Last Days in Thailand

Nov 30, 2022

I’m way behind and it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. So here’s the beginning of my attempt to catch up.

Having made it back to Chiang Mai and returned the bike, we boarded a mini-bus for Elephant Nature Park on our last full day in Thailand. This large preserve operates mainly as a rescue organization for elephants who were mis-treated or used as rides. They have several dozen elephants including babies. In addition they operate Cat Kingdom, a rescue area for cats, and a dog rescue site as well.

The first part of our tour was on the “Skywalk”, an elevated walkway around the area where some of the more recent and/or less “sociable” elephants live. Our guide, Chilli, explained that many of these elephants retain bad memories of being abused and this of course makes them less tolerant and suspicious of people. Handlers are assigned to specific elephants and work together with them for years.

Even so, these elephants don’t mind taking an occasional snack from a stranger. I wasn’t aware that tamarind grew in pods on a tree, or that elephants like to snack on them.

Tamarind pods on a tree above the elephants.

This is a birthday cake for an elephant. The park makes these cakes and presents the cake and bunches of bananas to an elephant on its birthday, then videos the carnage of cake eating and presents the video to the sponsor of that particular elephant. We got to watch this process in action.

They lined four or five elephants up about 50 meters away and they obediently waited until the cake was placed on the ground and surrounded by bananas. Then they told them Happy Birthday and they took off for the cake. This photo is after much of the cake is gone but still quite a few bananas remain.

We had a chance to get up close with some of the elephants. This one swatted Diana in the head with her ear about a second after this photo was taken. (Fortunately these are Asian elephants rather than African elephants, so their ears are smaller, but it was still a good whack. The one just behind her (you can see her head next to my left shoulder) is the oldest in the park at 104 years old.

It was fun to watch the little ones playing in the water and rolling in the mud. And then there’s that moment when Diana got a little too “up close” with the elephant…

Then we were off to the Cat Kingdom. Elephant Nature Park has two thousand cats in its’ enclosure. Four hundred of those have been spayed, neutered and fully vaccinated, and are allowed to interact with visitors.

This guy was one of my favorites. But with two thousand to choose from…

Elephant Nature Park has a volunteer program where you can volunteer to work with the animals. They give you room and board in exchange for a week (or more) of time spent helping out at the park. Something to consider if you’re an animal lover and want to travel slow and cheap in Thailand.

After a full day at the Nature Park we returned to Rider’s Corner for one last dinner.

Enjoying a couple of the local favorites over dinner.

This guy was hilarious. He lives in one of several tanks at Riders Corner, right next to the table where we ate breakfast and dinner. He would interact with me if I waved to him, puffing out his fins and racing backward and forward, then just sit there and smile at me. We did this several times and he just kept coming back to me. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun with a fish.

And the next morning before heading to the airport we stopped by Dollar Coffee (which, okay, isn’t a dollar but is worth every baht).

The owner at Dollar Coffee is a great example of how incredibly friendly and welcoming all Thai people were to us during our travels. I stopped here for coffee or a chai latte several times while in Chiang Mai. She was so warm and genuine.

This is the wall behind the counter at Dollar Coffee. It’s a small shop and just her and one employee (who is probably her daughter) but mostly just her. So she has a post-it note for all of her different opening times and when she needs to run to the market. Cheaper than a “Back at…” clock sign I guess.

Once we’re home I’ll do a follow-up post detailing our expenses for the entire trip. But for now…next country, please.

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