Waking up from a night spent shivering on the floor of wooden cabin in the mountains I wanted nothing more than a hot shower. My hair was greasy and gross, my face was oily, and my legs were bug bitten and mud streaked. All the twelve girls in our cabin woke up and compared horror stories of nighttime terrors and noises. Four of the girls in our room swore that some four legged creature had been walking around our cabin in the middle of the night, which was perfectly plausible because there were three pigs that had slept under our cabin and I’m sure a few of the dogs had joined them during the monsoon-esk rains that had fallen in the middle of the night. There was no electricity or running water in the village and so when the sun went down it got VERY dark. Only a few people had brought flashlights so we had to take turns using them, but when we were in the cabin without a flashlight on you literally could not see your hand in front of your face it was so dark. A couple girls had gotten up in the middle of the night to go find the tiny mud floored shack that passed as a bathroom in the village, but how the found it in the darkness is beyond me.
Once we had all woken up and scrubbed down as much as we could with baby wipes we went up for breakfast, which consisted of bread toasted on skewers over a fire, cereal and fresh fruit. After listening to the horror stories of the people from the other cabin who woke up with vomit everywhere because one of the boys had a little more rice moonshine than he could handle, we packed up our backpacks, loaded back into the caravan of red trucks and headed back down the mountain.
We were all hoping to be able to go back to the hotel and shower but instead we were taken to an elephant camp about halfway down the mountain to do an hour and a half long elephant ride through the mountains. While I wasn’t too keen on this idea because I had my heart set on a hot shower, but as soon as we got out of the trucks and saw these magnificent animals my mind was quickly changed.
We rode the elephants in pairs and my partner was Lindsay. Our elephant had a very long Thai name which I cannot for the life of me remember, but he was incredibly A.D.D. and hungry. He kept wandering off the trail to munch on leaves and fruit from trees. We were initially the fifth or sixth elephant in the lineup but by the time we got to the end of the trail we were one of the last groups to get back because our elephant had spent so much time wandering off and eating. At the start of the walk we were given a bunch of bananas and a bag of sugar cane and the elephants knew that their passengers were in possession of these items, so every ten or so minutes they would just stop walking and curl their trunk back and poke you until you handed it over. Very clever animals, elephants are. At one point during the walk we had to walk about 100 yards through a river, which was really frightening for us, but the elephant didn’t seemed to be bothered by it in the slightest.
I bought a commemorative picture of my elephant ride for 100 baht (around $3.10 AUD) and since I don’t have a scanner here is a picture of that picture.
After we dismounted our elephant we all loaded back into the red trucks and headed back into the city to check into our hotel rooms and shower. That shower was by far one of the best showers I have ever had. This is not to say that the bathroom I had it in was anything special, or the shower head was fancy or I used special soaps of any kind, but more because I was so in need of one. The linens at the hotel were all white, and when I scrubbed my legs my washcloth came away a dingy brown color. A lovely mixture of sweat, dirt, bug spray and sunscreen all topped off with a nice natural mountain musk and essence of elephant dung. I feel like I must have lost two pounds of dirt off my body in that shower.
After everyone was back to smelling more like human beings we had lunch at the hotel buffet and then had the option of an outing to Tiger Kingdom or hanging out in the city and shopping and getting thai massages. Since we were going to do shopping at the night markets later that evening I opted to go to Tiger Kingdom.
Tiger Kindom is basically a zoo that specializes in tiger training and rehabilitation. Upon entering you decide which tiger enclosure you would like to go into. Your options are the smallest tigers (2-5 months old) for ten minutes, the medium sized tigers (6-9 months old) for 15 minutes, or the biggest tigers (10-20 months old) for fifteen minutes. It cost about $20 to see the youngest tigers but only about $12 to see any of the other sizes, so I opted to go with the medium sized cats. Approaching the cats is really intimidating, but a trainer goes in with you, and if you have ever seen any big cats during the daytime in a zoo they tend to look very sleepy and lazy. This is because they hunt at dusk being nocturnal animals, but during the day they just kinda lounge around just like any house cat. Since most of the tigers at Tiger Kingdom were born in captivity they are also very used to human interaction so they don’t react hardly at all when you touch them.
After leaving Tiger Kingdom we headed back to the hotel where we gathered with the people who had decided not to go to Tiger Kingdom and all loaded into a fleet of tut tuts. Tut tuts are tiny little open air taxis that seat two- three people. We were driven around the city for about twenty minutes driving around the original walls of the city and through most of the city centers and by the night markets which were just beginning to open. I was in a tut tut with two girls who lived in Coogee beach and our tut tut driver seemed to have a bad case of passive aggressive road rage. He was zipping in and out of lanes, cutting people off, stopping short, and speeding. Every time he came close to hitting something or someone the three of us clinched together or gasped and he looked back at us in the rear view mirror and smiled or laughed. I was fairly thrilled to have life and limbs still in tact when we came to a stop at the night markets. Once we exited the tut tut we had the rest of the evening to explore the night markets which featured a labyrinth of vendor stalls selling all sorts of t-shirts, crafts, handbags, elephant figurines, and all manner of scarves and silks. Prices here were all negotiable and Lindsay, Danielle, Anneka and I bartered our way into some awesome deals. I was able to get a very large north face backpack for 400 baht (about $15) when the original asking price was 850 baht (about $28). Anneka and I also treated ourselves to mango and sticky coconut rice from a vender for about 40 baht (about $3.30) and then the four of us split a banana rotee, which is a essentially a thai crepe with bananas in it, and its amazing.
Around eleven oclock we were all starting to drag because we had gotten up around six and had such a full day. Some of the other kids opted to go out and explore the nightlife but the four of us headed back to the hotel for an early bedtime.