Sunday, March 31, 2013

Me and my Heffalump

Elephants are such huge animals, needing lots of space and lots of food, and tending to be rather destructive if left to their own devices. And at the same time they are so very vulnerable to attacks by human poachers. In this part of Thailand they have attempted to make the elephants' lives relatively comfortable, protecting them and meeting their needs at the same time as protecting the environment (villages, jungle) - and making a few bucks on the side.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day visiting the "Chok Chai Elephant Camp" in northern Thailand.

The camp covers a large area with hillside, jungle, and river, and presumably village(s) as well.

First we had a short ride up and down the road in an ox cart, just to get into the swing of things.

Then it was time to cross the river on the wobbly swing bridge to go meet the elephants.

First of all we saw an elephant show, with a number of young elephants demonstrating their skill in sitting, standing, standing on their heads, playing soccer, and painting pictures.

And at last it was time to climb aboard and ride off into the jungle on our elephant.

I can assure you that this is NOT a comfortable way to ride!

I, for one, would certainly not be joining Hannibal in crossing the Alps ...

So finally we relaxed  on a bamboo raft, sliding along down the brown river ...

We all (all 7 of us from Brighton Education) had such a good time. We got back into our mini-bus to go to the orchid farm - and we were all sound asleep by the time we got there.

Yeah. Pretty!

Elephant Pooh Paper

Who would've thought it? Well, why not - plenty of fibre in the diet, ay? (But it does make you wonder - what about other creatures that consume a lot of fibre? Or is it simply a question of the quantities that elephants consume/produce?)

Anyway, our guide was very happy to show us around the factory ...

Firstly we have the raw product, which is obviously available in abundance in this part of Thailand!

Then it must be boiled ... and this stuff really doesn't look (or smell) too bad at all.

Then you sloppy-it-up, and strain it out onto a net. You can add flowers and leaves and pretty things, and then let it dry.

Of course it's not your finest writing paper.

 More of a novelty, an "Oh! look what I made!" type of thing.

Of course we had to finish off in the Gift Shop ...

Now who doesn't love a trip to the gift shop? Notebooks, oven mitts, knick-knacks ... all the stuff you have no use for!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Holiday in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand

(I have never tried blogging from my iPad before, but I came here without my laptop so I'll give it a try ...)

After work on Thursday - the start of school holidays - we packed and flew on the late plane to KL to link up with the small group from Brighton Education (company we work with) who had opted in to take this little holiday together. Traffic was heavy, the airport in KL was packed, and we were among the lucky ones who had booked early enough to get a bed (with a tiny room wrapped around it) at the Tune Hotel next to the airport to grab a few hours' sleep and be back at the airport 4am to queue and queue and finally catch our flight.

So we arrived in Thailand a little bit tired ...

 But then we arrived at our resort in Chiang Mai, and relaxed by the pool, watching the occasional boat drift by on the Ping River. 

The seven of us looked through some brochures to chose some outings ... And we thought there was a picture of a whale shark at the aquarium at the zoo. Curious about that, we all went to the zoo.

They sell little baskets of cucumbers and sugar cane bits so you can feed the elephant. I guess it takes a lot of cucumbers to fill up an elephant.

Flamingos are so cool! I always loved that old "Fantasia" cartoon and I could really imagine these guys enjoying a yoyo to play with.

The aquarium was fun - lots of amazing fish. But no sign of a whale shark!

There are trams to ride on around the enormous (hilly) zoo, and a monorail train that moves overhead at an absolutely frustrating snail's pace. But after a couple of hours we were all quite tired.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Big Hill

In Kuala Terengganu there are two hills - "Big Hill" (Bukit Besar) and "Small Hill" (Bukit Kecil).
Bukit Besar is not particularly big, but it does dominate the landscape around the main big shop ('Giant' supermarket) - it's obviously calling us, maybe even taunting ... you know how it is! "I'm here so you have to climb me!"

Friends told us that you can't drive up it, you have to walk. So one cool, quiet (weekend) morning we donned shoes and headed over to the hill to climb it.

There is a road off the main road at the bottom, and so we turned in there to find somewhere to park so we could start climbing. We didn't find a car park (or even a wider section of road) so we just kept going up, and up. The road was rather narrow, steep, and winding - we were very scared that we would meet another car - but other than backing all the way down there was nowhere else to go!

 Suddenly, there we were at the top by those 'Telekom Malaysia' (phone) towers. (At least here the road was a bit wider.)

And, yes, there were some great views - when we could see past the trees.

That's the 'Giant' supermarket down there - closest thing to a shopping centre that we have, and the source of many good (western style) foods and stuff. Bunch of really tall buildings going up behind it, trying to develop that 'city' feeling in a place that really is not (a city).

You can see the river, and the distant hills that surround the city. The little black knob (bottom right) is the planetarium ... well, it used to be!

Then we had to drive all the way back down hoping we wouldn't meet some other silly person driving all the way up. There must have been a sign somewhere (in Malay) that we missed!