Woke up around 5.15 which wasn't too bad, I'm sure the previous day with little sleep helped us adjust and managed to doze off again for another hour.
Today we are training to be elephant keepers or mahout as they are called here. We headed to the breakfast not expecting anything special but wow what a feast. To kick things off a plate full of fresh fruit, watermelon, dragon fruit, mango, papaya, passion fruit and guava. Second course sushi; if you know me at all you'll know I'll take any opportunity to eat sushi (except at the street market last night, for some reason the thought of raw salmon in this heat did not appeal). Final course was a Thai omelette washed down with grape juice and fresh orange juice.
So a good start to the day then after an hours drive to Baan Chang elephant camp it was time to meet our elephant for the day.
We started with a talk about the elephants and why this is an ethical camp and how all the elephants are rescued from street performers, circuses or other camps. Some of the elephants have sad stories about being made to carry logs until their legs gave way or being cut with a machete. As we walk around you can see some of the scars and I’m so glad we chose this place to come and support their rehabilitation.
We fed the group bananas and sugar cane which is just a small snack for them as they can get through 300kg of food a day and poo over 70kg (more than I weigh!) Watching these huge animals eating from our hands was quite something.
We were then asked if we’d like to be kissed by one of the elephants so of course we gave it a try. It was rather creepy and weird as they put their trunk around your neck then suck at it.
Next we learnt how to approach the elephants to ride them, this was pretty scary when you climb on and realise just how big they really are. Turns out their skin is 2 inches thick so when you are given commands to “nudge” them in the back of the ears to get them to turn you do really have to kick harder than feels nice.
A quick lunch and some relaxation time in the hammocks was next followed by the ride. Al and I had decided we both wanted to ride together so he was the driver first and me the passenger. Our elephant was a male called thong pit and was 35 years old. He was a big boy with a large pair of tusks. So using our mounting skills we climbed on and went for our first walk. Well that was painful, straddling their rather large bodies gives you sore thighs and Al wasn’t finding it so comfy up front either. After the first lap we switched places, I wasn't much looking forward to getting back on as I was feeling a little tender but for both of us we actually found the opposite seating positions much more comfy.
So we walked with the group to the watering hole where it was time to get off and wash the elephants. So far so good until I dismounted but thong pit moved before I'd had the chance to step back properly and crunch. God knows how heavy this boy is but he was standing right on my foot. It took a good few seconds for the trainer to move him and a bit of swearing from me. Thankfully he missed the toes otherwise I could have suffered some broken bones but instead just a very swollen, bruised ankle. So I didn't want to miss out on washing our elephant so I hopped into the water and carried on. We played around with them in the water for a while before the day was finally over. An ice pack had been prepared for my foot as we took the bus ride back to Chiang Mai.
We had enough time once we got back to check out the pool, since the hotel is so nice it seemed a shame not to enjoy a little chill out time and I still needed to let my foot rest. We took one of the day beds down by the pool and finally enjoyed some cocktails (my first moijto of the holiday and rather nice it was too).
When we sat down we were given some fruit, water, menus and a flag. I presumed putting the flag on the table meant we would like some service but no one came and I didn’t know if it was rude to start waving it around so I just sent Al up to the bar instead.
As you can see I’m also sporting my MC Hammer pants which I’ve started to fall in love with so if you see me wearing them in the office don’t be surprised, they are so comfy.
Next we needed food and hoped we could pick ourselves up some more delights this time from the Night Market. Luckily we aren’t too far away from this market so the walk wasn’t too bad. Its definitely no where near as good as the Sunday walking market but still lots to see. The goods here seem a lot more commercial rather than hand made and there’s lots of fake bags, watches etc. We end up walking through the market not yet finding food and find ourselves at the river. We want to come here tomorrow night for a meal so we decide to wander up and see if there are any good places. First challenge is to get across the bridge without being blown up. We aren’t sure if its because of the festival in a few days that there is lots going on or whether it is like this all the time but people are setting off fireworks from the bridge in their hands. Now don’t get me wrong I think in the UK we many have taken safety precautions to another level sometimes but setting off huge explosives while holding them and people are walking past is just too crazy for me. We managed to cross the bridge but I was sure we’d need to find a different way to get back across. We sat for a while on the river side to get some good pics of the bridge and watched the fireworks then headed back to the market as we still hadn’t found food.
When I’d almost given up hope and McDonalds was seeming like a good option we found an open air restaurant at the back of the market. Al tried his first Thai beer
and I went for another mojito, very average but did the job.
The food was a little disappointing especially after last night and it came to £15 which is still cheap I know but given how we felt we’d eaten like kings the night before for £4 it was a shame we couldn’t find anything similar. The ice cream on the walk back however was a good end to the night along with Al’s bartering skills for a pair of flip flops.