Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Letters from Thailand, part four

part 1 here
part 2 here.
part 3 here.

Chiang Mai - Elephant Sanctuary

12 April 2013 at 10:25
This is first chance i've had to get to an internet cafe to use an actual computer and it is down some dodgy street full of hardware shops so I will try to be a bit more brief. Also, I didn't have any small change and the woman was mega grumpy and told me to go get change and funnily enough I didn't need to buy anything from a hardware shop so I had to walk miles and so I'm not impressed.
Whilst working with the elephants we were staying in this little guesthouse resort in the countryside of Chiang Mai. The little houses we stayed in were gorgeous wood cabins surrounded by jungle and felt like tree houses. The family running it were unbelievably good hosts and the food they served us was amazing and they just constantly asked if you would like more. I ate quite a lot. With your cups of tea they also gave you little sachets of sugar that had proverbs and life lessons written on them, which is always a nice way to start the day. I still have a cold from the air con on the coach but they were so helpful telling me where to get medicine and giving me cups of hot water.
However the downside of sleeping in the countryside is the insects. Tuesday night I walked up to the wood cabin to get my purse when in flew behind me what I initially thought was the world's biggest moth. It was the size of a small bird and so of course my solution was to just run out and lock the door behind me. When it came to bedtime I did what anyone would do, and got a boy to man up and catch it for me. It was actually a huge preying mantis, like from bugs life, with big long legs and beady head and everything.
Wednesday morning after a gorgeous breakfast of fresh passionfruit and fried banana it was time to meet the elephants! There are nine elephants and each one has their own Mahout, who looks after them and trains them. We were told how although Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants, they have a much larger brain mass which is why they're able to learn commands. They looked really well looked after and were free to run around, it was really nice to ride them on their backs as well rather in the big boxes you see strapped on some elphants. There was a baby called Dodo who was dead cheeky and greedy and would just run inside the shelter where you'd be sitting and he tried to eat my water and someone's camera. We got to feed them tons of bananas and you pat their head and say 'bon'. Actually touching and feeling an elephant is so odd, their skin is so thick and rough and their trunks are so strong and flexible. We changed into the traditional outfits of the mahouts and learnt the basic commands for when riding an elephant. As soon as we were offered the chance to practise for real I jumped at the opportunity and it was amazing. You sit right on their head almost and they kept shoving their trunks upwards at your face for more food. It was important to be very loud which I was very good at thanks to all my experience at having to shout for Jethro when he runs off, the elephant was just like a big Jehtro really. After lunch we got to ride the elephants down to the river where we had to scrub them clean and chuck buckets of water at them. They flapped their ears when they were happy.  There was two of us on each elephant and then little baby Dodo came along too and was so cheeky. You could chuck water at him and he'd spray you back. They are so friendly and obviously like being surrounded by people because they were so well behaved. Splashing around in the river with elephants is definitely the best way too cool off in this hot country.
The second day we rode them down to the river again and the novelty certainly hadn't worn off. As you walk along their sneaky trunks just grab at anything green they walk past, and one naughty one even wandered into someones back garden to grab a snack. Some people in the other half of our group who had done it the previous day had found it quite scary, but it is odd how quickly you become comfortable with it. They seem to live a happy life with a constant supply of bananas and one of the ones I rode was 19 months pregnant, so there will be another baby for Dodo to play with soon. This has definitely been the highlight of my trip so far and I would definitely do it again.
Thrusday afternoon we arrived in Chiang Mai city where we are staying in a seemingly lovely hotel. The outside is brightly decorated and has a pool with two chicken ornamants the size of me either side of it. Then our rooms are shoved round the back and very dark with big signs saying any lost property is not the hotel's problem.
We've got 3/4 free days here that have already been very jam packed but I'll explain in another note. I want to leave this internet cafe because I'm the only one here and the moody woman is playing a movie really loud and giving me dirty looks.
Love x

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