And you will know us by the trail of elephants

We have spent the past 2 days in Chiang Mai in North Thailand. Although we have had an amazing time, we did none of the conventional things you are “supposed” to do here. We didn’t visit any temples or hill tribes, but instead, became at one with nature. However, Pez insists he became at least three with nature.

On Thursday we hired a motorbike to drive around the city and go to Chiang Mai zoo which we heard some great and not so great things about. I can tell you it was officially great. The zoo is built on the side of a mountain with lush greenery, streams and waterfalls and the animals have so much space. First, we visited the pandas, where they have successfully managed to breed and saw the 1 year old baby sleeping and it’s mummy munching on bamboo shoots and chunks of wood. It was so incredible I cried a little. Some of the other highlights were tickling a slow loris, feeding elephants and watching the array of primates in their open air play area.

We also went to two shows at the zoo. The first was the seal show, where they jumped through hoops, clapped, played basketball, did jumps in the water, balanced ping pong balls on their noses and other bizarre tricks. Although I am not sure how I feel about the animals doing tricks, I have to say it was bloody entertaining. They also were fed lots and lots of fish after every trick and looked really healthy so hopefully they enjoy it? The second show we went to was the zoo’s animal bonanza. At the start of the show a little pig ran out to pull on a lever that dropped a sign saying welcome to the show, then a big red bird slid down a zip wire to mission impossible music. Then 2 birds raced on little pedal bikes while an otter was picking up litter to put in a bin. As all this was going on a voice on the speakers was saying enjoy the natural wildlife show. I don’t think there was much natural about it. After the show, Pez got a photo taken with one of the birds on his shoulder, who then did a poo down his back. Revenge to the customers who watch this madness?

Yesterday, we had what was probably my best day travelling so far. We visited an elephant conservation centre where they have rescued 15 elephants from captivity and exploitation. Most of them were very healthy and happy since being at the park, but one who arrived last month is still in a sorry state. Physically, she is fine, but she was abused at a park that made her dance for hours on end so she still sways her head nearly all day. The carers are hoping that she will stop this soon when she realises she doesn’t have to do this for food anymore. First we got to meet all the elephants and give them food. My favourite was the female baby who was born last year. Although, she is huge in comparison to humans, she looks tiny surrounded by the enormous adults. Next, we practiced climbing on and off the elephants, which is very hard word by the way, and practiced how to guide them with Thai words to go, stop, turn left and right and lie down.

After lunch, we rode the elephants into the jungle. Pez and I were really lucky as we got Mamoon, the elephant with the 1 year old baby. I was at the front on the way up, being the “driver” and Pez on the elephants back as the passenger. When we got up the hill and climbed down for a break, the male baby was trying to mount our female baby. Being 1 year olds, they had no idea what they were doing, but he wouldn’t give up! The way down was very steep and hard to stay on but an incredible experience. When we got back to camp we took our elephants into the small lake for a bath. It was brilliant! The baby was so playful doing spins in the water and all the elephants spraying water everywhere. The babies loved having a water fight with the humans. At the end one of the carers had to stay in the water and collect all the elephant poop. I don’t envy his job!

We have woken up today with aching muscles, but it was all worth it.