Now back in Hong Kong with intense Thailand withdrawals, I shall pick up where I left off: Jungle Adventures in Chiang Mai.
Sunday April 1st, 2012
I fell in love with elephants today. They are so majestic, yet so irresistibly adorable.
For day 2 in Chiang Mai, we joined a small tour group for elephant safari. It was a mini United Nations, with couples from France, Thailand, Spain, Netherlands, China and of course, America. Although we varied greatly in age and culture, everyone was tight by the end of the day.
We arrived in Maetang Elephant Camp and were immediately greeted by the sight of the marvelous elephants. The elephants were extremely well-trained by their mahouts, and amazed us with all sorts of tricks with its powerful snout. I got to sit on one elephant’s knee, and another playful elephant ate all of my bananas with a twist of its trunk.
We started our “safari” experience on a relaxing bamboo raft down the Maetang river. Dragonflies flitted around us, while the jungle seemed to envelope us. We shared our raft with the sweet Thai-French couple from Lyon, and conversation with them really made me realize how absolutely horrible my French has gotten.
Our rafter even let K and I man the raft! It was fun for all of 5 seconds, until I realized I can never survive as a bamboo rafter with 0 muscle power.
After the raft, we all rushed to watch the elephants receiving their baths in the river. One was particularly playful, and sprayed onlookers with a trunk full of river water. I escaped unscathed, but the poor Korean lady in front of me enjoyed quite a face full.
Next was the elephant show, where the elephants walked in line holding tails, played soccer, and raised flags. We were totally blown away when Suda the 4 year old elephant and his elephant disciple Charlie started painting with their trunks. K was so impressed that he purchased Suda’s live (and signed by her!!!) masterpiece of an elephant under a tree for 800 baht.
Then, it was time for the prime attraction: elephant riding! K and I gingerly stepped out onto the seat and made ourselves comfortable. The mahout, effortlessly sitting on the elephant’s head without any aid to balance, nudged our elephant forward…and we were off! Elephant riding is a completely unexpected experience, completely different from camels or horses. When you are lightly swaying to and fro on the elephant as it treks through the river, journeys through the jungle, or deftly makes its way down steep rocky waterfronts, a deep respect for the sheer strength of the animal really takes root. The poor elephant must have hated us two fat and round humans! As it started to climb up a steep hill, it’s ears were flapping crazily in exertion! We felt so bad we bought sugarcane and bananas for our poor elephant at every single rest stop.
Our elephant, who we nicknamed Squishy, was so relieved to be rid of us when we got off. He suddenly had newfound energy and sped away with his mahout, while we waved wistfully from the platform. We’ll miss you Squishy!
Then, it was the ox-cart ride with our new Holland friends Areno & Irina. Our driver jumped off in the middle to snap our group picture, and our two oxen kept running, driverless.
After a delicious Thai buffet lunch, we were off to Tiger Kingdom. We walked around the tiger cages and saw lions and tigers up close and personal. We went into the small tiger cage first. Damn these 5-7 month baby tigers are feisty! Two of them were taking their afternoon nap, and had such soft and cuddly fur. The other baby tiger was my favorite. I cuddled with it while it was preoccupied by a stick.
We waited in line to play with the big ferocious tigers, when something amazing happened. A tiger with a mischievous glint in its eyes came up to the the gate, and K & I waved hello.
The tiger took one look at K, turned around, and projectile urinated straight at his face. The next thing I know, I look back at K and his face is completely covered in tiger pee. He looked so funny that everyone couldn’t help but crack up. I swear, even the tiger smirked before slinking back into the cage. Being the good sport he was, K joined in laughing before rushing off to scrub off a few layers of skin with soap. My poor baby received a Golden Shower from a tiger in Thailand.
We finished strong by (attempting to) walk on water. Or rather in our case, roll on water. For 150 baht each, we crawled into Zorb balls and rolled into a river. I felt like a fat hamster rolling about on its wheel, except I was rolling in a large clear bubble on top of water. K rolled towards me and we engaged in an intense battle to stand up while amused onlookers laughed their heads off.
A few hours and a delicious home-cooked pad see ew later, we were comfortably ensconced in our first class cabin train back to Bangkok. With air conditioning, pretty pink curtains, outlet, and convertible beds, it was a far cry from our ghetto Chiang Mai 2nd class experience.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s picture post on Bangkok, with a spotlight on our Cabbages & Condom’s Experience!