Sunday, April 1, 2018

Chiang Mai Sunday April 1

This morning we awoke early and walked over to Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai’s most revered temple. Behind the chedi (main chapel) were two very large monuments completely encased in a golden shell.

We returned to our hotel at around 7:30am and after checking out, we were picked up by Matthew our Thai tour guide.

Our first stop of the day was to the Bai orchid-butterfly farm. The orchids were beautiful. There were rows upon rows of them hanging from baskets with their roots exposed.

The butterflies were in a greenhouse with beautiful plants and water features. They were so accustomed to humans that you can get right up to where they are with your camera and they will not move.

Our second stop was to a village of several different tribes that have migrated to Thailand from Burma and China. Probably the most famous one are the Karon Long neck, followed by the Karon Big Ears.

The long neck women begging wearing rings around their necks when they turn 5 years old. Every five years more rings are added until they carry 5 kilos (11lbs) on their shoulders. The weight of the rings causes the shoulders to sag say creating an elongated neck.

They also wear similar rings on their legs for embellishment. There is not a documented explanation as to why the women wear the rings. One hypotheses is that they were worn to protect the neck from tiger attacks. A second was for adornment, third was to distinguish one tribe from others and discourage intermixing.

We spent the reminder of our excursion at the Elephant Park.  While we waited for the elephant show to begin, we fed the animals bananas and sugarcane. In exchange, the elephants played with us by placing a straw hat on our heads and surprised us by giving us wet kisses. Todd got the first kiss, it came from behind and was really unexpected.

The elephants used suction to hold on to the hats with their trunks. We could hear and feel them breathing while they placed and held the hats on our heads.

Their nostrils are moist and their trunks have coarse hair.

During the elephant show they kicked soccer balls to a goalie, played the harmonica, used their trunks to move heavy logs, and danced to music. By far the most impressive talent was painting. Three of the elephants painted beautiful trees. One even had an elephant silhouette on the canvas.

We got to ride the elephants ourselves. Ours was a young one full of energy. The descent to the river was steep. It fell as if we were standing up in our seats. I can understand why the seats have metal bars similar to those used in roller coaster rides.

We walked along the river part way and then climbed up on the other side.

During our walk, the elephant in front of ours found a rock he thought interesting and picked it up with its trunk. The driver had to get off and pull it out of the elephant's grasp. The driver threw the rock off to the side of the paved trail. Our elephant was curious so he left the trail and went to find the rock. I had just been wondering the point of our driver. These elephants walk the same circuit many times per day. He wasn't doing anything beside besides riding on the elephant’s neck.  I was glad he was there to coax the elephant back on the path.

We also got to ride a cart pulled by water buffalo. Our driver was a funny older man who loved taking pictures with our phone.

Today was all about experiencing various types of transportation. After our cart ride, we rode on a bamboo raft. We even got to steer it.  During our ride we passed several small communities  there were young kids playing in the river and women standing in the water selling cold drinks from floating rafts.

The first one we passed chased us down the river for several minutes trying to sell us her coconut water.

Our last mode of transportation was sleeper train. We were the only ones on our train cart for the first couple hours. One of the train stewards came and converted our seats into bunk beds. The accommodations were quite nice except for the fact that they did not dim the lights at all. The privacy curtains helped slightly but it was still rather bright.