Friday, 9 November 2012

Travel Blog: Thailand

6th November - Bangkok

Remember Remember the 5th of November - the day that Rik had an epiphany and announced he is never again going to buy a PlayStation.  Hallelujah!

So my mission has been accomplished in just one week of our trip.  His eyes have been opened to how differently a lot of the world live.  In Koh Chang, he witnessed Thai's living in tiny rooms behind their shops or bars, most of the time without doors, never mind luxuries such as a television.  Children have to accompany their parents to work, be it at a shop, hotel resort or massage parlour - definitely not playing on nintendos; they have to make their own fun.  The other night we seen someone bathing their baby in a tiny tub outside their shop....very cute!  So all this seemed to affect him somewhat, and last night, as we sat staring out at a huge, black ocean on a wooden swing, he said those magical words.

But enough about Rik, you want to know about the elephants right?! We not only rode them but swam with them in a river.  I don't think words can do it justice, it was one of the hihglights of my whole life.  I was slightly sceptical and very cautious when deciding if I wanted to visit an elephant camp.  I was worried that it may be cruel on the elephants, and even if it was perfectly humane in how it treats them, I'm sure an elephant's favourite past time is not necessarily carrying around humans all day.  In Thailand elephants were used decades ago to carry loads through the difficult terrain, before cars and lorries.  Knowing this, and doing a bit of research into different elephant camps - for example some make them do shows similar to a circus, which I am definitely against - I decided I would probably feel like a fly on its back, and did not want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to get close to these beautiful animals.  I suppressed my eco-hippy and embraced the whole experience.  For 2 hours, we trekked (very slowly) through the jungle, where our mahout - the guide who directs the elephant - pointed out many a scary insect for us.  When I'd seen pictures of friends elephant riding, I didn't like the look of the seats attached to their backs.  I wondered why you couldn't just sit on its back, like you do a horse or a camel.  Well now I know! Going up and down very steep hills,even slowly, it feels like a slo-mo rollercoaster and there's no doubt about it, if you weren't locked in that bench you'd be on the floor in no time.

The best part was definitely in the river.  The mahouts took the seats and all the equipment off the animals and then, finally, we could climb onto their bare backs.  And soon enough they'd threw us off them into the water to cool down.  After a few attempts, we finally climbed back on and me and Rik had our elephant all to ourselves.  I came to the conclusion that our elephant was rather old and tired, as it wasn't moving very much whilst the other two seemed more playful.  But who can blame him, like I said he was probably fed up of carrying humans around all day for their amusement, and it was still amazing.  So amazing that I want to do it again! And for $15*, we easily could. I'd spend that on a trip to the cinema back in the UK, and this was obviously far more exciting!

*I can't find a pound sign on this Thai keyboard....I obviously mean fifteen pounds :)