Sunday, 20 January 2013

...Tales from Thailand - From Koh Chang to Chiang Mai.

So my cyber lovers I haven't posted for a while and there is a very good reason for that, I have simply been too busy! Awful thing to say but unfortunately that is the truth. So, I hear you cry, what exactly have you been doing Rachel? Why let me tell you. I have been jumping on and off boats (not for fun may I add), I have been cramped into bus after bus and I have enjoyed many a beautiful sunset, cocktail and elephant. Oh and I've done some cheeky shopping - whoops! But let me begin from the beginning.

So we arrive in Koh Chang from Bangkok sometime last week, please don't ask me how we got there for frankly I can't quite remember (must have had something to do with me staying up till 3 in the morning playing Jenga and Uno, the latter being the most ridiculously stupid game I have ever, ever come across) but once we get to our hotel I feel like we are in paradise. It is absolutely beautiful and after some of the places I have had the unfortunate displeasure to be sleeping in, this one felt like heaven. It was right on the sea, there was no beach only pebbles but there were hammocks and a little platform you could chill on and watch the sunset. The guys running the hotel are fantastic and they made me feel right at home, so much so we extended our trip for 2 more days. They had specific rules at this place, which I tried my best to abide by. If your feeling a bit confused then don't worry, I can hear your minds turning over with questions, all of them needing appropriate answers I'm sure but fear not, take a look at the picture below and all shall be revealed (I feel like some sort of warped, backstreet magician...):

Not too bad eh? But like I said they were super friendly and they made my stay there even more enjoyable then if I was sitting in any other hotel on the island. Just make sure you follow the rules...

Needless to say I didn't really do much during those 6 days. I relaxed, I ate (some fantastic noodle soup by the way and I am now addicted. I need to learn how to make it, just so that I can eat it everyday when I get home. And yes I mean EVERYDAY.) I drank, I lay in a hammock, I read - a lot, I drank some more and I was thoroughly entertained everyday by the Thai guys. One night they got out a violin, a guitar, an improvised drum and started laying down some sweet music. It was brilliant. The sunsets were the best I've seen, maybe because there were no obstructions, maybe because the sky was so clear or maybe, just maybe because I was one hundred percent relaxed. I had a total feeling of calm which has stayed with me on this "last" leg of my trip. Whenever I feel like I'm getting wound up I just remember the peace I felt being there and all is restored to normal - well as normal as my emotions can get that is. Instead of painting you a beautiful picture of what the sky looked like, how it's colours intertwined with each other and danced across the sky till the sun went down, I will instead show you, seeing as a picture can tell you more then my words ever could.

Pretty right?

After we blow out of Koh Chang (again another boat and bus but this time we weren't given a ticket, which was a nightmare. Our pick up driver called ahead and told them that we were coming so whenever we mentioned what guest house we were from, the bus guys were like "Ohhhh Gu's Bay, okay." Explains a lot doesn't it?) we go back to Bangkok (again) for a whirlwind visit and this time hit all the temples and not just Khoa San road. There was a lot of roadside alcohol consumed - don't worry it's totally safe, think of it like a pop up bar that never really goes anywhere but the cocktails were only 59 Baht so I wasn't complaining. If you do go to Bangkok try and stay on the road opposite Khoa San (well it's like the road opposite the road next to Khoa San road) because there are a lot of nice hostels/guest houses, pop up bars and the street food down there is amazing. There is also a nice little street market selling pretty little shiny things that I always have to try my best to resist. So yeah I digress, the temples. they were really pretty and completely different to the ones you find in Cambodia. The Thai temples are ornately decorated in red and gold and absolutely everything is shiny, it reminded me more of Chinese temples. It wasn't what I expected but I was pleasantly surprised. My favourite Buddha in the whole Wat was this one:

Mainly because it's so super shiny but what you can't see in the picture is the detailing. Every level had a mini Buddha carved into it and that folks is impressive.

I hope some of you haven't switched off because now we are getting to the main event, the one thing you've all been waiting for. We get to the elephants...

And Chiang Mai - have to tell you a bit about the city it ain't all elephants you know, geez...

The city is beautiful, it's vibrant, it's friendly, it's like Bangkok's older sister who had her crazy days and is now just content to sit back and watch the action unfold. There are lots of temples/restaurants/bars/hostels for a traveller to relax in and explore but I prefer the ones of the beaten track, like the street stall selling noodle soup (yep I tracked down more of it) for 25 Baht, which tasted delicious or the random tattoo bar selling cocktails for 50 Baht (yep I found impossibly cheap, wonderful tasting cocktails, I'm like a bloodhound for alcohol - damn that sounds awful doesn't it?) where you can listen to a bit of reggae, drink your cocktail in peace and if your feeling really brave you can get a tattoo from the "parlour" in the corner. We even got a bit of free live music thrown in just for shits and giggles. I don't know what it is about Thai people but they really love to sing and it is so wonderful to hear, it's not pretentious, their not looking for praise or even an audience, they just sing because they bloody well like doing it. Absolutely fantastic. 

But yesterday came the main attraction. After searching for the right elephant "trek" we landed on Baan Chang Elephant Camp and I'm glad I put my money into their cause. They rescue elephants from undesirable situations and give them a home at their camp. Our expert mahout for the day explained everything in great detail, like why the elephants are chained by the foot (some of the elephants don't get on with each other and if they were unchained it would be a full blown elephant war and also they would get loose and terrorise the neighbours), why they use the pointy stick thing (there is a proper name for it but I can't remember it and they use it only when the elephant has hurt another elephant/human and needs to be "corrected" - may I add they never, ever beat the elephants with it. That would just be cruel) and why they never ride on an elephant using a seat (it's not good for the elephants back). There was a lot more information but I feel I will just bore you if I keep going on, however after the information session we got to feed our elephants bananas and sugar cane (which they loved) and then we were taught the commands needed to guide our elephant and we then got to try those commands out. (eek!) I have to say getting on the little elephant was far more terrifying then getting on the big one. Mainly because she clearly was feeling stubborn that day and all she really wanted to do was blow air in your face and munch on some bananas and not have you climb on and off her back. After learning these commands and practising we had lunch, which was delicious and then we got to ride our elephant through a bit of jungle and then give them a bath. I can't remember the name of the elephant Roni and I had but she was pregnant so instead I called her Mama. *SIDE NOTE* They are not purposefully breeding elephants at the camp, this one just happened to catch the eye of another elephant and well everyone knows what happens after that.

All in all it was an amazing day and a fantastic experience. Watching the mahouts with their elephants was touching (it looked like each mahout had a specific elephant to look after) you could see how close they were to the elephant they were working with and most of them got on their elephants by "walking" up the trunk (the elephant bends it's head a little and the mahouts scamper up). Mama didn't really need much guidance, she happily plodded along and only needed a bit of direction when she stopped walking - I was however reluctant to make her keep walking seeing as she was preggers (it was totally okay for her to carry us though seeing as she weighed like 30 tons!) and did you know that elephants are pregnant for 24 MONTHS? Like seriously, can you imagine giving birth to a two year old? It's nuts. It was so nice to scrub down Mama, mainly because she was so hot and lying in the water must have been a real godsend for her and she thanked us by blowing a lovely stream of dirty elephant water at us. It was such a lovely day and I will leave you with a few pictures of Baan Chang and their wonderful elephants:

An absolutely once in a lifetime experience (I hate using that phrase but come on folks it really was) and one which I am so happy to have done. Next stop is Bangkok to see the floating market and to drop Roni off at the airport and then I'm heading up to Lopburi to see some monkeys yo!

Until then.

Big Ocean Crossing love ya'll.

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