The Ruminator

Come on up and grab yourself a beer.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Look Mr Frodo - an oliphant!

So much for planes, trains and automobiles - today was elephants, rafts and ox-pulled carts!

I'm writing this from Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. It has been a welcome break from the noise and chaos of Bangkok. It also gets a lot cooler here at night, which has been nice. I had originally planned to do a three or four day trek to see the hill tribes, but I realised that my time was short, so it was either see Chiang Mai, or go on a trek. So I decided to leave trekking for another day. Probably a good thing in the end as I have managed to get a nasty head cold. In Thailand. I realise a cold is an infection, and has nothing to do with whether you are actually cold, and I' ve been jammed into planes and buses with lots of people, and my resistance is probably low right now. But it still feels silly. Still, at least I don't have the more likely, but nastier, Bangkok Belly. And the advantage of being in Chiang Mai is that in addition to Western style medicine (panadol, strepils etc.), I can easily treat my cold with a variety of 'alternative' treatments - in this case liberal consumption of tom yum talay (hot and spicy seafood soup), naam manao (fresh lime juice), and massage.

Today I hopped on a mini bus for a day trip - an easy way to see a few things and meet a few people, in this case an Englishwoman and a Scottish couple, all very friendly. The day started with a visit to an elephant training villange in the mountains. They have elephants that used to work in logging, plus some younger ones born in the village. There was a baby only two weeks old - it was so cute - came running over, waving its little trunk, and rubbing its head on my legs. It may have only been two weeks old, but it still came up to my waist! We then went on a one hour elephant ride through the jungle. The trainer kept wordlessly singing something - it took me several renditions to figure out it was actually 'Take me home, country road', so I'm sure that will be in my head for days.

Then it was onto a bamboo raft for a short trip down the river. Part of the reason it was short is that the river is very high right now, and very fast moving - they had extremely bad floods here very recently. People are very nervous about the rain, because the river that runs through Chiang Mai is now only 30cm below the bank, so it will undoubtedly flood again, and last time it did a lot of damage. The rest of my trip today involved a short trip in an ox-cart to lunch, and a visit to an orchid farm. I have hired a car and driver for tomorrow so I can take a trip out to a spectacular temple on top of a nearby mountain.

I'm back in Bangkok for the weekend, then the island of Ko Samui next week. Then I'm back home after that! The holiday has gone past very quickly.

Now I'm off to enjoy another of Chiang Mai's famous attractions - the night market!