu below the top photo on the home page to see the English language pages. To read the Thai language pages auto-translated into English, use Google Chrome and install the Google Translate plugin for Chrome. The resort’s owner Yohke speaks English fluently and she is the one who responds to email inquiries. Email here.

  • Rooms and Rates at Greenery Panvaree – Official Website
  • Rooms are booked in packages of 1 or 2 nights (you can opt to stay longer too). A jungle hike, cave tour, and longtail boat rides at dawn and after dark are included in the package, depending on how many nights you stay. Our 3 day / 2 night tour was 14,900 Baht or about $440 US total for two people (National Park fee of 600 Baht ($18 US) for 2 people paid separately).

  • Location of Khao Sok Pier and Greenery Panvaree – The Longtail boat ride goes from the pier to Greenery Panvaree
  • Greenery Panvaree Reviews – TripAdvisor Reviews
  • Western Union – Send money online
  • General Info on Cheow Lan Lake Raft House Tours – This link is for reference only
  • Please note that all pre-packaged tours to floating raft houses on Cheow Lan Lake in Khao Sok, like the ones listed by the company at the above link, are as much as twice as expensive when booked through them as they are when booked directly with the raft house owners. The “tour package” you receive is identical. You are simply paying more to book through a third party.

Other blog posts from our travels in Thailand:

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