Thailand – Chiang Mai

Since we went to Thailand, mainly to relax after our Vietnam/Cambodia tour, we saw only a sprinkling of places. For that reason, I feel as if I experienced being in Thailand like the blind men experienced being with the elephant. In case you don’t know the reference, here it is:

The Blind Men and the Elephant
John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

This is one of the reasons that the best way to travel if you want to really understand what you are seeing and its historical and cultural context, is on an organized tour. But, nonetheless here are my impressions…

We flew from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city. It has a population of about 1.6 million in the province, 250,000 in the city. It is located in northwestern Thailand. Once we checked into our hotel we saw this sight

Chiang Mai from our hotel room

Notice the rainbow! Our visit to Thailand really did feel like being over the rainbow– so many beautiful things to see…

We arranged for a tour that took us to an elephant camp. We saw the elephants do tricks like lifting their trainers with their legs or trunks, playing soccer, and painting.

Here come the elephants!

Holding each others' tails



Notice, however, that the elephant has tusks. The elephants dipped their brushes in the paint and painted, but each had a trainer holding a tusk and it appeared to me, they were helping the elephants to aim. So was this really freetrunk drawing?

Another artist

It was impressive to watch them painting!

Soon it was time for us to climb the steps to a platform for our own ride on an elephant.

The platform

My croc getting onto elephant's back

Riding the elephant

On the road there were a number of platforms where they sold bananas and sugar cane to feed the elephants. Although we were pretty far back on the elephant, he was able to direct his trunk toward us and “inhale” the bananas as we fed him. As a “thank you” he would puff hot air from his trunk at us! I thought it was amusing, especially since I had read that among Cambodians, a kiss traditionally consisted of placing one’s nose next to the other person and blowing air out of it!

After about 45 minutes, we arrived at a small market and for our return trip, rode on an ox cart.

The ox carts

Sitting behind our driver

It was a partly cloudy day and there had probably been some rain earlier in the morning. The paths were muddy and uneven. Shortly after we started moving, our driver went over a bumpy part and fell off the cart. the oxen continued moving and we both feared the cart would run her over. But in a fraction of a second, she popped up from the ground and hopped back onto the cart all the time laughing- and for the next few minutes, telling her colleagues what happened to her and laughing again.

Our last adventure there was being poled down a river on a bamboo raft. It was very beautiful and relaxing.

The raft

On the river

But the day wasn’t done. Next time: the tigers and the orchid garden

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