Dec 17 2012
Most travellers briefly pass through south Thailand’s Trang province en route to one of the Andaman Sea islands, perhaps grabbing a kopi or stopping by one of the area’s many waterfalls along the way. In search of something different, we recently gave the Trang Peninsular Botanical Gardens (Thung Khai) a shot. We were expecting plants and trees, but a series of raised walkways winding through jungle canopy some 18 metres above ground proved to be an unexpected adventure.
Aside from a local couple (not a bad place for a date either), we were the only visitors on a drizzly weekday afternoon, and it was a joy to have the park’s several square kilometres blanketed by lush foliage practically all to ourselves. A series of well marked paths make this an optimal hiking destination, although — as we found out — the trails can get muddy in places.
Flower enthusiasts might be disappointed to find no well groomed gardens bursting with colour, but a smattering of rare plants and trees that are cared for by a local conservationist group may be seen near the front gates, each marked on a sign by its Thai and Latin biological name.
For the real fun, however, keep following the signs for “canopy walk” as they lead you deeper into the jungle. Seemingly out of nowhere, the first of six red steel “canopy stations” appears. When you get there, leave your acrophobia behind, and start the climb.
Constructed in 2003, the five narrow walkways are connected by observation towers with staircases that each lead higher than the last. The first walkway is only 10 metres off the ground, but further on they descend up to 18 metres — high enough to spot bats and flying squirrels in the treetops.
Each walkway is held up by steel suspension wires supported by the towers. While they do feel safe and have some (albeit low standing) handrails, traversing the narrow walkways can be a tad unnerving, especially if they’re wet. At least you’ll get a better appreciation for what it’s like to be a monkey.
Reaching the park by motorbike or car is relatively simple. Head out of Trang on route 404, which is the main highway heading south, towards the town of Yan Ta Khao. Continue for about 10 kilometres after passing Trang Airport, and keep an eye out for the large gateway and sign on the left for “Thung Khai Peninsular Botanical Gardens”. The gateway is made out of the same red steel as the jungle walkways. Alternately, a tuk tuk can take you to the park from Trang town and back for around 500 baht. Admission is free.
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