I love Thailand. The food is amazing, to the extent that you can eat anywhere and will always think the meal was just wonderful. Accommodation can range from cheap and cheerful to absolute luxury. My other attraction to Thailand is that a certain mammal resides there, ie my beloved elephants.
When the invitation to all travel agents hit my Inbox, I did not intend applying. I have already been away this year to Seattle and Honolulu, and sometimes this particular person needs a firm handbrake applied. However reading the invitation and the proposed itinerary - one day stood out. That day included staying for one night at an Elephant Camp http://www.elephanthills.com/ and one night at a Rain Forest camp, also managed by Elephant Hills. Well you can imagine when I saw the word Elephant, the blood rushed to my head, the handbrake went into the off position, and I immediately emailed my wish to be included.
Well blow me down with a feather duster (non allergenic, artificial and no animals were harmed in the making of said duster) I was accepted.
This wasn't a shopping trip. I left New Zealand with only 12kg luggage in my case and returned with 14kg - which is the lightest I have ever travelled And at least 1.5kg of the luggage I brought home would have been brochures etc. OK I lied, there were approximately 15 sachets of various Thai cooking pastes (all declared, I promise!).
That day spent with elephants was amazing. Better than amazing. We first saw the elephants in their enclosure and they were brought over to us. The staff were concerned because I was in tears and they thought something was wrong, but it was only tears of happiness. Time was spent with the elephants, and then we watched them head off for a cool down in their mud pool. We were asked if we wanted to join them, but after seeing one elephant use the pool as a toilet, common sense prevailed. The elephants were then brought by their Mahouts to be washed down and scrubbed with coconut fibres - fortunately I am short, and I did do a bit of scrubbing but then spent my time just admiring these wonderful, wonderful animals. After their wash it was time for us to prepare their dinner - ie chopping up pineapples and sugar cane, and making their medicine - tamarind mixed with salt, and wrapped up in a banana leaf. Then we were able to feed our elephants. My elephant, Moh Dang, was a guts and kept wanting more and more, but then dropping it. A few stern words and I refused to hand over any more food until Moh Dang cleaned her plate so to speak - she got the message.
So what did I come home with? The Mahout could see I had a special relationship with Moh Dang, and discreetly pulled a hair from her for me to keep. That is now safely framed.. I was surprised as the hair feels like a piece of wire
And I thought I had better go with something traditional. The Camp had wonderful coffee cups, but had run out of new ones to sell in their gift shop. So what does one do? Offer to buy a second hand one, which I did.
"Anything that is unrelated to Elephants is irrelephant!"