Day Twelve: We were up early for our flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand with a layover in Bangkok. This country seemed less raw than Vietnam. After checking into our hotel we walked across the street to Wat Prah Sing- one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai. About thirty boys arrived, barefoot, dressed in orange robes, led by a monk. They began chanting- such a beautiful sound! Thai people have to pay for school so if they do not have the means their boys are sent for schooling at the local temple for free. Later we drove through town in a songtaew to a restaurant on the river edge. A songtaew is a red pick up truck fitted with benches and acts like a bus picking up and dropping off. So much fun.
Day thirteen: Today was the day that I have been waiting for! We were picked up at 7.30 am and driven about 40 minutes to the Patara Elephant Farm. We had no idea what to expect and it turned out to be more incredible than we could ever imagined. Firstly we were introduced to a few elephants and babies so that we could become comfortable around these beautiful beasts. The elephants gave us hugs and kisses with their trunks. Our host, the trainers, gave us a general education about the elephants and their day to day habits. Did you know that elephants perspire through their nail cuticles? Our group headed out to meet the elephant that we would each take care of for the day. Boonpak – my elephant was a pretty serious individual. Feeding, cleaning and washing our elephant was next before taking a ride through the jungle. Boonpak bent his leg to make a ladder for me and I climbed up on his back and slid forward to sit on his neck. We rode through the rainforest and I felt so comfortable on my beast. My knees were up high and legs tucked behind his ears and I gave directions (in Thai which was hard to remember) to go, stop and back up. When we traveled down hill his ears held my legs in place to keep me safe. It was an incredible feeling – I was in tears. Madeline’s elephant got so excited as we reached the waterfall that he made noises and flapped his ears. The elephants played in the water then it was back to work for us. I wadded out to Boonpak, climbed up, the trainer splashed him with water while I scrubbed his body with a brush. He loved me scrubbing behind his ears. I used wet sand to scrub his tusks clean. At the end of the day we had to say goodbye to our new friends but carried the amazing memories with us.
That night we stayed in our own private tree house at Rabeang Pasak Tree House Resort. The owner is an architect and has designed the tree houses which are each one of a kind. After all our adventures we were thrilled to find that there was nothing to do except listen to the crickets, the babbling stream and the tree frogs. Dinner was delicious and served on a deck overlooking the stream. We relaxed on the deck of our tree house with a couple of cats and a dog for company. Day fourteen: We got up early hearing the morning prayer from the temple next door and explored the area on bikes. After breakfast we drove back to Chiang Mai for our last day of our exciting adventure. Madeline was still not feeling well and considering we had a 30 hour journey ahead of us Mac took her to the local hospital to make sure it was not appendicitis! Cameron and I took a tuk tuk (a three-wheeled mechanical rickshaw) to explore the flower market. We saw about 30 novice monks (young boys) in orange robes walking in single file along the road to the temple. Each carried a bowl- what a sight. At the market there were bags and bags of brightly colored marigolds, more lotus flowers and gorgeous creations for temple offerings. Good news from the doctor was that Madeline would live, it only cost $71 and she was loaded up with drugs of all kinds! In the afternoon we took a private tour of some of the most beautiful temples in Chiang Mai. Our tour guide taught us how to pray and shared so much information about the religious beliefs of the Thai people. There is a different buddha for each day of the week. Look up what day of the week you were born on and find your buddha. Mine is the reclining buddha. One of the temples was covered with aluminium- all hand crafted by monks who train for months. It was spectacular. At each temple we saw the busy preparations for the Thai New Year which was to start the following day. We enjoyed our last supper while listening to the monks chant and watching the celebrations all around us. What a lovely ending to a fantastic adventure!