This was another sightseeing trip linked to a search for building supplies for our house construction, the story of which you can find HERE. This time we were heading South East to Khon Kaen, a major city around 1 1/2 hours drive from us.

The relationship between Udon Thani, our closest major city and Khon Kaen. You can see Si Bun Ruang midway between them on the left.

The relationship between Udon Thani top centre, our closest major city and Khon Kaen. Our home of Si Bun Ruang is midway between them on the left of Lake Ubon Ratana, which I wrote about HERE.

I have written before about my goal of “discovering” the hidden sights of our bit of Isaan, the largely rural part of South East Thailand. This time I had read about two places to visit on the way to Khon Kaen. Both had been very briefly written up on Thai orientated websites with very little detail and I thought I was on a winner to bring these treasures to light for anybody exploring this area.

The timing for this expedition, which would add a couple hours driving to an already long day, was because one of the attractions, a Wat with an orchid garden was described as follows, the key word being “January”, the month we were making this trip:

Chang Kra Having grown wild over a century ago in Wat Pa Mancha Khiri over 4,000 Chang Kra orchid-Rhyncostylis gigantean (Lidl. Ridl) are in full bloom on the branches of some 280 trees every year during January and February. These wild orchids always fill the whole area with their mild fragrance.

Several travel sites and blogs mention Chang Kra but if you can find anything other than a cut and paste of these words then you are doing better than I did. The other place I wanted to see was just down the road with an equally comprehensive description:

Tortoise Village The villagers keep a large amount of tortoises as their mutual pets. The brownish yellow shelled tortoises, called Tao Phek in local dialect, always travel around in the village to be fed.

A combination of the two sounded like the makings of a post for the blog and a possible addition to The Sights of Isaan series.

Travelling from our side of Ubol Ratana lake we eventually get onto Highway 12, a major dual carriageway that takes us to Khon Kaen. A turn to the right at the intersection with a smaller local road called the 2062 has us heading the right way according to these surprisingly accurate set of directions on a Thai travel site:

How to get there: from downtown Khon Kaen, motorists can drive via Highway 12 ( Khon Kaen –Chum Phae) for ten kilometres then turn left to Highway 2062 (Khon Kaen-Mancha Khiri) for another 54 kilometres. The entrance to the tortoise village is on the left at Ban Kok, two kilometres prior to Amphoe Mancha Khiri. It is easy to notice with two tortoise replicas on the roadside opposite to Wat Si Sumang. Turn left through Ban Kok, the tortoise village is 50 metres away.

The village is signposted in English along the way so you can’t get lost. There is also a sign that points you to the village itself off the 2062. However signs in Thailand are always a bit of a challenge as they can either mean you turn immediately or at some indeterminate distance somewhere further down the road. The best variation on this theme is when the first signpost is in English, to give you hope that you will reach your planned destination, and then at the point where you are actually supposed to make the turn, the sign is only in Thai. You end up in Laos wondering where you went wrong!

If you see the sign to the Tortoise Village pointing you to the left and it is opposite this school sign then turn immediately left!

The village entrance is immediately opposite this school.

The Tortoise village road is immediately opposite this school.

We drove through the village and there certainly weren’t lots of tortoises playing alongside the road if that was your expectation. The reason I suspect is contained in an observation I make in relation to tortoises and the weather further on. Giving up on this aspect of the trip we drove back to something calling itself the Tor Toise Park close to the 2062 to see if we had better luck there.

A tortoise lovers heaven?

A tortoise lovers heaven?

Before we go any further I have to clarify my interest in tortoises. When we were having our house designed the draftsman said that it looked like a tortoise/turtle because it had a large hip roof and was close to the ground rather than the raised look you see so often in Thailand. The house has been called “Baan Tao” or Turtle House ever since.

Baan Tao.

Baan Tao as of this evening. Getting closer to finishing.

Our new house is going to be home to a turtle who will be called Barney. I am building a small pond for him/her at the front of the house. Barney will make an appearance in the wet season when they heave themselves out of dams and start “racing” around the place in celebration. The family will bring one home from the farm for us come the time.

Back to the Park. Entry is free but you can buy some vegetables and fruit to feed the tortoises if you want at 20 THB or A$0.70 a bag. Now I expected to be overwhelmed with tortoises but there wasn’t one to be seen other than these concrete examples:

Not quite what I was looking for.

Not quite what I was looking for.

Definitely not what I was looking for. Very tasteful Gaun.

Definitely not what I was looking for! Very tasteful Gaun.

All very well but where is the real thing?

All very well but where is the real thing?

Gaun with fruit looking for a tortoise to feed it to.

Gaun with fruit looking for a tortoise to feed it to.

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I certainly will. Ah the English language.

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And that pavemen is certainly broken.

Honestly I was about to give the whole thing up as a Thai joke when Gaun called out that she had found tortoises. Now I guess if I had a huge heat absorbing shell on my back the shade would be a good option and that’s what the tortoises were thinking too.

Why would I be out in the sun when I can hide under this?

Why would I be out in the sun when I can hide under this?

Or disguise myself like this.

Or disguise myself like this.

It ended up that the central enclosure had a large number of tortoises once you looked under bushes and piles of leaves.

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Out of hiding for a drink. Did you spot the second one?

They were hungry too. This one tucking into a piece of fruit.

They were hungry too. This one tucking into a piece of fruit.

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A sort of Jurassic Park moment this close.

Gaun meets tortoise. They are amazingly heavy. The really big ones must be very strong to heave themselves around. No wonder turtles have taken to the water.

Gaun meets tortoise. They are amazingly heavy. The really big ones must be very strong to heave themselves around. No wonder turtles have taken to the water.

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Get me out of here.

Get me out of here.

On the left as you leave there is a pretty tacky gift shop in case you needed a souvenir of the day.

If you want one to take home.......

If you want one to take home…….

Although these were tortoises, I think, and not turtles it was nice to meet them up close. They have a lovely ancient feel to them. As an attraction this is not worth a special trip and normally I would say “if you are in the area” pop in but it is extremely unlikely anyone will ever be in the area as it is way off the main roads so your only chance to meet these Isaan tortoises is via this blog!

The Changkra Wild Orchid Park was next to visit and I was looking forward to seeing it. A mix of flowers and a temple sounded excellent.

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The entrance. Looking hopeful.

My expected scoop in bringing this outstanding park to the attention of the western world is unfortunately limited to the single photo above 🙁

The main wat building is being rebuilt and maybe as a result of this the orchids have been removed. All there is to see is a rather dilapidated garden, very dry and dusty this time of year, and nothing else. A big disappointment especially as it involved a big detour from our trip to Khon Kaen to see it along with the tortoise village. I ended the day feeling slightly defeated in my Sights of Isaan project but only briefly.

Thanks for reading.