Swallowing Elephant Poo

Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
Trip End May 31, 2008

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Where I stayed
Floating Boat House

Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, February 8, 2008

How can I even begin to explain the last few days? It starts with Mr. America, a South African couple, cranky me and the stupidest question I've asked thus far.

"Are there many white people in South Africa?" Immediately I want to go back in time and swallow that question. I think the reason it came out in the first place was because, after listening to the couple speaking to each other, I had assumed they were Eastern European. Their dialect sounding a mix between Dutch and German and being that I can't speak either language, I couldn't figure out what it was. So when I asked and was told they were South African, I was pleasantly surprised - I've never met anyone from South Africa before. Nor did I realize there was a language called Afrikaans and that was what I was hearing.

Gisela and Van were patient with me and asked as many questions about Canada as I did about South Africa. My favourite of which being "So, Canada is a state of the USA?" I politely but firmly told them that if I were a violent person I might have punched them for that. They understood.

Mr. America - Larry from Washington State - was traveling around sans wife for 10 weeks. I wondered outloud how he'd pulled that off and he said she didn't travel the way he did. Unfortunately, Larry needed to be corrected when he mistakenly explained to Van that Quebec was its own country. I told him "they wish".

There are your four characters for the next three days, the 'Fantastic Four'. A strange group but we had a helluva time, none the less.

We went to the floating market where I ate myself silly with the strangest things I've ever seen. Some coconut milk helped to wash down this interesting glob of something that was generously handed to me by this wrinkly, toothless-smiling old woman in a boat. "Free. You try." She said to me. It was wrapped in a bamboo leaf and looked like...well, gross. I bravely stuck it in my mouth and though the consistency was somewhat snot-like it tasted quite nice. She clapped her hands when I told her they were good and she was the first person who didn't pressure me to buy more from her. I then tried this amazing "breakfast dessert" that was made out of rice, coconut milk and pumpkin then fried into little balls - yum! There were also noodles, spring rolls, mangoes, grapefruit (not called grapefruit and a lot sweeter than ours but basically the same thing), fish, barbequed chicken/pork/beef. The list goes on. I was so sad that I was full. There were also things to buy but I was too distracted by the food to care about the trinkets - no wonder nothing fits me here!

On to the Bridge to the River Kwae which was seemingly perilous but I walked across it anyway. Later this week, I also jumped into the River itself and was nearly swept away by the current. My arms still hurt from pulling myself back to the bamboo raft with the rope! We also saw the Death Railway that day and I was introduced to some depressing history that I knew existed but I had never paid much attention to. The state these prisoners were in when they were forced to build a 415km railway with their bare hands and very little else (took 20 mos!) is shocking. It's a wonder they were able to work at all.

After all of that WWII memoriabilia, we headed to where we were staying for the night - a floating house! It was so nice to fall asleep on the Kwae River, being lulled by the water and trying very hard not to gag from the stench dreaming of not being bitten by a million bed bugs. I exaggerate...a little... the boat was very cool and on our last night there, we sat around with some of the people who worked/lived on the boat and were fed tangerines (you wouldn't believe how amazing they smell here), chicken sushi (I'm not a fan) and offered this RedBull-like drink that I declined. Ginseng makes me wary. I don't take crazy stay up for 48hr drinks from strangers. ;)

This isn't exactly in order, so forgive the jumping around but hopefully it sorta flows.

On Wednesday morning, at the crack of dawn, I woke up and got on an elephant (bare back) who then walked into the river and promply sank under the water, soaking me completely. I have no words for this experience. Being on an elephant and having her play with me in the water, throwing me off her back and spraying me. Looking her right in the eye and petting her trunk. Standing on her and diving off her back. It was an experience I wish I could give all of you; it was unbelieveable.

Another jaw-dropper was the Tiger Temple where I was in a canyon with 8 tigers. I touched them, petted them, moved out of the way quickly when they yawned loudly. I sat next to them and walked next to one who wasn't even on a leash (the ones in the canyon were chained up during the time when tourists could visit and when they walked them back to their pens, all by one tiger was on a leash). They are massive and amazingly beautiful. It took my breath away to be so near something that could take my life in a minute, should it so choose. These tigers have grown up at the temple, the first few having been saved from poachers and the rest having been born there. They are in the process of making a 30 acre enclosure for the tigers to play in but seeing as they have grown up around humans and in that temple all their lives, they cannot be released into the wild because they wouldn't survive.


"Everyone needs to move back as the tigers come out and wait until they are ahead of you before walking behinf them. Ahh, sir? Move back please."

"But they're just big pussycats." Says some ignorant tourist.

Are you kidding?

"No, they're not pussycats. They are tigers."

He said something else that I can't remember and the woman looked incredulous - probably shocked by his stupidity. "You are very wrong. Move. Back."

And those are the tourists that end up dead.

The last day was spent at Erawan Waterfall which was gorgeous but quite the hike up to the seventh (level of hell) step at the very top of the waterfall. Then we all swam around in it which was nice. A long ride back to Bangkok and here I am on Khao San Rd (the famous backpackers area) and looking forward to going out tonight to actually experience the crazy party atmosphere here.

Enjoy the pictures!

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