Calming Chiang Mai: An elephant always remembers

For the audio-story, please click here

Hurry up, hurry up, we´re gonna miss that bloody train!” My travel companion is slightly out of it after a crazy Tuk Tuk ride through Bangkok´s buzzing concrete jungle. It did rather feel like a stroller ride on Speed, and it also did look rather funny of sorts with all our, or should I say my, mighty luggage squeezed into the Tuk Tuk´s modest space. And us squeezed right next to it like willing pieces of Tetris that somehow miraculously seemed to fit together. 

Anyways, no time left for such silly musings while running through the Bangkok train station, desperately trying to catch the 12-hour-long jungle train ride to Chiang Mai, located 700 km north of Thailands´s capital Bangkok. 

Boarding the train to Chiang Mai, the crown´s diamond 

This is it, this is it!” , I encouragingly mumble to myself while approaching the Thai-Railways-operated train. Better take up running again, I kinda lost my former almost-athlete-momentum – my thoughts ramble on as a smiling, composed train employee helps us to lift our suitcases onto the train. Did that vehicle already start moving while we were just jumping on board? Quite possibly!

We were not in safety-conscious Australia anymore, after all. Nor in rule-laden Europe. No, we were in spiritual, faith-full and for the most part royalty-revering Thailand, and on our intrepid way to Chiang Mai, the Northern capital of the province bearing the same name.

What a wonderful wat

A particularly stunning example of Thailand´s 41,205 Buddhist temples (source- Office of National Buddhism)

 

Image by Jenny Cleary via Pixabay

One of Thailand´s approximately 300.000 monks going about his not-business

 

Bhumibol Adulyadej, image by Hans Brax,maier via Pixabay

Former king Bhumibol Adulyadej was beloved by many of Thailand´s seventy million inhabitants

As indicated, any visitor to the land of the former kingdom of Siam should know that generally speaking,  the Thais love and truly care for their king. The Thai constitution even emphasizes that “the King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated“. Let´s, therefore, remain royalty-positive and take in what former King Rama once said about our new travel destination:

Chiang Mai represents the prime diamond on the crown of Thailand, the crown cannot sparkle and be beauteous without the diamond…

King Rama V, 12 August 1883
 

Thai-train-training: Mind over matter

Friends, what can I say – if Chiang Mai was good enough for King Rama, it certainly would be good enough for us little munchkins. Whether King Rama would have diged that train-carriage, though – I guess that´s a completely different matter. In any case, we were booked in for the second class, which was quite alright. As was to be expected, the first class did look a fair bit nicer, and toilet amenities there were also more agreeable. A freaking lot more agreeable!

But our seats were clearly marked second class, and after my travel companion went on some train explorations and came back with his assessment of our current pee-possibilities (“Yeah, nah. It´s not good“), I decided to once again muster up all my courage and my iron strength of will and turn the train ride into a 12-hour-no-bladder-release-challenge.

While taking that almost heroic decision, I grimly clutched onto my “South- Eastern Asia on a shoestring” travel guide. Taking in as much well-researched information on impossibly alluring Thailand as feasible would be my best ally while defeating the lurking powers of down under.

 

And – taking in those views did its part in distracting me from the nether regions! Lush green landscapes moved past in a perfectly timed speed, allowing the eyes to be soothed after a week amidst the electric creative chaos of Bangkok. Humble shacks, built into the evergreen landscape, with beautiful Thai women carrying a child or two on their backs, passed us by. Contemplating these and other images of Central and Northern Thailand´s beating bountiful green heart, twelve long hours went by.

720 minutes whole minutes, in which I learned that Chiang Mai hosts over 300 Buddhist temples, the so-called wats, a Thai word you might recall from our previous Bangkok adventure. And that the inhabitants speak Northern Thai, otherwise known as  Lanna, owning to the fact that the area of Northern Thailand was the birthplace of the first Thai kingdom, the Lanna Kingdom. For my poet-souls out there: the poetically charming yet linguistically precise way to clothe these words into more eloquent robes lies in referring to the Lanna kingdom as “the land of a million rice fields”.  

On a slightly more trivial side-note: The twelve hours from bustling Bangkok to the land of a million rice fields did expire with zero bladder-release, I am proud to announce. 

Arriving in Chiang Mai: A theory about Germans and a thailicious array of options

We reached Northern Thailand´s largest city around midnight, and a local from our pre-booked hostel was supposed to pick us up from the train station. Or so we thought. That local looked suspiciously Caucasian, though!

As soon as he opened his mouth, my nagging hunch got confirmed – once again, it was an adventurous German on the run from grey winters and possibly too much self-imposed discipline standing right in front of me! No matter how far you travel, you can never escape the reliable presence of wanderlusty Germans, I thought. As a half-German myself, I should know… 

image by wichitth via Pixabay

Chiang Mai´s abundance is loved by Thais and Germans alike – Image by wichit thepprasit from Pixabay

 

chiang-mai-1670926 image by Michelle Maria on Pixabay

One of Chiang Mai´s fabulous 300 + temples, where Buddhist believers come to worship

Thomas had moved to Chiang Mai some years back and had opened a Backpacker´s with his Thai girlfriend, a kind yet cheeky looking, petite woman we met that same night before checking into what would be our humble new home for the next three weeks. Thomas was a laid-back, rather skinny guy with glasses and light brown hair, and when we started chatting for a while in German, it was rather easy to detect the soothing, melodious dialect of the Bavarians in his speech.

Thomas and his girlfriend, the latter a much more lively and enthusiastic type than Thomas himself, laid out our many Chiang Mai leisure activity options that same night (right, I still had not peed!! 14 hours had gone by…I know, where is the Guinness book of records data-entry-person when you need him/her?!).

From cooking classes to white water rafting, from Thai-massage-workshops, Muay-Thay-boxing events to talk-to-a-monk-sessions – I felt a rush of excitement when perusing through all the exhilarating options. It was one activity that really jumped out at me, though – a one-day-training-experience as an elephant mahout, an elephant rider/ trainer. Getting up close and personal with powerful animals and learning from them? Sign me up! 

Phad Thai, Thailand´s most famous dish

Possible cooking-class- result Phad Thai, a delicious noodle dish – yum!

Water for elephants: Learning to be a mini-mahout

Two days later, we were sitting on a vehicle with a Rasta-haired Italian, an intrepid German couple, and a few fancy Frenchmen riding through the Northern Thailand landscape, not far from the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. After a short stop at a picturesque butterfly garden, we arrived at our rather-out-of-the-ordinary destination – an elephant camp smack in the middle of the jungle nestled against a murky river. A quick introduction by the elephant trainers later, and…

there´s a rumble. It´s a different kind of sound, not too loud, yet powerful and imposing in its own right. Leaves are rustling, and all eyes are pinned on the horizon,  as the massive shape of a majestic Asian elephant appears in the distance. A self-assured trumpeting noise resounds… and there she is, gorgeous, regal; around 5 tonnes of pure fabulousness, right in front of us tiny and pretty intimidated yet curious humans.

Leila“, I name her quietly and completely awe-struck, just to get some kind of grasp on this almost surreal situation. Slowly, I m allowed to approach her. And then the first of a series of incredibly exciting things happen…

Meeting Leila and hoping she´ll like the treat

Meeting Leila and hoping she´ll like the treat

 

Elephant cuddles

Did you know? An elephant´s skin weighs over 900 kg/ 2000 pounds on average. Holy moly!

 

Leila´s skin is less wrinkled than her African elefant friends´one, btw

Getting up close and personal: Leila´s Asian elephant- skin is less wrinkled than her African elephant friends´one

next time, we will continue on the mahout-for-a-day adventure and find out more about ethical elephant encounters in Thailand – it´s important to distinguish here, more about this in the next post. We will also witness an eclectic, wild and inspirational night market and an intense Thai-massage-workshop, and much more. It will basically be my absolute best of 3 weeks in Chiang Mai for you, plus some juicy insights into the life of an elephant on top!

Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever had any out-of-the-ordinary animal encounters? What stood out to you about it? Or would there be any animals you would be particularly interested in hanging out with? As always, would love to hear from you! 🙂


Healing travel tip: Am gonna share some healing travel tips at the end of some posts from now on. Healing here refers to both the planet and oneself – which are always interconnected in my perception.

Today´s healing tip – If you fly for leisure or work and have the means to, please check out the possibility of flying climate neutral, offsetting your emissions to lessen our impact on mother earth. Mindful flights is a great initiative I´ve just come across. Thank you, enjoy:)

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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38 thoughts on “Calming Chiang Mai: An elephant always remembers

  1. Sounds and looks amazing! Adore the way you presented all this beauty hand in hand with your lovely words.

    Those temples. ..sigh. Makes you feel like perhaps we’ve got it all wrong in the west…

    And the food …obviously that caught my eye!

    But you and those elephants. Oh my gosh. My favourite images of yours so far. Grabs the heart!

    Superb, amiga.

    Love it all from top to toe

    ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡

    Liked by 2 people

    • Efcharisto, thanks so much my gorgeous fiery friend! I am so stoked you enjoyed the Thai ride – the vibe in Chiang Mai was just incredible, one of the most peaceful, if not the most peaceful, city I´ve visted so far.
      Even the dogs were totally zenned out and too relaxed to bark, it seemed! So yeah, I would agree that we in the west could learn a thing or two from this gorgeous culture!! Aw I miss it. So happy you liked the elephant-pics! Those were special moments indeed. Wish you could have been there, too – but now you were, in a way! 🙂

      So much love and muchos filakia to you extraordinary poetess ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡

      Like

  2. Wow. It sounds like you had another wonderful adventure. You look really happy with the elephants and I love the photos of the green hills and temples.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Brad! Yes, it was a great trip I did a while ago. You read me well – it was such a blessing to be allowed around Leila for a while! Elephants are incredible animals:) Wish I could have posted more of my own pics (the rolling green hill and temple ones are from Pixabay), but lost my camera shortly after that trip! Losses are a common ocurrence while traveling, at least in my case. The other side of the coin, so to speak!

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  3. your connection to the Thai land, people
    & elephant is a dear inspiration to live in grace.
    i’ll remember you hand & trunk
    touching precious connections
    & giving loving-kindness 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David, thank you from my heart for your beautiful comment. It touched my soul in a very profound way, and it´s honestly one of the most important and meaningful comments I have received! Thailand is very close to my heart…I think I felt much more at home there than in Europe, in a way! Because of the energy of peace there…

    Loving-kindness and ahimsa, non-hurt (from the Vedic teachings, don´t know the name of its Buddhist counterpart?) are principles/ values I aim to live by and hope to foster through the blog as well. I feel truly seen by you. Thank you, my friend! Also for your wonderful work of metta and mindfulness:)

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  5. Finally, I listened tonight and hung onto every words you said. Loved the pictures and the ellie… Heart stopping moments.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kavitha, that´s so awesome to hear:) Thanks so much for your fantastic feedback, so happy to hear you enjoyed the (audio) story and my adorable elephant-amigos. They are quite photogenic indeed:) Btw, loved the elephant picture you posted to your page recently. South African wildlife never ceases to amaze me. xxx

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  6. Ps, a great way for me to travel this night. Bless you for the words and imagery. 🌻🌺🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My dear dost!!you are on the adventurous trip.so much courageous activities are done by you .so much inspirational journey in Chiang Mai.yeah.there are found most elephants.here in India,mostly we can see the elephants with their controller.all THILAND’s area are most beautiful.in ancient era,this country was a part of India then this country was called by name Siam about of 300B.C.most beautiful tour of Bhuddhist and having some touch of Hinduism country.enjoy,my dear dost!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear mitra, dhanyavad for your as always wonderful and thoughtful comment! So interesting to hear about the elephants in India. Are they around all over India, or just in certain parts of the country? Always love when you share precious historical background information with us, fascinating that Siam/ Thailand now used to be a part of India! Amazing area of the world with beautiful cultures:) Big hugs dear yaar

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      • They are all over India but mostly in south India.बहुत स्वागत है आपका most welcome you( Bahut swaagat he aapka)😊my dear yaar.!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting, would be amazing to see 🙂 I already love India even though I´ve not been there yet. Just from the people, culture, Yoga, , spirituality, music, architecture, colors, food, clothing…Thanks for bringing your culture closer to us and me. Muchas gracias y que tengas un buen dia (and may you have a good day) dear dost xoxo

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      • Dhanyawaad,dear dost!!welcome to India.muchas gracias,dear dost!!xoxo

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Ahhh I felt transported. So beautifully told, it bought back memories of doing this journey myself, many years ago now. Love your pictures with the elephants!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello dear poetess, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a wonderful comment:) Just fantastic to hear that you felt transported and reconnected to some beautiful travel memories:) What did you enjoy the most about your Chiang Mai visit, if you don´t mind sharing?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh! Thank you for asking this, you really are helping me on walk down memory lane. The highlights for me in that region had to be the close encounters with the elephants, a night spent in a rural village, and the general tranquility and magic of that region. It’s a place that has such a spiritual feel, which you captures in your post. You also reminded me of that horrifically long train journey!!

        Have a wonderful weekend!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Of course, its my absolute pleasure, it´s so nice to reconnect with fun travel memories, isn´t it? Thank you for sharing your Chiang Mai highlights with us! You are spot on referring to the area as a region full of tranquility and magic with a deeply spiritual feel, I felt exactly the same about it. Chiang Mai is definitely a superb place to recharge and replenish. Thanks again, and wishing you a fabulous weekend over there in New Zealand 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for the trip. The photos speak volumes, you chose well. I adore your smiles with the elephant. I would’ve never been able to go 14 hours without peeing…impressive, you could be a nurse or a doctor with that bladder. To answer your questions – Have you ever had any out-of-the-ordinary animal encounters? No, not really, Alpacas and Goats are strange to me. What stood out to you about it? Their interest in Cheerios. Or would there be any animals you would be particularly interested in hanging out with? I think swimming with the dolphins might be fun, but I’m not a fan of swimming without my glasses on. I look forward to your (our) next trip…xxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shelley, thanks so much for taking the time to come along and to leave such a detailed and fun, quirky comment! So happy you enjoyed the post and pictures. Lol, and special thanks for honoring the strength of my bladder 😂😂 I should put that on my CV maybe 😂
      OMG, l adore your comment about the Cheerio-loving Alpacas! I sense a story here, what happened there? Did they steal your Cheerios or something? I totally get your interest in dolphins! They are incredible animals, and a pure joy to be around! Looking forward to traveling with you again, too 😉 Big hugs to Wisconsin xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome, I enjoy your adventures. LOL – If the bladder fits – go for it. Stay hydrated though!
        Yes, thanks for asking. Sam the Alpaca was his name and his friend George the goat loved to eat Cheerios out of the box. They live on a small hobby farm near us and my daughter and her significant other took care of the farm animals for the summer. It was fun for all of us to learn their quirks.
        See you here again soon – hugs to you too! xxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are so sweet. And right: Hydration trumps bladder challenges, lol! Thanks for sharing that awesome animal-story, George and Sam sound as if they could star in their very own cheeky show! The Cheeky Cheerio Chaps or something like that 😀 Sounds like you had a blast with them! See you soon and have a great start to your week, hugs xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ditto to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Loved hearing your voice ~ great story telling, and added so much to the post… You should seek to do some audiobook readings 🙂 Wonderful writing, per the norm, and what I enjoyed most were the photos to match up with your words. The 4-photo collage above are all incredible shots, with the perspective of the one at the perspective of the railroad tracks being so cool. I could easily spend a lot of time in such a lush setting, although I think meeting Leila might top it all off 🙂 Wish I had that nice dish of Phad Thai in front of me now, another piece of life Thai does so well. Cheers to a great weekend, Maria Elena. Take care ~

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dalo, what a wonderful comment! So great to start my week reading such beautiful lines from you. So happy to hear you enjoyed the audiostory!! And thanks for your audiobook-reading suggestion:) Think that would be lots of fun! Lush settings like the one in Northern Thailand are just so invigorating with all their abundant shades of green and beautiful vegetation, don´t you reckon? Apparently, being around green nature settings like those even alters our brains in favorable ways! Amigo, wishing you a great week with a fabulous Phad Thai dish (or a great Czech noodle dish?!), sunshine, and some green nature around you (or some pot plants, whatever helps :)) Be well, hugs to ya

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      • Yes, the freshness and lush settings of SE Asia truly sets the mind/body at ease ~ and I sure could use some Phad Thai right now – instead it’ll be whatever I can find in the fridge and cupboard 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Here´s to hoping that it will be a great improvised meal of deliciousness. Actually, I am gonna order myself a Phad Thai now! 😛 We have talked too much about it lol!

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      • Well, I do have a small carton of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the freezer, so things are looking up 🙂 But seriously, I need some Phad Thai… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL better not mix those two – Phad Thai with Ben & Jerry´s on top sounds like a rather adventureous melange of Asian and American culture! Even though, might be a new culinary adventure 😅

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      • Ha, I’d give it a go. Back in August, I was in Portland, Oregon ~ and there is a great ice cream place that make all these bizarre, but delicious flavors… I had an ‘olive oil’ ice cream, which was amazing, but now I wonder if they could do a spicy ice cream 🤔I’m now curious 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good on you lol. Oh, I have heard great things about Portland! And olive oil ice cream sounds very intriguing! Maybe you should create your very own spicy Czech ice-cream! 🙂

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      • You just got some Phad Thai delivered to your inbox lol.

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      • Now you have me thinking about Phad Thai ice cream ~ I could work 🙂 If not, then there is either great Czech beer or Portland microbrews to wash it down with. 🍻

        Liked by 1 person

      • You know, that could be a totally new brand! National dishes made into ice-cream 😂 Phad-Thai ice cream, Burger icecream (is a Burger the American national dish?! lol), Paella ice-cream… My mouth is watering…NOT 😂😂

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      • 🙂 Yeah, good ole chocolate sounds pretty good right now. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • 🍨 I concur 🙂 Even though that ice-cream Emojii looks rather like a soup. Ah well 😂

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  11. Pingback: Chiang Mai part two: The elephants are smarter than you | A gypsy at heart

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