Solo Travel in the Kingdom of Thailand (2 of 4)

A Day with Elephants and a Visit to the Karen Long Neck Hilltribe

On the second leg of my Thailand trip, I visited Chiang Mai where I had an incredible experience at the Elephant Nature Park. Prior to arriving in Thailand I searched the internet looking for the best place to book an elephant tour. I didn’t know much about elephants, the way they should or shouldn’t be treated. I mean I knew that it was wrong to poach them. I knew that if I saw an elephant on the streets with a beggar that was pretty much abuse, but I guess I never really thought about the abuse that involves show elephants or elephant riding. Anyway, after reading up on the treatment of elephants and becoming more informed, I knew I wanted to support a tour company that was doing good for these animals, at least ostensibly. So I booked a

Elephant Nature Park Trail.

Sunshine Elephant Tour with Elephant Nature Park as they rescue and rehabilitate elephants.

The tour was an all-day experience. It was about 8 to 10 of us. Mostly couples.

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The Sunshine Elephant Tour Crew.

Myself and another girl from the U.S. were the only two without boos. In fact, we were both solo travelers, so she made my day. Especially when everyone else were all boo’d up in the minivan like they were on a romantic getaway or something. I found solitude in knowing that I wasn’t the only one with a significant other on the tour (Sad right? But true). Even still it was an awesome time. We fed the elephants, hiked up the mountain with the elephants, played with them (if you count patting them I guess), and bathed them.
Now I’m a professed germaphobe (kinda, but not really). So I knew going on this excursion (or to Thailand for that matter) I would have to set my obsession with cleanliness aside or I would not have a good time. Everything went well until we got to the bathing the elephant part of the tour. Everyone happily took off their shoes, rolled up their shorts and got in the river to bath the elephants. I didn’t want to be the odd man out, so after great hesitation (because I thought we were bathing them on land) I pulled out my flip flops (always prepared) and rolled up my pant legs (how naïve of me).

Elephant Nature Park
Bathing Elephants at Elephant Nature Park.

After busting my ass before making it to the river because my flip flops had absolutely no grip for the rocks, I was met with a pale of water to the face by one of the mahouts (the person who works with the elephants). I wanted to die. I wanted to tap my heels and be transported to dry land with dry clothes on and strangle that guy. But instead I paused for about five seconds and said fu*k it! He soon met his match.

It was all fun and games for about 15 minutes. We were pouring water on the elephants and the rafters that drafted by us. We were telling jokes and laughing. And then reality set in. And I saw it. I saw a big blob of elephant dong slowly roll up on me in the river. I looked up at the German guy next to me and said WTF. He shrugged his shoulders and said “when in Rome,” and I was like bih, this is ain’t Rome. I was out of that river in 2.5 seconds to wash off and reclaim my sanity.   It was fun though. For a minute. Check out more photos from Elephant Nature Park in the Pen & Prose Gallery.

For my day two in Chiang Mai I visited the White Temple, which was very fascinating in its ornateness, a hot water spring and the highlight of this day was visiting the Karen Long Neck Hilltribe. This tribe is known for the women who wear brass coils around their necks. The members of this tribe aren’t citizens of Thailand and they are actually considered aliens. Many of the Karen Long Neck live in Myanmar (Burma), but some migrated to Thailand as refugees to escape the conflict. Because they aren’t Thai citizens the mean aren’t able to work, so the women have set up this sort of tourist attraction staring them and their handmade goods to survive. Here are some photos from my visit and a video of one of the ladies  Making a scarf.

 

Karen Long Neck Hilltribe.
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Trying on the brass coil. Very uncomfortable.
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Karen Long Neck Village Backdrop
Karen Long Neck Village
Karen Long Neck Village. I didn’t ask.

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