Sunday, February 21, 2010

my journey to Thailand

I had a wonderful time in Thailand.  Though I didn't spend nearly enough time there; a week is not enough.  The two days I spent in Bangkok were interesting.  I will admit I was a little frazzled upon arrival because I was not aware that with some taxis the customer has to pay the tolls on the highways.  My driver was taking me to my hotel and after a frustrating language exchange he made it clear I was responsible for the tolls.  However, my discomfort ended soon after and I stayed at a nice place called Lamphu Tree Hotel.  The only problem with the place was the bratty French children running wild all over the lobby in the morning and their parents who showered them with doting smiles.  Throughout my stay in Thailand I witnessed similar scenes but with children and adults of different nationalities (nearly all of the people were white however).   I could write a whole blog on the spoiled way many of the foreigners behave over in Thailand but that may have to wait for another day-I did journal about it at one of the airports after observing people for awhile.

I didn't have the chance to see many of the sights around Bangkok but I did spend some time in the more famous bazaars.  I have to say I was overwhelmed.  Never in my life have I seen such a display of wonderful items for dirt-cheap prices.  I walked around dazed.  And a little guilty.  The Thai people displaying their wares have a sense of desperation hovering around them--I noticed it even more in Chiang Mai.  While haggling is popular (and I will admit to taking part in this a few times) it's almost pointless as everything is pretty inexpensive anyway.  When I realized how little money most Thai people make it was unsettling and I felt bad trying to lower prices further.  To give you an idea of how cheap things are-at my hotel in Chiang Mai I got a one hour Thai massage for about 6 US dollars.  That same massage would have cost more than 30 dollars in the states.  The cost of food and clothing is ridiculously cheap too.  Thailand would be a dreamworld in which to retire.  One could live like a king. 

The glimpses I saw of natural beauty in Thailand were heavenly.  I didn't get to the coast but I've already fallen in love with the forests near Chiang Mai.   The Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang was beautiful and I can't wait to return...there aren't enough words to describe what I felt there.  Fulfilling my dream of being up close and personal with elephants was an emotional, unforgettable experience.  The staff members at the center are devoted to the amazing animals and they went out of their way to make sure the participants in the program were comfortable.  At times I wondered what they really thought about us...did they view us as spoiled, filthy rich tourists?  Some of the staff members live in crumbling shacks in the jungle.  But they are happy.  They seem to be content in that world and I envy them in some ways.  While they may not make a lot of money, and the work can be quite trying at times, the luxury of the solitude and the magnificence of the natural beauty around them makes up for it. 

There were six of us all together participating in the program and I enjoyed meeting everyone in our group.  .  We got to choose our elephants...I was immediately drawn to one and I found out a little while later that she was destined to become the matriarch of the herd and was quite stubborn.  I loved her though.  She was also quite fond of turning on her side in the water (the director of the program warned me I'd probably fall off into the lake) but I held on like an octopus every time.:)

At the beginning of the program we learned fourteen elephant commands (in Thai of course) and practiced these commands before venturing out into the forests.  Our days were spent feeding, bathing, and trekking with the elephants (and learning random Thai from their mahouts).  One day we had lunch in the jungle and I helped cook.  The smoke made my eyes burn and tear (which gave the mahouts a good laugh) but it was really fun.  At the end of the day we'd leave our elephants in the forest (chained up so they couldn't run off in the night) and head back to the resort for dinner and relaxation in our private bungalows.  I used to get really sore in my horseback riding classes but the pain I felt then didn't come close to how sore my muscles were after riding my elephant for three days!  Yet, it was so worth it. :)  I did get sick one day but luckily it was gone by the third day.  On the final day we watched an elephant show on the main camp ground, visited the elephant hospital, and said goodbye to our elephants.  I was very sad to leave but I'm grateful I had the opportunity.  There is so much to tell but I'm not sure how to put it all into words other than to say that the whole time was magical and I'm left feeling a void now that I'm back here in Taiwan.  I don't understand this inexplicable sadness.

While I've said many times I'm quite fond of this little country I currently call home;  I felt more in tune with myself over in Thailand.  One of my friends mentioned that in my pictures I look healthy and it probably  had to do with the fact I was in my element.  Looking at my collection of pictures now I see how radiant I appear and I wonder if perhaps Thailand will be the next destination where I take up residence.

So stay in Taiwan a few more years and learn Chinese...or head to Thailand next year? 

For now, it's all too much to think about and I feel like going to bed.  I'll post pictures (or a link to pictures) of my Thailand trip soon.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on a fantastic trip. While my time in Thailand wasn't as enjoyable, I loved Laos. However, I think I would enjoy the elephant camp just as you did.

    On finding and being in your element, go for it. Till we have better proof, you only live once. :)