Elephants, Waterfalls, Rafting, Oh Mài!

Mai can mean new, or no, depending on intonation. Mai is new and Mài is no.

Seriously, if you spend holiday here for more than one week, spend two or four hours in a language lesson. I paid less than $40 US for a total of 4 hours of instruction (two hours each day) and I now understand a lot more and can count (you still need to practice on your own and check with the locals). I can also say suay, with an inverted marker over the û, which means beautiful. Suay, on the other hand (with no accent on it), means bad luck. So, it would behoove you to learn.

We are, after all, visiting someone’s home by traveling to another country, and you try to be respectful of someone when you get invited to their home, so this isn’t much different. It doesn’t mean you won’t make a fool of yourself in the mean time. That’s part of the ride. Enjoy!

In fact, I am seeing it can be the difference between creating cultural exchange and cultural consumption, extending all the way to appropriation/exploitation on the extreme end.

But anyways….Elephants!

We got to pet them and feed them and make tasty treats for them, and then bathe them! I won’t mention the part about where they shat and pissed in the water we had to wade in to bathe them. Big turds as large as baby heads, floating in the water – one of the guys chucked them out of the pond for us farangs. But I won’t talk about that part.

We first put mud on them in this pool, and then took them to a cleaner pool below to wash them.

Our tourguide, Fufu, explained that having elephants is a sign of status, because they require a lot of land and food. They were also trained for labor, and this made them valuable as well. It is fine to have one person sit on the neck and work with the elephant, as this is how they have been bred over the generations. Their necks are also very strong, I mean, look at those heads and trunks they have to carry around. 

The problem arose with tourism, and lots of people wanting to ride the elephants because, A) they would have way more people on them for long periods of time than they should and B) they weren’t sitting on the elephant neck. They were on the head, on the back in carriers, all that.

Thus began a new breed of tourist who saw how much pain the elephants were in, and they don’t want to ride anymore. So, now they have places called sanctuaries where you can pet and play with elephants, and the elephants basically do whatever the want…like shit in the water you bathe them in.

They eat bananas, the banana trees, all kinds of funky seeds, tamarind, and other plants (I have some pictures in my last article).

Their trunks are wonderful. they have a tip to them that is kind of like a fat finger, and some of those elephants shove like 8 bananas in their mouth before chewing. The ones we were with were 8, 20, 40 and 60. The one that was 40 I think was the one in heat, and that one did need chained because they are like sailors back from a long bout at sea, and they smell nasty like that too.

You can see it secreting things outside of its head. Well, you can in real life anyway.

Afterwards, we went rafting, but before the elephants we went hiking, visited a tourist trap market and Karin tribe, and then swimming in the Mae Wang Waterfall (which means mother water or something. I forget. I’m 90% sure about the mother part).

A member of the Karin Tribe hand making scarves. I also bought some banana leaf-rolled cigarettes because, well, the people here are pretty much on display for people like me, so they should get something out of it. I also brought little hard candies from America (See’s) at another friend’s suggestion. One of the best pieces of advice I have received. Candy makes people happy!

This whole day was phenomenal, and I met some folks about my age from near Denver, CO. They were a fun group. I was invited to dinner and a dance party with them later that night. It was a nice experience. I do rather enjoy being a solo traveler. Today was a good day for that.

It’s kind of like floating on the river near Portland, OR or anywhere there’s a community that enjoys drinking and floating down a river. There were boat port-like structures along certain points where people were drinking or selling food, and splashing us as we went by. One of them was nice enough to hand us a beer for the rest of our hour-long ride.

It was more or less “easy” to steer the 10 foot narrow raft, but for the three of us on this raft, we also had another man who was our raft guide and he was masterful. He also would bring us to a bank periodically, where he would check a post stuck in the river bank. In the picture above, you can see one of the posts sticking straight up.

He was looking to catch cicada, or a bug like that. He would cup them in his hands, buzzing angrily away, and stick them in his pouch. It is very clever to put posts around like that.

This way, he can do his raft guide gig, and collect bug snacks along the way. He told us he fries them and eat them as snacks. I would totally try it.

I would do this weekly if I lived here. I like lounging and I like steering. Now I just need some Thai friends with a raft…

It was a long, fun-filled and prosperous day. I am so happy for booking this trip with the tour group I worked with. I also booked a PHENOMENAL zip line day through them too. A total of 4,100 baht for two days that were magical. Highly recommended.

I don’t have an address or picture of the tour group, but it’s located near 7-11 on Samlarn Road in the old city. It is between Wat Muen Ngoen Kong and Wat Puak Hong, near Samlarn Rd Soi 6. There are sliding glass doors and an overhang, with 4 desks inside.

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Khorp Khun Khrap!



3 thoughts on “Elephants, Waterfalls, Rafting, Oh Mài!

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