Friday, 5 March 2010

Thailand - The first elephant ride

Hello everyone!

Our first full day on Ko Lanta and we did...nothing. At least that was my plan. Wake up, swim around in the sea, read and feel like a God in the hammock until later. The only reason to leave the bungalows was to get water, and did this at about 2pm.

Whilst doing this we decided to pop into a travel agency to research the possibility of doing an elephant trek whilst on the island. It was top of the list on the trip for Kelly. I kept saying that a ladyboy would be preferable, but it was probably at the top of my list as well. We spoke to a very nice woman, who then told us that there was a trip going that afternoon. In half an hour. Decision time!

The price was ridiculous. Ridiculously cheap, that is. 350 baht for an hour, including transport to and from the place. We snapped that up straight away. Kelly also wanted to go snorkelling while we were here, so she persuaded me that we could do that tomorrow. I needed persuading, as I have snorkelled before, and the 1300 baht price would make quite a dent in my budget. She's a persausive soul, though, so we now had a very active plan for the next 24 hours on this most relaxing of islands.

So within an hour of finding out about the trek, we were on our way in one of those 'taxis' to Ko Lanta National Park. The road morphs into a sandy track about halfway down, and our driver opted to be cautious when driving along it. I'd say that it is cautious when there are people walking at a similar speed. But soon we were at the reserve, and tres excited about the chance to sit on a giant grey animal.

We were the final people the reserve had that day. I don't know if that had an effect on what happened, but if it did then I am very glad we went at this time. Our guide sat on the head of the elephant, with the two of us sat behind on a bench that was tied on with ropes, and a rope over our laps to act as an excuse of a seatbelt. They normally say on adverts that 'speed kills - wear a seatbelt', or something along those lines, so the seatbelt wasn't really needed here. Our mammal wasn't intent on speeding around the reserve. We tried to get some information out of our guide, and he managed to tell us that our elephant was called Jambo. Jambo may have been able to tell us, but he was busy eating. Pretty much the whole way around. Bamboo and coconuts is an intruiging diet, but with the sheer volume of food he was eating I'm surprised he didn't need to sit down and take a breather.

One thing he didn't need to do, thankfully, was wash. Though our guide really tried to make him do this. We went into the river, where there was another elephant happily flicking his enormous trunk to cover himself with water. Our guide got off at this juncture, taking my camera off me in the process. He then started shouting at Jambo, and it seemed to us that he was demanding that he cover himself, and us, in water. We were a little bit nervous at this point, especially when Jambo did actually pick uip some water and throw it over his sides, getting our feet wet in the process. You may think that would be nice, as our feet were burnt, but I had trainers on, so I just got a wet sock and trainer instead. But, credit to Jambo, he didn't soak us, and we soon moved on.

Minus our guide. He was happy to walk around taking lots of photos of us instead. And I mean lots. He took over 100 in an hour. Quite trigger happy, this guy. Jambo kept moving in the right direction, mouth constantly full of bamboo, so our guide wasn't overly concerned about anything bad happening. He soon told us to come off the bench, and onto the front of the elephant. I felt slightly bad for Jambo as I kinda stood on him to get to his neck, but then remembered that he was a rather strong creature. Especially with all of that bamboo inside of him. It is an awesome experience, seeing almost as the elephant does. He had hair on his head as well, wisps of black on that tough grey skin.

We swapped around to let each other sit on his neck, then did the standard silly poses, and soon enough our adventure was over. You don't need more than an hour on an elephant, but it was a wonderful hour. I felt regal. They also threw in some pineapple and water into the bargain for us, truly fantastic hospitality.

That hospitality is commonplace in Thailand, and was also prevalent in our hostel. We got to know the owner, Rok, rather well. He was a wonderful human being. He's in this picture with Kelly. He can be bizarre at times - his favourite trick was to say '200 baht' as a response to anything. Hammock? '200 baht'. Beach? '200 baht'. He did see the funny side when we booked an extra night and we demanded it be 200 baht. But he also had a sensitive, more serious side to him, and we warmed to him immensely.

As we had done to Joe and Jerome. We went for dinner with them again that night, further down the beach. On our way, Jerome took the opportunity to release a flaming lantern. It looks like a large lampshade, and then when it is hot enough and has enough air it is released into the sky. They do look pretty cool as they fly up, and disappear into the distance. Though Jerome's almost crashed into the sea seconds after releasing it from the beach, until a sea breeze saved it.

I cannot stress enough how good the food is out here. Thai curries are really good, and the one I had that night was no different. Ko Lanta had lots of fresh fish as well, so the choices were difficult! The beer is also better than anticipated. The more expensive one, Singha, was nice, though this night we were fed a beer on offer called Leo, which was just as good.

We were supposed to snorkle the following day, but I didn't think my sunburn would have improved sufficiently, so we changed it for the following day, the Friday, and thus booked another day on Ko Lanta. Thursday was very chilled, with the only point of interest being my lobsterfied body getting a Thai massage. It didn't hurt...much. Maybe should have waited until the burn had lessened.

Love you all


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