The Whole Family Visits Thailand

The Whole Family Visits Thailand

I am a lucky lady indeed because for my Christmas present, my whole family visited me in Thailand! Thankfully, everyone absolutely loved it.

Here are some highlights: After everyone had a day to combat their jet lag with a Thai massage, some delicious Thai food, and the city sites of Chiang Mai, a place we all were happy to visit was Elephant Nature Park.

Hal IV, Dad, Beth, Dory and Wendy at Elephant Nature Park.

Hal IV, Dad, Beth, Dory and Wendy at Elephant Nature Park.

Hal loves the elephants.

Hal loves the elephants.

Dory loves the elephants.

Dory loves the elephants.

I love the elephants.

I love the elephants.

The elephants love each other.

The elephants love each other.

Having fun giving the elephants a bath.

Wendy, Hal and Dory having fun giving the elephants a bath.

Playing Songkran with elephants.

Playing Songkran with elephants

Elephant Nature Park is a fabulous sanctuary for elephants in Chiang Mai Province where they are allowed to roam freely, and are never chained up. There is ‘no show and no ride’ as they told me on the phone, but one can enjoy spending time feeding and bathing the elephants.

After a delightful day with the elephants, we spent the night in Chiang Dao.

Chiang Dao

Chiang Dao

Walking back tot the room at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Walking back to the room at Yang Tone Farm Stay

The wat up on the mountain in Chiang Dao.

The wat up on the mountain in Chiang Dao.

When we returned back to Chiang Mai, we headed to Sunday Walking Street for a little bit of shopping and eating.

Having pizza for a slight change from Thai food at Girasole

Having pizza for a slight change from Thai food at Girasole

We had to visit Panyaden School, where I work. It wasn't quite the same without the students there.

We visited Panyaden School, where I work. It wasn’t quite the same without the students there.

The next day we hopped on a plane to Krabi and took a minibus straight to Klong Nin beach on Ko Lanta. Wendy and Dory were pretty excited to arrive, so Wendy composed a little song. FYI: chang is the Thai word for elephant.

We enjoyed the sign in our hotel...

We enjoyed the sign in our hotel…

...and were glad to have already gotten pedicures in Chiang Mai

…and were glad to have already gotten pedicures in Chiang Mai

Dory sends off her first komloy to ring in the new year

Dory sends off her first komloy to ring in the new year

Then Dory orders a 'bucket' not realizing how big, sickly sweet, and alcoholic they are

Then Dory orders a ‘New Year’s Eve bucket’ not realizing how big, sickly sweet, and alcoholic they are…

...but we had to laugh about it anyway

…but we had to laugh about it anyway

On New Year's Day 2015 we took a boat trip with thousands of other tourists. It was the most touristy thing I've ever done in Thailand. We swam through a cave to an emerald beach with boatloads of other people.

On New Year’s Day 2015, we took a boat trip with thousands of other tourists. We swam through a cave to an emerald beach with literally boatloads of other people. It was the most touristy thing I’ve ever done in Thailand.

Dory and Wendy on an amazing beach off Ko Lanta.

Dory and Wendy on an amazing beach off Ko Lanta.

Selfie fail

Selfie partial fail

Wendy had better luck with her longer arms

Wendy had better luck with her longer arms

Lovely

Lovely lady and beach

Dory and a new four-legged friend

Dory and a new four-legged friend

Piña colada happy hour with Dad at Peace Paradise Beach Resort.

Piña colada happy hour with Dad and Wendy back at Peace Paradise Beach Resort.

Khun Pa was the best. We ate at his restaurant everyday.

Khun Pa was the best! We ate at his restaurant everyday.

Sadly, it was time to say farewell…but not without one last hearty laugh at the airport: Presenting Wendy in ‘Discovering the Blackpuccino’ at Black Canyon Coffee.

“Hmm, what should I order?”

Blackpuccino!

Blackpuccino? Blackpuccino!

Image 2

“A Blackpuccino! That’s it!”

“Hooray!”

“I love my Blackpuccino!”

“That Blackpuccino.”

I have never laughed so hard in an airport.

As is obvious from the photos, a great time was had by all.

I am so very grateful that my family came to visit me.

I am so very grateful that my family came to visit me.

I Love the Elephant

I Love the Elephant

It’s true, I love elephants and Thailand is a country with a rich elephant culture. I had been wanting to spend some time with the elephants, but had heard some mixed stories on how elephants were treated, and wanted to pick an organization that would not be cruel to the animals. My sister Wendy was in town and definitely wanted to see elephants, so I asked and looked around and found Elephant Nature Park.

I called to find out more about them. I asked, “Do people ride the elephants there?” and the reply was, “No show no ride, we are conservation.” Wendy and I repeated this phrase for much of her trip. Elephant Nature Park was the elephant organization for us.

When I went to their office to pay for the tickets, inside were about 10 dogs that had been rescued from the Bangkok floods, a few cats, and a chicken. I commented on the dogs, and the woman told me, “At the park have many animal – dog, cat, pig, cow, many.” Being lovers of all animals, this delighted us further still.

Wendy, initially timidly feeding the elephant

We learned the Thailand only has about 3000 elephants left and there were 33 at this park. All but 3 of them were female. Many were older elephants – some 60 and 70 years old! Many of the elephants here have been rescued from poor treatment. This one was blind in one eye.

These ladies looked happy to get bananas.

one of the younger ones

Wendy and a new friend

Wendy practicing to be an elephant dentist

After feeding them and seeing them in the field, we got to bathe them.

Getting ready to bathe the elephants.

Songkran for elephants

We loved this, and so did the elephants. This poor old lady had a broken hip. Wendy found it hard to leave her.

After bathing, the elephants wanted to play in the mud. The 1/2 -tailed black dog sure does remind me of someone…

The young one and me

Elephant Nature Park wants elephants to live the lives of elephants, not circus performers.

While feeding the elephants in the afternoon…

We witnessed an event that quickly reminded me that elephants are wild animals. An elephant lay down and got caught under the fence. She called for help and the other elephants rushed to help her. So much so that the knocked down a fence like the one you see above.

Protective elephants helping a herd member

The remains of the fence the elephants knocked down

It felt special to see the elephants act really wild.

 

I’m sure I’ll visit here and again and volunteer for a while.

In Thai elephants are called chang. Chan chob chang maak!

These elephants are so wise and cute at the same time, what’s not to love?

Oh Pai

Ahh, Pai. I knew that of everywhere I would re-visit in Thailand Pai would be the most changed. I was correct. Pai was a little town surrounded by beauty. It was 2 little crossroads in March of 2000. By July of 2001 things had been developed a bit more. Now it’s completely different.

Pai was kind of a magical place for me. I dreamt about it back in 1999 before I had ever been to SE Asia. My dream involved being in a wood house and listening to acoustic guitar music after floating down a river on a bamboo raft with rice paddy views and green jagged mountains all around. I had never seen landscapes like this before in my waking life. Upon seeing Pai the first time, I knew there was a connection.

In Pai 2000 I went to a wooden bar/restaurant called Hugs that had open mic. Pai has a river, rice fields, and green mountains all around it like I had dreamt about. The details of what happened were all the same. Some part of me felt I had been there before. The owner of Hugs was a guy named Aey, who sang and played guitar. He had an sincere smile and I knew we had a connection. A year and a half later in July 2001 Hugs was no longer in Pai, and neither was Aey. They’d both moved to Chiang Mai. (Amazingly, I spotted him riding a motorbike on a busy street in Chiang Mai a year and a half later, but that is another story.) Somehow even in 2001 that magical Pai of March 2000 would never be the same.

I was amazed the guesthouse I stayed in 2000 and 2001 still existed. It’s called River Corner and was on the edge of town and cost 150 baht the first time for a bamboo bungalow, and I think maybe 200 baht the second time, for a bamboo bungalow with a bathroom inside. It is still there, but it’s been developed beyond recognition. Now rooms go for 3000 – 6000 baht ($100-$200 USD) a night! That would be expensive anywhere. Apparently about 6-7 years ago there was a flood in Pai and the cheap accommodation was literally wiped out. When people rebuilt, they built more expensive places to stay.

Moving to September 2011, arriving in town, Pai was unrecognizable to me. I immediately opted for a place out of town. Right now as I write this I am in a pleasant room that is quite clean and has an en suite bathroom. The river is outside my door. I hear the river rushing by and crickets, and that’s pretty much it. The communal area is kind of like a mosquito haven and it seems like the exterior garden setting has seen better days.  Also, in a guidebook and on a website it said good vegetarian food. There is no restaurant here. Apparently, it’s changed management. Moving tomorrow to Aqua.

The stream rushing by past my bungalow

Aqua was lovely. I will let the pictures and their captions express how delightful it was. Den, the owner was very kind and helpful. All I really wanted to do in Pai was be in nature and relax away from the city. I liked the idea of spending time in the sun by the pool and being surrounded by rice fields. It is the end of September and since it’s the rainy season, the widely used euphemism is the ‘green season’. It is very green. I arrived while it was still raining, but the sun came out.

Views of the rice field from Aqua

My super cool hexagonal bungalow at Aqua

simple, yet elegant5 out of the 6 walls were windows that opened up on to a patio surrounded by a lovely garden

view of the garden from the patio at Aquaview of another 'wall'

a bridge in the garden

The pool at Aqua where I spent time in and around...I was the only one there!

My morning coffee bar

The owner of Aqua, Den, always asked if I needed anything, coffee, a ride to town, or help carrying my backpack. Here he is playing a traditional Thai instrument while it rained outside.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAUV6MhvHeI&feature=youtu.be

Somehow, this sounds exactly what a Thai instrument should sound like to me.

The next day I was served homemade Thai sweets by this lovely lady.

Coffee and sticky rice with beans. Aroy maak!

wrapped in banana leaves...

...with a sweet treat inside

My favorite pachydermI love the elephant

One of the many stellar views...but a reminder that I need a new camera after the lens was damaged

The top of a wat

Some new friends

Yummy veggie dish from the no name restaurant

sunset in Pai

Pai still has amazingly beautiful landscapes of rice paddies and mountains. I’m happy to say that the tourism that has grown here is not just foreigners, there are a lot of Thai people too, so that’s good. I wanted to relax and spend some time alone. I did that. I met a few travelers, but I was really content to have time to myself. I also wanted to spend time with Thai people, and I did that. Den at the guest house was a wonderful host. Besides lying near the pool, and admiring the rice fields, I attended  a less than mediocre yoga class, got an amazing reflexology foot massage, and saw the elephants.

Pai is full of groovy people and things to do. I would have stayed longer, but I need to head toward the border to get a new visa.