Any self-respecting country laying claim to ‘wilderness areas’ has to have them! Reports of large ape-like creatures emanate from remote mountain and forest areas of every continent bar Antarctica: the Sasquatch or Bigfoot of Canada and the United States, the yetis of Siberia, yowies of Australia and abominable snowmen of Tibet — and Southeast Asia, with its stretches of dense and often little-known jungle, is not immune.
(This post actually comes with a soundtrack, so at this point you may wish to click this link.)
Malaysia in particular has persistent reports of creatures at home in Endau Rompin national park, or check out this report from Setapak forest. Laos and Vietnam have sightings of ‘hairy wild-men’ from the Truong Son mountains along the remote border area (see here) and Cambodia, the Kulen yeti.
With an estimated 15% forest cover, Thailand is not traditionally a yeti hotspot, but we uncovered similar legends on a visit to Nan province’s Mae Charim national park. Mae Charim lies in a mountainous region of eastern Nan, backing onto the Lao border, and contains extensive forest area and very few inhabitants.
In fact part of eastern Nan is even known as the ‘empty quarter’ and in Mae Charim there is just one village: the Hmong settlement of Rom Klao. We began our trip in Rom Klao where we met up with our old friend, former communist guerrilla, ex-hunter and now local guide Pha.
As we hiked through the forest I asked Pha what wildlife was found in the area; I knew elephants crisscrossed the border between Nan and Xainyaburi in Laos and tigers had been confirmed in the area but …
“Well plenty of deer, boar, leopards and wild cat species, macaques, some gibbons in remoter areas and then the big hairy black things,” he said.
We’ve known Pha for years and he’s a pretty down to earth sort of chap. He’s spent his whole life in these forests so our curiosity was piqued.
“You see them most on that mountain over there,” continued Pha, pointing to a steep, jagged limestone outcrop we could just make out some way off through the canopy. “Daytime’s not a problem. They’re nearly always only seen at night but after dark no one in the village would come down here, that’s for sure!”
They walk upright, are around six-foot tall, covered in dark hair, and potentially aggressive — villagers report attacks and even fatalities. Fanciful legend, distant folk memories of when Neanderthals still shared the earth, a result of eating the wrong kind of mushrooms or are they really out there in the forests of northern Thailand just waiting to be discovered?
Whatever your opinion, Mae Charim is a beautiful part of the country and there’s great trekking and rafting on the park’s Nam Wa. If you wish to do either — or search for yetis — then Fhu Travel in Nan are probably your best contacts. Oh and please send us a photo for our blog if you do come across a dark hairy stranger!
By Mark Ord
Last updated on 24th May, 2011.