Monday, 26 August 2013

Having a Tarzan moment...

Elephant trekking in Chiang Mai
After a whistle stop tour of all things spiritual, it was time to hit the road and embark on a ten hour bus ride that would take us to the heart of the north...Chiang Mai

With rolling hills and pretty temples this quaint city is far removed from the bright lights of Bangkok. And while we tried to pretend that we were here for culture and history who were we kidding? We were here for the quintesential Thai moments with the elephants and tigers. 

Most hostels offer elephant trek packages that have you picked up and driven to the a nearby sanctuary, or you can book your own through one of the many travel agents you’ll find in Chiang Mai. We were lucky enough to be staying in Green Tulip House which offered every tour to Timbuktu. We opted out of Timbuktu and paid the 1500 baht (£30) for a day of elephant antics. Bargain.

Myself and Jen were picked up by our own guide, the bizarrely named Pee, and driven high into the hills. We were given tribal clothes, because I don’t think our Primani shorts were cutting it, and then began our introductions to the baby elephants. Once we had battled with the babies to get our scarves back and were sufficiently covered in drool it was time to step it up and meet the big ones.

Lucy was regal and beautiful-we stared at her in awe (with slight papping-our-pants facial expressions). She was ours for the morning and we would get to ride, yep not sit in a basket but physically bareback ride, her through the hills and bathe her in the river. 

But first, we had to go through the rather painstaking task of getting atop Lucy...and that involved getting to know Pee in a more initmate way. With a hand on each cheek, the bottom variety, he pushed me up and I gallantly (note the sarcasm) climbed aboard. A little flustered, and sore I might add, it was time to begin my most surreal morning to date

Jenna and I navigated Lucy through the lush greenery with our legs tucked behind her heavy ears and our hands gently placed on her leathery skin. While I had expected nerves, the tickle in my tummy soon subsided and instead all I felt was excitement. We trekked to the river and surprisingly stayed put. Meanwhile I made a life decision. I was going to marry our little guide Pee and happily make myself a home and nest amongst the jungle- Pee, the elephant and me, has a ring to it don't you think?

After Jenna informed me that this was slightly unrealistic our morning with Lucy came to an end with a wild water fight. Jenna and I were left soaked to the skin but I guess that’s what happens when you take on an animal with a fairly large water pistol, aka a trunk. A morning of laughter, amazement and awe; we were two happy chicas, but the day wasn’t over yet...

After lunch Pee took us deeper into the valley to visit a hill tribe village. We watched in fascination as the women went about their daily chores covered head to toe in jewellery. They looked back at us, probably with the same fascination. 

After our afternoon of culture and basic staring, we ended on a Pocahontas-esq note and rafted back down the river. Pee soon grew tired of my rendition of “Colours of the Wind” and shut me up by splashing me head to toe. Yep, soaked again.

To mark the end of our day of surreal jungle madness myself, Jenna, Pee downed a shot of jungle whisky.I can still feel the burn...

The next day our trip of wonderment continued-it was time to go a touch wilder and brave the Tiger Kingdom. Located just outside of the city it was easy to reach by tuk tuk. The entry fee depends on the size of tiger you wanted to see though. We decided the bigger the better and booked a date with the daddy tigers. 

All pearly whites a-shining and their paws padding the legnth of their enclosure we said our prayers and entered. We needn't have worried. The beautiful creatures were docile and seemed anything but viscous  whether that’s because of possible intoxication or not who’s to say, but we were able to appreciate their beauty up close and came away without so much as a scratch. Truly an amazing experience

I don’t think any other explanation is needed for why so many people visit Chiang Mai each year. Yes there’s the spas, night life and a fabulous night market but we all know it’s all about the Tarzan moments. 

Nothing beats the feeling of being able to publicly proclaim "I spooned a tiger today" or waking up and casually saying “my legs hurt from riding that elephant yesterday..."

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