Yes we have seen all of the above features and creatures! Its been quite the week and now Fay wants to adopt an elephant and a monkey.
Where we've been this week: Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand) and Khao Lak (near Phuket in the south of Thailand).
Fay feeding an elephant at the Chokchai Elephant Sanctuary
We started the week with a tour which began at the Buatong Waterfall aka Sticky Falls. The Falls are formed by limestone that have a mineral deposit that makes them feel like a hardened sponge. This makes the rocks easy to climb up because they are easy to grip. It was so much fun that we climbed up 3 times and down half of one so we could reclimb it. My cousin, who lived in Thailand in the Peace Corps, told me about it and I'm so glad we had time to check it out.
It's a series of 4 Waterfalls. This is at the bottom of them all and you can see the white rocks that have sticky sediment.
I'm gonna make it! I only slipped once and didn't fall down the falls so it's a win in my book.
Sometimes we needed ropes to help us up the more slippery areas. Fay was our fearless leader and she didn't fall once!
After the Falls we went to Chokchai Elephant Sanctuary and Park- a rescue and safe haven for 54 of Thailand's Asian Elephants. Fay fell in love with the babies, especially Sandy- a frisky little 9 month old. She was so cute and fun that Fay wanted to take Sandy home, but she wouldn't fit in our backpacks so we said no.
We had a fun time washing and brushing off Sandy. David was shown how to give her water. But she most definitely stole that hose from David and started running away with it! We laughed so hard!
We were given local clothes to wear as it got wet and messy feeding and cleaning the elephants. We got squirted a few times!
We got to hose down these lovely creatures and give them water to drink since they need a lot of water in the hot climate and without any sweat glands. We learned that they can't sweat out of their skin so they sweat from their eyes and their toes!
These Asian elephants loved to eat bananas, pumpkins, green veggies, and special healthy Bon Bons we got to make them. They have a hard time with digestion because they don't have typical stomachs so they need help getting food out with high fibrous treats. We made balls of tamarind, ground up corn, banana, salt, ground rice meal, and a few other ingredients. As soon as they smelled what we were doing, they came running for the treats!
Fay was so brave feeding these giant beauties who were not shy at getting their food. They would grab with the trunks towards your hand and they even were dipping their long trunks into the baskets of fruit if you didn't feed them fast enough. We were all in awe of the elephants and wished we had more time hanging out. But after feeding the elephants, we were fed a Thai lunch and then had more time for our tour.
After seeing these amazing elephants living safely, seeming happy (they have a high rate of reproduction which is a good sign), and in a wide open space, we headed to see a Monkey school. The guide said it would be fun to see monkeys who knew tricks. The moneys are called Pig Tailed Macaques and it was a sad school to say the least. We were not prepared for the pitiful conditions.
Fay was thrilled to be able to hug a monkey but their living conditions were small cages without much room to move and they were being used for show. The trainer said they trained them to pick coconuts from trees so we are hoping they get to go out in the jungle sometimes.
They are very smart and sweet. We even got a family picture with Sam, Fay's favorite monkey, and the one she wanted to take home. I just wish they weren't being used as a tourist attraction, especially after seeing the elephants that were free roaming and knowing how smart these primates are.
After all that monkey business, we took a break from animals and the next day we headed on a bike ride tour through the Lanna countryside.
The bike company had a tandem bike so David and Fay could ride together. We met some interesting Dutch folk on our trip and learned about the Lanna Kingdom and it's people who ruled for centuries and still live in Northern Thailand. Rice is still a major crop there. The above picture captures us sweating in front of rice paddies. It was hot! I can't imagine having to harvest the rice in that heat. Much respect for the farmers of SE Asia!
We also stopped along the bike tour and visited a local coffin shop. David practiced what it may look like to be buried in a traditional Thai teak box. Fay was concerned he wouldn't make it back on the bike so she kept him awake!
Other highlights of Chaing Mai included finding a fancy mall that had all kinds of fun activities, including a gymnastics class which Fay was ecstatic about.
There were two, very nice teachers and she got to practice with another girl. They really worked her hard on her backbend and back walkover.
The mall also had a ROLLERBLADING rink and a Sizzler restaurant. It was like the 90's had moved to Thailand! For dinner we had a all-you-can-eat conveyor belt Hot Pot with sushi and ice cream (twice!).
David and Fay tried their hand and voices at mall Karaoke.
All of the songs were in Thai so they tried their best and it was hilarious! If you need to see it in video form, or want to see the elephants and monkeys in action, let me know and I'll share the link to the photos and videos.
After a week in Chiang Mai, we wanted to head south to see the Thai beaches and more nature. So we hopped on a plane and in two hours we made it to Phuket. From there, we're staying about an hour north along the coast in a town called Khao Lak. It was one of the worst hit places during the 2004 Tsunami. But now it seems to be thriving and has been rebuilt after the tragedy.
This is a view from our hotel's lobby looking out into the ponds and pool. Our room is on the top floor to the left (we're happy to be up high just in case there's another natural disaster). It's been raining a lot but we've found a few sun breaks or simply swim in the rain. It's a gorgeous location and the hotel is built like a Thai village on a river and leads down to the sea.
Of course Fay's favorite place to be is at the pool, which has a swim up bar that she immediately wanted a Mocktail from (we made her wait till Happy Hour). The Andaman Sea is just past those palm trees. The waves have been big and strong and we fear of the ferocity of the ocean. So we've stuck to walking on the beach and swimming in the pools. We've also checked out the nearby restaurants for some good Thai food.
Local cuisine- Delicious Papaya Salad and Jorang Curry with shrimp. Both very tasty dishes!
Ok enough about the food.
Tomorrow we head to Elephant Hills for a 3 day Jungle Safari and our first time staying in tents (although it will be more like Glamping). We'll get to see more elephants, go canoeing, ride in long boats, and trek through Khao Sok National park, which has the oldest Evergreen forest in the world. It's also the week of David and my 9th wedding anniversary. Hope we survive to see the 10th! :)
Stay tuned for what happens this upcoming week...