Friday, September 10, 2010

The Great Thai Elephant Adventure

CYAN's crew tries a new skill!!

One of our most special adventures has been the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mei, Thailand. It’s the number one rated thing to do there on Tripadvisor Website and we consult that site often in our travels. This choice was better than we expected! It was educational and so much fun.

They picked us up early at our hotel and there were about 16 in our class of trainees. We learned about how the elephant is endangered and being abused by other tourist organizations. It seemed like we learned a lot about elephants: their reproduction, digestive health, usefulness, disposition, skin care, communication with us and us with them and of course, how to board one and get off! This can be complicated but we managed with help.

We examine the droppings for health check...[it was like shredded wheat!]

Chuck gets on like a pro!We will not show my was not a graceful sight!

Most interesting is that a swinging tail and flapping ears means a happy elephant and saying “deedee” to them mean “good elephant” while stroking under the eyes is affection! We had to write all the commands on our arms to keep track and they respond well to commands…eventually. Speed isn’t their strong point! Strength is!!! And coordination, along with warmth and friendliness! They get friendlier with you when you feed them that first basket of fruit and your hand is enthusiastically scooped right into their mouths with the fruit.

Chuck feeds his new friend!

Bath time in the river was fun but a lot of work! Skin care is important.

The elephant shower us after we bathed them

We learned to examine the sizable, but not offensive, droppings [see above] to check for health and to correctly bathe the elephants for skin care and do they ever love a good bath! They are very cooperative in the river. But, slugging through the muddy jungle takes some encouragement and that comes in the form of kicking them firmly behind the ears to go right or left and saying “bye” but more like “biii” to get them to move forward on the trail instead of stopping to nibble tasty bamboo shoots, a real favorite. We were so surprised at how well these elephants could climb over these steep trails in the jungle. Lynn who has some height issues had closed eyes a few times and we were more than 10’ up off the ground sitting on their heads rolling with each step. She kept looking for a soft muddy spot to fall but never did!

Along the muddy jungle trail!

After riding for almost 2 hours through steep, muddy but beautiful jungle we arrived at the wonderful waterfall for lunch and a swim with the “big” fun bunch. This was really a wild time as you can tell here. Lunch was great but all the leftover food including the banana leaf table cloth got fed to the elephants and they were used to it and ready for it!

These guys were like big babies in the water and we all had a blast like kids.

I’m sure the photos show what a wonderful day we had and we both will never forget our elephants. Lynn’s was Man Wan Dee and Chucks was Man Su Noy. They were both 35 years old and still in birthing years. They had both been teak log workers at one time and were “retired” now.

A tired return ride home.

Patara is a special location that takes in and cares for many elephants acquired from many sources and for many different reasons. We were so impressed with their work.

We were absolutely exhausted but what a wonderful way to end our 3 week journey in Northern Thailand.

Lynn and Chuck, who are now getting ready to go to the US for 19 days then China for 5 weeks!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Touring Bangkok and the Northern Early Thai Capitols

It'a about time for some news from CYAN. We are in Boat Lagoon Marina in Phuket, Thailand which is a great place to work on the boat. And there was a lot to be done.

We finally got the boat work done on CYAN so we were able to take off for Bangkok and places north of there. We found a gem of a hotel in the President Palace. [For those planning to go to Bangkok...don't consider anywhere else. Everything was just perfect for less than $60 a night.]
We began by seeing all the many Wats in the area. For the home folks...these are Buddhist Temples that are lavishly decorated in a vast number of different ways often with different remains of the Great Buddha himself inside a "Chedi" [sorta like a tall pyramid structure] on the grounds, too. Remains of other royal and religious folks are inside Chedis, too.

We really began to enjoy the different styles of temples especially in Bangkok because they were decorated with richly painted murals all over the walls telling stories of religion, myths and what life was like in ancient days. We hadn't seen that in other SE Asia locations. There are literally hundreds of Wats but tourists try to see the significant ones with specific artistic value. In total we have seen at least 35 to 40 in just Thailand alone. And that's in detail, walking all around! We are about to become Buddhist by saturation!! I hope they have a sense of humor!!!

Marble Wat in beautiful!

example of story telling painting on walls

One meaningful experience in Bangkok is visiting the Grand Palace and grounds. I am impressed that the present king...Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), who is the longest serving monarch in the world and the richest being worth more than 30 billion dollars according to Wikipedia. It's all quite complex and we were glad to have a guide on our tour the day we toured the palaces. No photos were allowed inside and it was a shame because we really enjoyed the visit and walked ourselves to exhaustion over more than 15 buildings.
Detail at Palace grounds

Needing a break next, we decided to go to cooking school and perfect some needed skills and it was such a great fun morning: educational and so entertaining and really filling.

Are we having fun or what?

We sought out some more obscure tourist locations to visit like the Jim Thompson House and the Suan Pakkad Palace Museum. Jim Thompson was an American who had developed a big silk trade in the 60's and built quite an elaborate home complex and art collection with lovely garden [for Lynn]. We just loved seeing all of it and would recommend it highly. We learned about him in the mountains of Malaysia when we were there in June because one day he mysteriously vanished from there and has never been seen again. Big Asia Mystery!!!

this is a typical Thai home on the grounds

The Suan Pakkad Palace Museum was very interesting. It was a collection of 7 old Thai buildings moved to Bangkok to house the beautifully done display of an extensive archeological expedition in northern Thailand and many other pieces of art work.

After a bit of shopping we were ready to board the train for Ayutthaya an ancient capitol of Thailand from 1250 to 1760. It had many ruins and, yes, more Wats, to visit and we hired a tuktuk to drive us to the best selection to visit so we would feel like we got a good view of it all since we both were still recuperating from this darn H1N1 flu and hacking away. It was well worth the look around.

The below in Ayutthaya is the famous head left by thieves that a tree grew around and is considered sacred now.

We definitely thought going to Sukhothai was more exciting, though. It was more trouble to get there. We had to take a 5 hour train ride from Ayutthaya and then take an hour bus ride to the town near the ruined remains of the ancient, elaborately designed showplace that was the capitol of the northland in Thailand fighting off the Burmese in 1100-1250. It was surrounded by moats and had all kinds of water features and temples with unique designs. We think no trip to Thailand is complete without seeing this fabulous place.

The train ride to Chiang Mai was quite attractive through the mountains going north but it was 8 hours and we only brought snacks. We didn't much like the rice and spicy tofu they served! We were ready to relax and enjoy Chiang Mai which is actually another capitol of Thailand...the Lanna area...the very north and has a rich history of it's own. We have just loved it here and have seen such a thick concentration of Wats and monks all one on every street kidding! But they all have something interesting to offer and we still actually find something good to look at...can't believe who gets bored so easily!!! Buddhism is actually pretty cool...even for good Episcopalians...we can respect all this. These people are so sweet and calm and helpful. they sure don't understand excitable people!!!

We do the big Elephant adventure tomorrow and I will give that it's own page. This is long enough. For more photos and info check out Lynn's Facebook page at
all my photos are open to everyone and aren't repeated here.

On the road to yet another Wat way up on a mountain overlooking Chiang Mai on a clear Day