A Travellerspoint blog

Elephant Owner for a Day!

Patara Elephant Farm

semi-overcast 30 °C

Just came back from one of the most amazing experiences of my life! Today I got the priviledge to be an "Elephant Owner for a Day" through Patara Elephant Farm. It was the most expensive tour that we had done thus far but I wanted to make sure that if I was going to interact with elephants that I did it properly. There is a lot of mistreatment of elephants in Thailand through "circus" type shows and I wanted to make sure that the place that we were going to visit was treating their elephants well.

We got picked up nice and early and headed about 45 minutes outside of Chiang Mia where the Elephant farm was located. We met the rest of the people in our group and then went over to greet 2 mother elephants and their 2 babies. Absolutely adorable! After many pictures, feeding the elephants sugar cane and bananas, and learning one of the baby elephants practises Muay Thai in his spare time (playfully hits or kicks anybody he sees), it was time to change in to our "training clothes" and meet our elephant we wold be loowarneeking after for the day. I was assigned a female elephant name Noi who was 8 months pregnant. Before I went to meet her, the head trainer warned me that she was difficult because she was hungry all the time...makes sense when you are feeding a couple hundred pound elephant inside you I guess. We then took a basket of food over to our assigned elephants to make friends and also to check if they were healthy. The ways to tell if your elephant is healthy were as follows: wagging their tails and ears, they have dirt on both sides of their bodies ( means they slept lying down), sweating on their toe nails, and they have 6+ poops that are moist and don't stink! Well my elephant was happy and healthy so on to the next stage of owning an elephant...bathing one!

We brushed all the dirt off our elephants before leading them down to the river for their bath. You can genuinely tell elephants love water. We bathed and scrubbed them for quite a while until they were sparkling clean and then brushed their tusks by rubbing them down with sand. We finished off by having a water fight with them. Lets just say that the elephants definitely won!

After they were all clean we learned how to get up on our elephant. There were 3 different ways to get on the elephant and it all depended on what way the elephant preferred. My elephant would lift his one leg and then I climbed up his leg like a ladder. Was actually way easier then I thought. You then sit on their necks and steer them by putting your toes behind their ears! We learned all the Thai commands for riding our elephants but I'm pretty sure either my Thai sucks or my pregnant elephant had a mind of its own. To dismount the elephant, the elephant lowered their head and I slid off the trunk. The whole day I felt like Mogolie off the jungle book.

We then ode our elephant for about 45 minutes to where we ate a beautiful traditional Thai lunch. The food was so delicious. Anything that we didn't finish we fed to our elephants afterwards...they eat 10% of their body weight each day! That's alot. Then came my favorite part of the day...swimming with the elephants in the waterfall. The babies were so playful in the water. You could jump on their back and they had about a million ways to get you off! The older elephants were so gentle and calm in the water...the babies on the otherhand loved to rough house! Most fun I've had in a while. After sliding down the natural water slide we made the trek back to where we started.

We said goobye to our elephants and with that we were left with some parting words; eat like an elephant ( a diet high in fruits and veggies), live like an elephant (with family in harmony with the land), and love like an elephant (monogamous; a happy wife makes for a happy life)!

What a great day! Will miss my elephant Noi!

Posted by kaitlynmitchell 05:26 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Trekking in Chiang Mia!

A story of survival...or something like that!

sunny 34 °C

One of the must do things in Chiang Mia is apparently trekking to the hillside tribes to get a feel of the real culture so without much research in to it Mike and I book a tour with our guesthouse for a 2 day trek into a hill tribe in the North of Thailand.

The morning of our trek we are picked up by a rickety old songthaew (pickup truck with benches in the back of the truck) and we meet up with the 4 people who will be doing the trek with us. 2 from Korea and 2 from Ireland. Really nice people but looking slightly terrified over the whole experience. After stopping at a local butterfly farm and market to buy whatever supplies we forgot to bring we head off to the start of our trek. After we get off this songthaew and before we start walking our guide begins his safety speech with the group. His speech went something along these lines " Life is fragile, people break. Planes crash and people break. People break all the time"...where is he going with this? He continues "We are trekking to a cave where there could be King Cobras, you get bit and you break...no medicine. We will be visiting elephants that can become murderers. Rafting where the boat flips all the time and people break". His speech continued for a good 20 minutes and by this time our rickety songthaew is long gone and we are stuck in this very DANGEROUS wilderness where death seems to be a great possibility!! Fortunetly, I am a little more aware of the actual dangers of the great wilderness and despite being slightly nervous I am no where near as scared as the Irish girls and Korean boys. They are terrified! But we begin our trek trying to forget his lovely "pep talk" while high stepping it to avoid the "king Cobras".

Our trek was apparently 12 km to the local village where we would be staying the night. The 12km that we hiked was absolutely insane! We bushwacked our way 12km up a mountain... our guide using his machete to make us a path. We kept asking him why we were talking a different path that no one else uses but he apparently didnt understand enough english to respond. So on we "trekked" in the great wilderness trying to avoid our feet getting tangled by the jungle vines that kept trying to trip us. I finally fell enough times on our trek that I started keeping track. 6 times flat out on my butt was my total at the end...the Irish girls stated that I obviously hadnt been to one of their local pubs (which is how they get such good balance). After lots of blood, sweat, and maybe a few hidden tears we arrive at the local village that we were to stay the night. One of the harder 12km hikes Ive ever done!

This long neck village was the coolest village ever! I swear that this was something taking out of a "stranded" tv show or something. We arrive at a village in the middle of a mountain valley with no road in sight. The village probably only had around 15 people living at it. After getting to know the village pigs, chickens, dogs, and people, they fed us dinner and off to bed we went. Well actually an older fellow taught Mike and I how to play a traditional flute type instrument before we went to bed! I probably had one of the most amazing nights ever! No I didnt sleep a wink but the whole experience was something that I wont soon forget. The sights and sounds at night were incredible...pigs snoring, roosters making their rooster sounds, and so many sounds that I couldnt recognize. Very neat.

In the morning we ate a quick breakfast and made a short hike to where the next part of our adventure would begin. All the "fun" stuff was saved for the second day. Our day was filled with bathing a baby elephant in the river, riding the bigger elephants through the stream, bamboo rafting, whitewater rafting, 19 ziplines, and our day finished off with a fun waterfall that we got to swim in! The highlights were probably the baby elephant, and the waterfall at the end of the day! When we got back to the guesthouse that night a well deserved shower was a must! A very neat experience to say the least...and we even beat all odds and survived all the "dangerous things!".

The night was concluded by shopping at the Sunday Market which was by far the coolest market I have seen yet. Anything you could ever want was at this market! We even tried bamboo worms (not as good as you might think haha).

Tomorrow we are going to be elephant owners for the day...probably the thing I am most excited for!! I will let you know how it goes!


Posted by kaitlynmitchell 06:21 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Chiang Mai's Wats, Night Bazaar, and Fish Spas!

sunny 35 °C

We made it to the city of Chang Mai where we will spend the majority of our remaining time in Thailand. Despite us getting here in one piece I did have my doubts! As we are scheduled to leave Koh Tao, a lady comes to tell us that our boat has been cancelled due to the rough water on the ocean. Well this is a slight problem as we have flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai that are none refundable. We are able to get on another boat that is still running the same day and after paying a bit more money we are on our way. We arrived in Bangkok 12 hours before our plane so we decide to sleep in the airport to save some cash and hassle. After finding a couple chairs to sleep on, I had one of the best sleeps of the trip! Apparently the floor was too hard for Mike to sleep on but I was just happy not to have funky bugs crawling on me!

We did make it to Chiang Mai and it is a beautiful little city. We are staying at a clean modest Guesthouse for 5 dollars a night. Our last couple of days have been spent mostly exploring the city on foot. We have seen probably over 10 temples that are really close by and each one is breath taking. There is also a really cool night bazaar within walking distance that we have gone to a couple of times. Anything you could ever want you can find at a cheap price. The best find so far was the amazing fish spa that we found. You pay around 4 dollars to soak your feet in a tank full of hundreds of fish that eat the dead skin off you feet. The initial shock of all the fish sucking on my feet was enough to send me in to a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Strangest feeling ever! Tickles alot but also feels like mini shocks or something. We left the spa with our bellies hurting, our feet tingling, and my skin actually feeling softer. Today we walked around the city some more exploring some parks and even watched Madagascar in 3D as a break from the sun. Hilarious movie. Also we learned you must stand for the playing of their national anthem before the movie starts. Also bought some supplies that i will hopefully take to an orphanage later in the week. Now we are off to watch some authentic May Thai fighting for the evening.

Tomorrow we embark on a 2 day trek which I know nothing about so I'm sure I will have stories when we come back. And yes, we have booked our "elephant owner for a day" trip which I'm most excited for!

Okay off to our fight night.

Kaitlyn m
Ps- cheapest entertainment so far has been the insane malaria pill dreams! Last nights included being chased by grizzley bears while swimming in glen lake. Fear not, I dove down really deep to escape!

Posted by kaitlynmitchell 04:11 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Koh Tao (Turtle Island) and Beyond

overcast 28 °C

Well I wasnt going to write a blog for a few more days until I got to Chiang Mai as nothing "epic" has occured that would excited you guys in the last day and a half and that I realized that the fact that I am residing on an amazing secluded island is epic enough!! I sit here on an overcast day by the beach. Despite the fact that the weather isnt perfect for sun worshipping, there is plenty of activity goin gon. Out front there are many kite boarders that "frolic" in the waves until sun down and beside me there is a massage shop that has windows surrounding it. I think it is even funnier to watch people get a Thai massage then it is to recieve one!!

We switched hotels yesterday in Koh Tao to be closer to the main area (one main beach street). Our ride out to this new hotel was insane! All taxis here are big 4x4 trucks as the roads are generally unpaved and very steep. Our taxi driver loads Mike and I into the very back of this truck and our rollercoaster ride begins! Essential that you hold on tight on this ride! What a blast. We arrived at a hotel that Mike picked out...quite the character. Cute bungalow from the outside....manual flush toliet and super duper hot in the inside! At least the hotel came with free chirping geckos to sing us to sleep all night!!! Hopefully its my turn to pick the next hotel haha!!

Mike will complete one more set of dives tomorrow morning before we begin our journey to Chiang Mai which is in the North of Thailand. We leave Koh Tao on a ferry at 2:30pm and we will arrive in Bangkok at 5am the next day. From our bus stop we will attempt to get to the Bangkok airport and catch a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (hopefully by mid afternoon). Quite a long journey but I think its going to be worth it!!

So far Vietnam and Thailand have been able to offer so much! Friendship, Adventure, and Discovery (FAD) was what I was seeking on this trip and there definitely hasnt been a shortage of it!!!

Now my quest to all of you is to do a tiny bit of research on Chiang Mai Thailand and comment on what the one thing I should do there is! I have done research myself but I would love to see what your suggestions are!! Thanks to everyone who has already given me suggestions!

Hugs to all

PS- Buy stocks in 7-11...they are everywhere here haha!

Posted by kaitlynmitchell 01:34 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Jungle Trekking to World Class Snorkelling

Railay Beach to Koh Tao

semi-overcast 28 °C

Lots has happened since my last post but due to the lack of ease to type my blog this might be short!

We spent a few more days in Railay beach and there wasn't a dull moment there. On day we decided that we were going to do a hike to a hidden lagoon up the mountain. What the locals forgot to inform us was that it wasn't just a hike but rather a full out jungle trek that included scaling sharp cliff walls without being tied in to any safety ropes. What an insane adventure it was and I definitely contemplated turning around on countless moments. Mike, our new friend Amy, and myself did survive (okay maybe I'm being dramatic but I was scared!) and made it to the lagoon. The lagoon itself was not overly impressive but there was a cave that someone had been living in down there. It was a very cool hike looking back on it!

The following day I celebrated my university graduation. The morning started off with some great climbs and was followed by my first experience with a Thai Massage(less then 10 dollars for an hour). To best describe the massage you have to imagine combining pretzel making, meat tenderizing, and muay Thai fighting into one powerful lady. Yep that was our massage. It was actually quite nice but I did have to fight off laughing half the time and the lady was quite aware it was our first Thai massage. She kept saying to me "if you don't relax I can't do it". You try relaxing when your nose is touching the small of your back!! Too fun! My grad day finished off by watching the sunset with my grad cap and a roll of oreos...life is good!

We sadly said our goodbyes and made our way to Koh Tao which is a tiny island known for its great diving. We are staying at a hotel that has the best snorkelling off the beach that I've ever experienced. Millions of fish of all colors. Mike did a couple dives which he said were good while I spent the majority of the day exploring the reefs via snorkelling. Amazing! Tomorrow we head to a different location that is a little closer to the action so we have more choice with food.

Has been a great past few days.
Thanks to everyone who posts comments or sends emails... I might not be able to respond but I really enjoy reading them all!
Congrats to all my friends, peers, and colleagues who have graduated...you all are amazing people!

Posted by kaitlynmitchell 06:13 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

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