Chiang Mai - elephants, shopping and food

Trip Start Jul 13, 2006
Trip End Jul 06, 2007

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We took the overnight train to Chiang Mai which was quite a jerky ride, but somewhat comfortable in our berths. We headed out immediately to the Elephant Nature Park where we volunteered for a week. It was great to be in one place for a while and actually work (can't believe I just wrote that). The place took care of 28 elephants that had been rescued from various scenarios - mostly abused, one was missing a part of his foot from a landmine. We chopped elephant grass for planting, planted it, built fences (they tend to be knocked down alot if an elephant really wants to be on the other side) bathed them in the river, prepared food (for them and us) fed them and the ultimate task - scooped up elephant pooh from the public area (with 100 kg's per elephant, per day - a daunting task). The experience was a highlight of the trip, especially for Chevy who loved the elephants and also connected with the long-term, age 20 something volunteers from England and California. When we return Chevy wants to raise money to help bring an elephant to the park.

We spent a few days in Chiang Mai after the elephants which was fantastic. Both kids said "we could live here". Fabulous restaurants and shopping at the night bazaar. The best part was spending a couple nights with the Seibits from Canmore who live in Chiang Mai. In 2004 the Seibits were on a similar world trip with their 2 daughters when the beach they were on was hit by the tsunami. They chose to stay and help out, starting an organization called Build a Boat which raised $110,000 to help fisherman who had their boats destroyed. After more than 500 consecutive restaurant meals we were delighted to have a home cooked meal at the Seibit's.

We spent one night at a little utopia for kids who have been orphaned by HIV, the tsunami and also some poor kids from the hill tribes. The kids were learning to play musical instruments as well as learn trades like massage and hair cutting. We joined their Friday afternoon sing along which ws very moving and had many of the kids (and of course Deb) in tears as hey sang songs about family and the power of an individual.

We were all shaken awake from our beds one night (except for Quinn who slept through it) by a 4.7 earth quake. I finally got to use a line I had been waiting to say to Deb for 20 years - "Did the earth move for you?" Quite a strange feeling to have things moving that aren't supposed to...

We did a 3 day hill tribe trek near Chiang Mai which was quite disappointing compared to the one Deb and I did 19 years ago (perhaps to be expected). While the cold beer was a welcome addition, the only people still wearing traditional garb were the relentless trinket hawkers who often travelled in small bands.
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