So much fun. Such sore muscles from unnecessary panic grip, but still so much fun!
I totally recommend doing the programme if you ever get the chance to. Beau and I did a slight lengthened 1 day programme (we stayed over, you don't normally). If you do the longer programme then you can do a homestay with the Mahouts.
We started with just getting on an off our elephants. I got better at this as the day progressed. Initially I was afraid of hurting my elephant (Wan Di- good day) as you use the top of the ear as a hand hold. We were taught 3 ways of getting on an off.
From the side, when the elephant lifts a leg up for you to use as a foot hold. From the front, when the elephant puts its head on the ground and your climb up over its head. You then have to trickily turn around on top of the elephants head without falling off. Success! Getting down from the front is easier and was Beau's favourite method.
From the back/side. In this case the elephant lies down making it much easier for your to clamber around.
After learning that and some basic commands (go, stop, turn, walk backwards) we rode the elephants down to the feeding ground. This is when we also learned that elephants can seriously growl. Like they have tigers or engines inside them! They seem to do it when they are happy though. Which is good.
I totally did not feel in control of my elephant at all. I have no idea why she occasionally deigned to allow me to direct her movements. It was awesome.
After the feeding (elephants have to eat for most of the day apparently) we went for a ride to visit the baby elephants and the elephant hospital. Baby elephants are cute and I like them lots. The Thai Elephant Conservation Center (website has info about courses etc) is especially proud of one of the babies as he is the product of artificial insemination.
It was quite touching seeing the injured elephants at the hospital. Two of them had damaged legs due to stepping on landmines near the border to Myanmar. One of the elephants was brain damaged due to having been taken from its mother too early and not receiving the right nutrients. It also had physical disabilities as its bones were malformed.
It's good that the thai government is sponsoring a free elephant hospital (they also run mobile clinics). It's bad that so many of the problems they have were caused by people.
After the hospital we went and saw the elephant's bathing and then the show. Pretty standard stuff, elephants hauling logs, painting and playing music. No soccer this time.
Following the show we got back up on our elephants and this time we bathed them. Basically this means you ride your elephant as it walks into a pond and then lies down and splashes around. Everyone gets wet. It's fun!
At some stage we had lunch. It was good. We also went to the elephant dung paper factory where we had a go at part of the paper making process. Beau and I were strong and didn't buy anything.
At the end of the day we rode our elephants back to the mahout training center. We had to feed them and shovel dung. At the end of it, we got back up on our elephants and we each got a certificate and a little mahout stick keyring. That was the end of the regular one-day course.
Beau and I also were invited by the mahouts to come and hang out with them while they were fishing in the evening. We imagined poles on a little wharf. We were so wrong. They were wading in the pond occasionally throwing out circular nets. There were many fish in the pond. Sometimes when they were startled they'd leap out of the water and we'd see glimmers of silver.
The next morning Beau and I enjoyed a pleasant walk into the "jungle" (it's all another type of forest to me) with our mahouts to collect our elephants. They are led into the forest each night. My Mahout told me that they only sleep about 5 hours. They spend the rest of that time eating. They have a chain looped around an ankle and it is staked into the ground over night. When we collected them I was amazed at the dexterity of the elephant's trunk as she grabbed and pulled her length of chain in.
We then rode our elephants back to the training area where we gave them sugar cane and hosed and brushed them down. I think they quite enjoyed that. They were then ready for a new lot of tourists.
Beau and I were then roped into reading, editing and typing up some translations of articles and letters the center had. This took up about 3 hours. We had intended to tip the woman who had been looking after us (ie picked us up from train station, dropped us off at bus etc), but we figured that was worth waaaay more.
We've since been to Chiang Mai (I liked visited the Umbrella/parasol factory and doing the walking tour in the lonely planet guide) and are now in Pua. Next week we will be in Ireland. We need to sort out a place to stay and jobs! Gyah.
Point of Fashion: Tidy teacher
Current Obsession: flats
Today Beau and I managed to catch a bus, taxi, skytrain and subway. We will also be driven somewhere and then catch a regular train. We are not afraid of myriad forms of transport.
We also went to the Sylvanian cafe.... It is a Sylvanian themed cafe. Muggle would love it so much. There are so many Sylvanians, all set up and then also to buy. There is also a play area for kids. Beau and I had lunch there. I had a strange spicy pasta dish, he had a chicken calzone that looked like a flat giant curry puff. They had many gorgeous looking cakes, but we did not eat any. I took photos for Muggle.
Then Beau and I went to the movies. I want him to blog about this. It was pretty cool. The movie we went to, PS I Love You was very sappy and I liked it, but he did not want to go to it. It is not the movie I want him to blog about , it is the cinema.
The cinema and the Sylvanian cafe are both at Central World. Just in case you get a chance to go.
Tonight we are catching the overnight train to Lamphang where we shall enter in Mahout training. That's right, Beau and I shall be learning how to be Elephant Handlers. It shall be hilarious and there may be a DVD.
Then we will go stay in Chiang Mai with my cousin for a few days and then head to Nan, where my Mum is from. We'll stay there for a week. We should be back in Bangkok in 2 weeks. I don't know what our internet access will be like in that time. If you need to get hold of me, Muggle, my Dad and Beau's Mum all have my cell phone number here.
Point of Fashion: Farang
Current Obsession: Correct protocol for being a VIP guest at an Elephant Conservation Camp
I don't really enjoy Bangkok that much. It weirds me out that the population of Bangkok, a city, is double the population of New Zealand. You mostly notice it whenever you drive in "rush hour" any time from 7am to 9pm. Or that's what it feels like anyway.
Beau and I have mostly been hanging out with my younger brother and his girlfriend which is great, cause Peep and I don't tend to hang out. At least not in NZ.
She lives in a house on the outskirts of Bangkok and it is in a Complex of other identical houses. You have to go past a security gate to get into the Complex and even then every house has a gate of its own. The Complex has an awesome swimming pool and gym. I wants.
Beau and I went swimming today and got a bit lost going back to her house (seriously about a hundred identical houses!) and a security guard greeted us and then asked where we were from. When we couldn't find her house he walkie-talkied other guards with "there are two foreigners here who don't remember who they are staying with" (it's not my fault I only know her nick-name, right?) and when we found her house as soon as he radio'd he had to add that too. Gah! Stupid foreigners.
In the past few days Beau and I have been semi productive. We have gone shopping in over 4 malls, MBK (8 floors!!), Central Rama 3 (we saw 27 dresses there :), Siam Paragon (flash, flash, flash) and Chatuchak weekend market (utter outdoor madness! Also, hot, grumpy Giffy does not like being too fat for all clothes).
We also managed to get ourselves to a dentist. I didn't have to get any work done, but I got a lecture on how to brush my teeth and that I must floss daily! Short strokes at 45degree angle people! Beau had to get a filling. We both got our teeth cleaned. Total cost.... about $NZ75! SO worth waiting until we got to Thailand to get it sorted.
It's not even Nine pm and I am feeling wasted. Beau and I have been taking pics on our (new) digital camera. Hope to put some on facebook later.
I believe Jenni shall especially enjoy the pictures of the Ice-cream Fondue and mini-cones and I hope that Darchi shall be shown the pictures of all the gundams and other models that take up much space at my cousins house.
I *must* try to take more pictures of food. It's all so crazy and cute. Eg a sushi chain made limited edition heart shaped sushi for Valentines day! Bizarre!
We hope to go elephant trekking next week.
I can no longer make sense and am sick of having to correct the typos I am making in every second word. I don't care if it isn't yet 9. I am going to get ready for bed!!
Point of Fashion: I'm so Thai I can wear jeans!
Current Obsession: Number of Rellies to ask directly about when we are having children is 4. One of these was on the phone!!