We’re back in civilization now – Chiang Mai – and I have to confess that after 7 days of eating vegetarian food only, the first thing I bought was pork on a stick. For those who are mad about both elephants and tofu, however, I highly recommend you go to the park for a week or two and you will get your fill of both.
I think I will write a whole separate thing about the Elephant Park, as there are just so many impressions that it deserves its own set of pages. I’ll do that soonish, while it’s still all fresh in my mind.
On the Sunday afternoon before we left to go there, we met up with Somart, who I had got in contact with on the Couchsurfing.com website. He’s a heck of a nice guy and a lot of fun. Along with Phil, who also resides at the Malak Guesthouse and has been travelling the world for a long time now, we went around the corner to Somart’s friend’s bar (by bar I actually mean a rustic hut with a bar inside it) and had margaritas. We drank them while literally sitting on the side of the road outside the hut. I’m still getting used to timing my conversation to weave between the motorbikes, scooters and cars that go past regularly. They keep burning candles at this place until they form a sort of wax volcano, then place them on the pile beside the door. It’s quite a funky effect.
Next we were in Somart’s songtheuw driving to goodness knows where inside the Chiang Mai city wall, where we then sat on plastic chairs on the footpath and drank Malibu Hooters and the like from a mobile bar, which was set up in the back of a truck complete with coloured lights, a good-natured barman and humorous signs such as ‘Please talk in silence after hours’ or some such thing.
After an hour or two there, we were driven to the same nightclub who’s wall I had sneaked over with my Thai friend Chieuw in during the Songkran Festival in 2009. Funny thing – there are three or four nightclubs there, the first one blaring out music so loud that a sign language teacher could make a fortune in the place, but nobody was dancing. They were mainly just sitting there looking at each other. We moved onto the next one along where we bumped into a young guy that had the most impressively sized, colourful mohawk that I have ever seen. I told him how impressed I was and we became instant friends – I have the photo to prove it. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s going up Phil’s nose in the shot, so I don’t suppose he’ll be asking me for a copy of it. Later on, off to the 7/11 to buy mixes for the bottles of duty-free we had stashed at the guesthouse, Phil grabbed (or quite frankly, stole. Or acquired – yes I shall use that word. It’s sounds so much nicer-sounding) some plastic glasses from the coffee machine there, then promptly dropped them when he stepped outside, totally blowing the level of surreptitiousness he had been building up for a moment there. Once we stopped laughing, we meandered back to the Malak and sat outside at a cosy little table they provide, and had a night tipple while listening to the Tokay lizards yabbering just down the road somewhere. They go off like cuckoo clocks at nighttime, and Somart claims they do five ‘cuckoos’ maximum. Just after he left, Phil and I counted one doing six. We still haven’t broken it to him yet…
Sunday afternoon and evening just gone, I went to the Sunday Market again to grab a few things I had decided on last time and quickly got rid of some really heavy money that was weighing my wallet down. It was a very happy time – everybody I gave money to smiled at me. It’s a very, very long market and it has definately grown a lot since I was here three years ago. My feet were once again in shreds by the time I got home. I was definately going through culture shock too – I had gotten used to watching out for elephants sneaking up behind me, and now it was back to motorbikes again. Weird, and so much noisier.
Somart rang, asking if I wanted to go to a barbeque, but I couldn’t summon up the energy, so agreed to meet him on Monday instead. I saw several of the other elephant camp volunteers at the market, and most of us agreed that we had bought meat kebabs and guiltily enjoyed them while hiding safely in the crowd. Or so we thought…I saw a stall where I had bought a particularly cool fish ornament in 2009 and stopped to tell the stall owner. Turns out, she was the boss of the mahouts out at the camp and recognised me. Unbelievable – I’ve had her fish hanging on my wall for three years! So I’m now also the proud owner of an elephant and a lizard… At mates rates though. Ahhh, connections. *grin*
I had booked back into the Malak again, as it’s cheap and conveniently placed, so it was back to sleeping on a slab in a sauna. Ursula and Jamie – another elephant convert – dropped by to show off the shopping they had done at 10ish, and then I don’t remember anything after that.
Yesterday we met up with Somart again and he drove Ursula, Phil and I out to a lake just outside Chiang Mai, where we languished in little open-walled huts built over the water’s edge and ordered food and drinks from the staff that came to serve us. I wish they had this sort of setup in New Zealand. There was a nice breeze blowing across the water and we drifted off to sleep for a wee while there. Funny thing – we stopped at the gas station on the way out and when you pull up they put a miniature billboard on your bonnet for you to persue while they fill your car.
Later in the evening, my lovely Thai brother Chieuw turned up to visit. Gill and I had spent a month at the place he used to work at and we all sort of adopted each other as family. So off we went with him to eat street food under his recommendation, then back to the 7/11 for some rum and mixes. Once again the Malak outside table served as a social focus point and we discussed how on earth Ursula and I were going to get from here to Cambodia in the shortest time possible while spending the least amount of money possible – quite an exhausting process, this planning business. We got ever so thirsty doing it…
Today, while I was downloading the millions of elephant photos I have onto dvd, Chieuw rang and had pretty much sorted our travel issues. We’ll fly from here to Bangkok, take a tuk tuk or something to the Khao San area to stay the night, meet outside the police station early the next morn, get into a mini van and drive to the Thai/Cambodian border, buy our visas, take a shuttle bus from Poipet to the bus depot, get on another bus and drive to Siem Reap. Tadahhh!! Just like that… I feel all slumped over just thinking about it. However, it was good to get it organised because that then freed us up to go to the International Irish Pub and have some actual western food, such as garlic bread, pie, bubble and squeak and toasted sandwiches – and of course, the mandatory Guinness. Well, not for me as I don’t drink beer or ale, but I soon quashed that little issue by ordering a Spy – a wine cooler. Problem sorted.
Tomorrow Ursula is going up to Wat Sutep – a temple on a nearby hill, while Phil and I will share a taxi to the Insect Museum, where we shall go play with scorpions, large spiders and other such cuddly delights.
For now, we await Chieuw’s return so we can go and enjoy more street food.
Tally ho all.