Day 11: Thailand Adventure- Elephants, Rivers, and Tigers, Oh My!

Our final full day in Chiang Mai promised to be one of adventure.  We had your typical Chiang Mai activities planned, like riding elephants.  Adventure isn't for everyone, just like relaxing on the beach isn't for everyone (I get bored easily, I just can't do it for more than an hour or so), but we knew that we should at least see the elephants.  Originally we talked about doing the elephant trainer for a day program, but my husband wasn't too sure of the idea, and knowing he didn't seem to interested, I figured we could play it by ear.  That's exactly what we did!  As we were touring the day before, our guide let us know that the elephants and river raft trip had room.  Now that we were truly in the vibe of being there, it sounded like a great plan.

Before heading out for our day of adventure, we enjoyed some breakfast at the hotel.  

Cute shapes for the fruit
Poached eggs for me
Banana pancakes for Ryan
Our first stop on the tour was to an orchid and butterfly farm.
Sadly, this was the only butterfly we saw.  But I think that was because the rest were still in cocoons.  
Nice and tropical looking insider the "farm" area.

I love this picture.  I can't believe how fake the whole display looks, but this is real, although it is in an enclosed area at the "farm".
Lots of orchids in all different colors.



I really love these tables and benches.  We saw them all over the place.
After the orchid and butterfly farm, we headed to the elephant camp.
Our first adventure was walking on this bridge!  There were four of us on the tour (and the tour guide who is ahead of us) so all of us were walking at our own pace and trying to take pictures.  It was a mess trying to hang on while getting a good shot and not tossing our cameras down to the river below.  But it was fun!
Our first glimpse of the elephants at work.
In Thailand, like in India, Elephants are used for work and transport.  These are the Asian elephants, which differ from the African elephants.
Here are the elephants we were allowed to feed.  For $1 we could buy a bunch of bananas and feed the elephants.  Oh yes, bananas are not just for monkeys!  These elephants love the bananas and eat everything, including the peel!
Here I am getting ready to give this elephant some bananas.  You can see that he wants them badly!
So fun!
They are so gentle when they take them from you.  The strange part was that their trunk seemed to work on suction, but when they were putting it out to take it, they were blowing air out rather than sucking it in.
Then the mahouts (the guys that ride the elephants) brought the elephants out and showed us how they get clean.
Into the river they go!

Scrub-a-dub-dub
The elephants were hosing the guys down now as they stood on their backs.

After bathing time they brought the elephants out to demonstrate how in the past elephants were used for work, specifically for logging.  
Elephants are very strong and were useful in moving logs around.
They are also useful if you drop your hat.
Then we got to watch the elephants paint.  Maybe you have seen this on TV before.  We were given a demonstration of the elephant painting technique here.
This is the finished painting.  It's a tree!
Next up for our elephant adventure...go for a ride!  At least on this trip we did not need to ride bareback and instead got to sit on a bench on the elephants back.  Here is the view of our mahout controlling the elephant.
All of these are pictures I took while we were riding through the jungle.
You can get an idea here of what the seat looked like that we were riding on.
We rode next to the river for a little bit.
Heading into a small stream.


Our total ride time was 1.5 hours and halfway through we stopped at a small village to see what life out there was like and had a chance to purchase some local crafts.

I think he wanted whatever I had on my feet!
On the ride back to the camp we were taken in the river and rode upstream on the elephants.  Very cool!

Here we are enjoying our ride!

As you can see, we are pretty deep in there.
Lots of pretty scenery around.
Then we headed back in to the camp where we were served lunch.
Down below you can see them getting our bamboo rafts ready for our ride down the river.
Lunch was awesome!  They even made some special dishes for me without meat, like this Tom Yum soup.
We also had pad Thai.
Chicken and cashews
Spring rolls
Sweet and spicy tofu
Fruit for dessert
As we were finishing up, the next group was heading back to the camp.   You can see from here what it looks like with the elephants in the water and then you can also see the people on the raft going down the river.
As we got on the bamboo raft it started to rain a little, so we put on some ponchos and sat back to enjoy the ride.  This is our "boat" driver.
As we were going down the river we saw some other elephants walking by the river.
Nice view of the river and the jungle, as well as the river guide, AKA "boat" driver.
Really a nice view the whole way down.
Probably the most unusual part was floating down the river and then coming across some water buffalo bathing in the river.
The man on the elephant, who I suspect is a local farmer, came over to the river bank at just the same time as we were passing the water buffalo.
Up went the water buffalo, and out of the water.  It was so crazy to be so close to these animals.

Since we did not have any photos of us on the elephant, we made sure to buy the very adorable souvenir picture taken while we were on our ride.  Overall, this was a great day so far.  Loved the elephants and the river rafting.
Now, as an added bonus, we were taken for some quick stops at some locations nearby.  Since the other individuals on the tour wanted to stop, and we were not opposed, we added on some additional activities before heading home.  

First up was a visit to the Long Neck Karen tribe.  You may have seen them featured on TV or in magazines before.  I know I have seen a few programs about them.  They are living here in Thailand in refugee camps.  They are actually from Burma, or rather Myanmar now, and have been living as refugees for some time now here.  They have had some popularity because of the media interest in their tribe and as a result are open for tourism as a way to make money.  They do charge a small admission fee to enter and then once inside they sell rafts, some of which they make themselves and others that they have access to.  They do no speak Thai and are not considered Thai citizens.  I suppose overall it is very sad, but as best as we understand, they are open for tourism on their own and this money benefits them directly.
This is really where they live in this camp.  This is the school house.
These are the huts they live in.
There are other huts up here.  It sounded like these are for people passing by, maybe on their way to visit with family in other camps.
Here is a closer look at the school.
This was the lesson that was up on the board inside.
We were told that it was ok to take pictures with them and that we should not feel obligated to purchase anything (we did pay the admission fee), but of course I still felt obligated and I did buy a scarf from someone.  We were able to feel what the coils feel like and they are definitely heavy.  I have no idea how they can hold it up, but I can see why it compresses their collar bone and in turn gives them the long neck appearance.  I had actually seen that on TV before but had forgotten that it is more of a pushing down effect rather than a pulling up to elongate the neck.
Here we are with another tribe member.
You can see that they do start when they are young.
This shows one lady working on a scarf in a style that was typical for this village.
You can see here that she is from another tribe.  She is not a long neck, but instead she comes from a tribe that stretches their ears.
This is probably the craziest of all my pictures.  Looking at it now I have nothing but amazement for this woman and have no idea how she can go about her daily life this way.  Except I do understand that this is their normal and this is what they know.  She was definitely the person we saw with the most coils.
Here I am with the elder of the tribe that is probably the most famous of them all.  She was the one featured on TV when they were first "discovered" and I believe I have seen her in magazines as well.  She is obviously older now, but she is really the face of this tribe that was originally shown to all of the world.  I was amazed to be in her presence.  She has lived like this in exile for so long and I am sure her life is not easy.  This is who I bought my scarf from.
Here are a few more of the younger girls.  You can also see the scarves above, which was a typical style for this tribe.  This is the same kind of scarf that I purchased.
Last up was a visit to Tiger Kingdom.  Before I headed to Thailand I had a friend remind me to also check out the tigers, not just the elephants.  I knew this was not really Ryan's thing because, well, wild animals are wild animals, and we all know what that means.  But, the opportunity presented itself, so we went to visit.
Here you can pick what size cat you want to visit with and then go in and pet them and take pictures.  I was feeling adventurous, so I started to look into going in with a tiger.  I knew Ryan wasn't going to be interested, but he said I could if I wanted to.  I settled on the medium size tiger.  I have no idea why, I thought medium sounded good.  At the very last second, Ryan decided to go in with me.  Yay!  This was going to be an adventure, and hopefully super cool with no injuries (yes, as I am writing this now, clearly no injuries!).  We opted for having the place provide a photographer for us because we didn't want to be distracted trying to take our own photos and not having full range of mobility with our hands.

Here we are entering the tiger area.
You definitely want to follow the rules.
Within a matter of minutes we were taken into a cage with 4 medium sized tigers, our trainer and a photographer.  Yeah, it was definitely a crazy experience to sit down with a tiger.  They do make it very clear these tigers are not sedated.  They are nocturnal, so they are very lazy and sleepy during the day, which is when we were visiting.
This is by far my favorite picture.  Is he yawning or growling?!?!?!
As you can tell by the "after" photo, this was probably a yawn (it was!).
And yes, the photographer and trainer did manage to get me to lay down with the tiger.
In fact, Ryan even came and laid down with us too.
Here we are standing up with another tiger.
Um yeah, that's a big cat!
One final shot of the tiger as we were leaving.  You can see there is one in the far back, just to show that we did have multiple tigers in there with us.
As we were leaving we decided to walk around and see some of the other tigers.  These were taking a nice bath.
This guy was definitely "under the table and dreaming".
Here is the littlest of all tigers.  This one was too young to be handled, but was out there for us to view.
More resting tigers.
These are the smallest tigers you can go in with.  You can see that someone is in there with them.
Well, that does it for our day of adventure.  Whew!  We did a lot of amazing things and have tons of great memories from this day.

After a little rest, we headed out to the Night Bazaar to find some dinner.  It was raining, so we didn't have the luxury of looking around in many places.  That was ok, because we happen to like Middle Eastern food and did not oppose to stopping at this Iraqi restaurant, Babylonian.  We were starving and everything looked good.
We started off with this sesame paste and date spread.  It was listed as a traditional Iraqi dish and I had never seen it before.  It sounded awesome, so we thought we would try it.  OMG, this was amazing!  
We also ordered some falafel.
Some pita to go with everything.
Lebnah, which is like a yogurt.  
This is fol.  It's vegetarian.  It's chopped up beans and spices with olive oil.  
This was really interesting because when I ordered it the server (who was also the owner) seemed interested in why I had selected this.  Not too many people know about this dish.  He asked if I was sure because it is a very, very traditional Egyptian dish.  To which I replied...I know, I used to work in an Egyptian restaurant and I have some Egyptian family, so I have had this before.  Now, at the restaurant I worked at they served on the menu a dish called foul (pronounced full) and it was made from fava beans into a spread similar to hummus.  However, during Ramadan, when the sun set, I would find all of the staff eating in the kitchen and I asked to try anything that was without meat.  They served me fol (pronounced full) and explained that the version on the menu is not the real traditional dish, but it was more acceptable to customers so that is what they served.  I went home and asked my stepfathers mom if she knew this dish (she is from Egypt), and she did.  She was kind enough to make it for me.  I had only had it a few times, but I remember liking it a lot. When I was in Malaysia I saw it on the menus in Arabic restaurants, but I never went in to try it, so I was really glad I had the chance to try it here. I was glad that I found it here because I really wanted to try it again.  After a short while it came and, as I suspected, it was awesome.  Ryan even really liked it too.  

We had ordered a few other things, but the restaurant quickly filled up and some how the rest of our order was not placed.  No big deal because we were stuffed!  Instead, we headed to the food court in the inside mall to get some beer.  The Iraqi restaurant, as would be expected, did not serve alcohol.
To finish up our last night in Chiang Mai, I tried the grilled banana roti with nutella.
Roti is a traditional flatbread from this area.
YUM!  Like a crepe.
Well, that just about does it for our time in Chiang Mai.  It was a good end to a very awesome and adventurous day.  As pretty much everyone told me, Chiang Mai tops the list of places to visit in Thailand, and I can see why.  Loved it here!

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever ridden an elephant?  Have you ever pet or posed with a "wild" animal?  Have you heard of the Karen tribe?  Have you ever had Iraqi food?

2 comments:

Meredith Targarona said...

Matt has a T-shirt w/ that elephant beer :) This is my fave post - so cool that you got so close to the elephants, they are pretty amazing animals! Did you bring one home for me? I think I rode one when I was little at a Ren Fest or something...

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