Monday, 17th March 2008
We packed our bags to head for Chiang Rai and started the day as early as 7 am to capitalize on the cooler weather in the morning. There hasn’t been much rain in Chiang Mai lately because it’s pushing towards the very hot summer in April when the Thais and visitors all over the world congregate here to celebrate Songkran. Songkran is huge in Chiang Mai. Celebrations would go on for five days straight. If we were to visit Chiang Mai mid of April, be prepared to be perpetually wet for five days.
Since it’s summer, the river at Chiang Dao Elephant training camp is rather shallow. To enjoy the bamboo rafting, Dave suggested that we give the Orchid and Butterfly farm a miss as it would take longer time to cruise down the river in shallow waters. We agreed. When we reached Chiang Dao Elephant Camp, the air was cool and fresh. We quickly got into the camp to get on the elephant ride.
Chiang Dao Elephant training camp breeds elephants for commercial purposes. A wild elephant lifespan could stretch up to 120 years. But working elephants age faster and their life expectancy rate is reduced to approximately 80 years. The Indian elephants in Chiang Dao training camp are trained as young as they are 3 years old and send off to work when they are fully trained. Like humans, they have retirement age for elephants too, at age 60.
I am guilty as charged when it comes to exploitation of these animals. I was very apprehensive to get on the elephants worrying I might hurt their backs. My concerns were unfounded. Elephants could weigh up to 6 tonnes when fully grown and a baby elephant could weigh about 500 lbs after birth. To think of the bright side, I thought of this camp as a job opportunity for the locals for a better quality life. The elephant ride was quite fun – cutting through the forest, walking on the river, going up the hills, etc. The ride really made your entire body moved in sync with the movement of the elephant and you felt like your entire body has gone through a Thai massage!
I couldn’t stand properly after the ride because I went weak on my knees. We then walked to the river where the elephants would take their bath. It was a bit cliché lah. The boys were too busy discussing one well endowed male elephant’s appendage. Then, we went off to the stage where there was a show to illustrate how elephants work together in the logging industry to carry and lift logs.
While watching, Popiah aka Tao Pok asked why the male elephant with the very well endowed appendage did not get an erection like he was when taking a bath just now.
I was amused by her question and quipped – “Well, I don’t think one should have an erection while at work!”
Trying to redeem her pride, she said, “Then, why he had an erection while taking a bath just now?”
I answered, “If I am a male elephant and I have seven other females taking bath together with me at the same time, I would definitely get a massive erection!”
She giggled non stop.
We went on a bamboo rafting on the river near the training camp after the show. I was quite surprised that the bamboo raft is rather buoyant and strong despite having a hollow shaft and light. I had gone to some training camps before, building a raft on bamboos and forgotten how strong bamboo poles could be. It was a breezy cruise with occasional friction on the sand due to shallow waters. Tao Pok and I recalled our Tam Coc trip in Hanoi. We almost got roasted in the hot sun and thank God that this ride was not half as bad as Tam Coc’s. Be careful when you soak your feet into the cold river though. Your feet might get unwanted stuffs sticking on it – the elephant dung!
And do you know elephant dung are used to make paper because of its high fibre content? So, better think twice before you lick an envelope.
After a scrumptious lunch of tom yum, spring roll, stirred fried vegetables and meat overlooking Ping river, we slept all the way through the 2 hours journey to Tha Ton.
To be continued…
*Day 2 is broken into two parts as it was way too hectic to pack into a single post!