Pack Your Knickers and DO NOT Kill the Taxi Driver

I’m stuck in Kuala Lumpur.

My day from hell started at 5.30am this morning when I got up. I finished wrestling my luggage together, managed to toss a 7/11 coffee down my throat, then got a taxi to the airport. I waited around lots, ‘cos I always get to the airport far too early, due to my immense paranoia of missing planes, trains and automobiles. It turned out that my luggage was 10 kilos over – it appears that my luggage-weighing device thingy is a bluddy liar. I had run out of data on my Thai sim card, and the airport wifi didn’t want to talk to my phone. So I forked out some baksheesh baht for the extra luggage weight and flew to Bangkok. I was way too early again, so I schlepped around with my trolley full of bags – unable go to the toilet because I couldn’t leave the luggage unmanned. God forbid anyone steal my ukulele and hill tribe hat.  Continue reading

Crocodiles, Mud Wars and Elephant Flatulence. Return to Elephant Family Sanctuary.

phet-eating-lunch

Phet – or ‘Diamond’ in English – scoffs some lunch.

A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to return to Elephant Family Sanctuary, in the Maewang District of Chiang Mai. On this day it started raining just as we got to the camp, so things were done a little bit differently from my previous visit. Our lovely guide Cookie gave us a bit of a run down on elephants and safety around them, then we grabbed our feed bags and climbed the hill to load up on cucumbers. Once again our group was small – there were five of us – and we were joined by a likely couple of lads from London, upon who I directly lay the blame for the ensuing discussion on elephants and flatulence. You know who you are, Aziz and Shay. Continue reading

Shine On You Cuddly Diamond – Elephant Family Sanctuary. Go here!

baby-ele-walking

Baby elephant walk.

I’ve just had the privilege of playing with elephants at Elephant Family Sanctuary, in the Maewang District, about an hour and a half south of Chiang Mai. It’s run by my Thai adopted brother Chaiw, who rang me on Saturday afternoon and said he had booked me in for the next morning to go on a half-day excursion and I would be picked up earlier in the a.m. than I am generally comfortable with. So I hauled myself out of bed, foregoing my crucial morning coffee, (potentially fatal to those around me) and got myself ready for this momentous occasion. The EFS silver van duly picked me up at 7.15am and we did the rounds, via back roads and lanes, to pick up the other clientele that were in on this particular trip, Theresa and Tom from California and a young lady from Israel who I think was named Carly. We were a small group today, which I’ve found is always a good thing, as you get to ask your guide lots of questions. And I am indeed rather nosy, although I prefer the label “Curious” or “Enquiring”. There was also a driver, who didn’t speak English, and our guide was a lovely young lady called Hnong, friendly and full of smiles, with quite reasonable English.
Continue reading

Tattoos, Dodgy Jungle Bridges, Bruce the Beetle and the Rat with no Name

When I turned 50, I was awarded ‘Awesomeness Points’ by my daughter for getting my first tattoo in a bamboo hut, down a dirt track, in the jungle of Chiang Mai, North Thailand, surrounded by elephants. Rather a proud moment really, earning said points. Then, a few days ago and three years on, I repeated that journey, from New Zealand to Bangkok to Chiang Mai to an hour north of Chiang Mai then through the elephant park to see Jodi Thomas, artist and elephant activist extraordinaire in her new bamboo hut down another track, still surrounded by elephants, and requested some further tattooing. As you do.

the-rickity-bridge

The rickety bridge. Step carefully on the centre planks…

Continue reading

First Gecko and Bogie Gourmet – Day One of being in Thailand 2016 (contd)

 Checkout was at noon, so I bade goodbye to my room , which happened to be Number 747, a truly relevant number for someone having just stepped off a plane. I walked down a few alleyways and caught my first tuktuk of this trip to Hua Lamphong train station to pick up my ticket for the overnight train to Chiang Mai. The driver dropped me at the wrong place, so I had to bring back to mind the trick for crossing the road in Bangkok traffic – wait for the locals to cross and get in amongst them. The midday sun beat down on my head mercilessly as I meandered about looking for the agency that held my train ticket. I finally discovered them craftily hidden in an abandoned-looking building and got things sorted. Another tuktuk back and I arrived at the guesthouse prepared to do the waiting game until my train left. This entailed busking with my ukulele for drinking water – a deal I set up with the reception lady who thankfully seemed to enjoy my plunking and wailing. Continue reading

Zombies and Gibbons. Day One – The Journey to Thailand 2016

The ride to Auckland airport went well. Reasonably nice weather, good music and the fine company of my two closest friends, Carol the Awesome and Peter the Great. The only thing spoiling it was the fact that I had no idea if my plane tickets were real. This is the first time I’ve ever ordered plane tickets online, and I had great trepidation as to whether the durned things were actually real! Once I got checked in though, to my great relief the trip became a reality – I was off to Thailand!!

The checking in process seemed to go very fast, and as per tradition, I had forgotten to empty my water bottle and got hauled aside by Customs. ‘Twas a short trip indeed for that bottle. Who knows where it lives now. Continue reading