Giving thanks to Elephants, massages and Thailand

Trip Start Jul 01, 2009
Trip End Sep 20, 2010

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Where I stayed
A Little Bird Guesthouse

Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I found cheap tickets out to Bangkok a couple of months ago and with some extra time, we decided to fit Chiang Mai into the schedule last minute.  I had a Taiwanese friend, back in Tokyo, who took a trip up to Chiang Mai and she raved about her time with the elephants.  That has always stayed with me.  So, we booked with Patara for Thanksgiving day.

We flew Tiger Airways, roundtrip to Bangkok, and managed to get emergency exit seats both ways....yipee!  Once we boarded the plane, a guy from Chicago...based in Singapore...sat next to me.  He was headed up to see a friend fight in his first Muay Thai fight.  How cool!  Would have loved to have seen that but we had a flight to Chiang Mai to catch. 

Once we arrived in Chiang Mai, we booked with Taxi Meter to get to our guest house.  We were bombarded with offers for a ride but heard that Taxi Meter was the way not to get ripped off.  After getting closer to our place though, the driver revealed that he didn't know where our place was. I had printed off a map and phone number.  The map did little good but I asked him to call the place up and he managed to get us there.  Although the bit of driving down the dark alley had us nervous!

We thoroughly sprayed ourselves with mosquito repellent and settled into A Little Bird Guest House, which was only costing us US $11.37 for two nights stay!!  We were in a 4 person bunk dorm with only one other guy from Malta staying there.  Nice guy by the name of John, who was coming to the last days of his travel around the world.  One day he was arranging patches of flags of all the countries he had visited and we kinda decided to start our own collection as it's a nice souvenior that doesn't take up much space and is easy on the eyes.

Our Patara bus driver was to pick us up at 7:30 am the next day.  It was about 10:30 pm, the night before that we started rummaging through some travel brochures and realized that the tour we booked was more then double the price of some others.  We were lucky enough to call up Patara and cancel (although we hear it's the best!).  That kinda bummed me out as it was how we planned to celebrate Thanksgiving.

However, we woke up early the next morning and thankfully booked with Baan Chang Elephant Park!  They picked us up and took us to the market to get bananas for the elephants.  When we arrived at the park, we changed into their clothes, got briefed and met about 8 elephants, including a baby!  We feed them bananas and sugar cane.  One elephant gave Steve and I kisses with the vacuum end of her trunk.  It was kinda gross but we politely accepted!

The Mahouts trained us on how to ride the elephants bare back and give some commands in Thai.  Then we took a break for lunch and caught up on travels with the other travelers.  Soon after lunch, we were broken up in pairs and assigned elephants.  We rode around the "jungle" for about an hour and towards the end, we were ready to get off...our butts hurt so bad.  Steve was sitting on chains for the ride...which were around only our elephant's leg and neck, she apparently likes to run!...and I was trying to keep my legs up (our elephant loved to rub up on the trees for a good side scratch!) while trying to maintain our balance...she'd be yanking bamboo from the woods, going up and down what seemed like steeped pathways and abruptly stopping to allow the elephant in front of us unload her breakfast!  

Half way through the walk, we took a break where we the elephants got to snack in the jungle and then we were to switch positions on the elephants.  WELL, one of the Mahouts that was on the elephant behind ours was sitting on top of his elephant.  That elephant was not too happy...they told us she was tempermental during the feeding...and it may have be a mixture of her not being able to feed in the jungle while also being the only elephant with her Mahout still sitting on her that led her to lash out!  She whipped around, throwing her Mahout to the ground, right on top of the prod...which was luckily faced to the side.  On top of that, one of the other Mahouts came up from behind him, picked him up and started jerking him up and down.  Imagine having someone try to pop your back and we were all just staring with our jaws dropped...medical care is different in Thailand!  Just goes to show that animals are unpredictable and wild...ya never know.  The mood changed a bit after that and I decided to remain sitting on the elephants back and have Steve stay up front!  

We got back to the campsite and they walked us right into the bathing pit of water.  The funny thing is the very first elephant to walk in decided to poo in the water!  So here we are trying to bath the elephants with the scrubbers all the while trying to keep floaters away from us!  When the say it's, "a once in a lifetime experience" it sure is!  What a day to remember!!!  

We slept on the ride back to the guest house and after another round of mosquito spray we headed out for dinner, the night market and massages.  The food was amazing the entire trip, Steve bought me a lotus necklace at the market and the massages were great!  The massages cost between US $3 for a 30 min reflexology foot massage and about $6 for aromatherapy and Thai massages.  I LOVE THAILAND!!

Friday we spent roaming around the different wats and getting massages.  We got to ride in a scooter tuk-tuk to the train station.  We had reservations for the 2nd class night train into Bangkok.  You can't reserve 1st class online and we were really pleased with the 2nd need for 1st class cabins.  Steve bought some magazines for the ride (which cost more then the massages!) and the food on the train was cheap and tasty.  Our train attendant knew the drill, she flipped/turned/transformed our seats into our beds in about 30 seconds...possibly less.  I slept like a baby but I've been known to fall asleep on speakers in clubs so that's not saying much.  Steve didn't sleep so good during the night.  

In the morning, our attendant came through again and had us sitting in the seats in no time.  We were served breakfast and then Steve got a bit more shut eye.  I was bright eyed and bushy tailed...just fascinated with the outside world.  The closer we got to Bangkok, the more I could see into the impoverished housing.  The wooden houses were built on swamp water and piles of trash.  It was worse then Slumdog...I just can not imagine living in those conditions!  Makes ya think.  At one point, on the side of the train, was a family cooking up several barrels of boiling corn cobs.  There was a lady carrying a baby, another lady resembling possibly a young grandmother and two other men.  One of the men gave the other man 20 baht (about US $.60).  I wondered if it was the guys daily wage for helping cook up the corn.  WOW...  Then I started to think about the water it was boiling in, what their lives are like and the train pressed on...hmmm...





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