I am one of those individuals who will be the only one to get bitten, stung, and eaten by whatever bug is in the room. This was especially worrisome for me, when embarking on my trip to Thailand, as it has been an issue my whole life. Luckily, Avi is a package deal. Not only is he CPR certified, but he also has the worlds most efficient first aid kit – especially relevant if you are insect averse.
Avi has had similar issues with bugs his entire life and so we are in a little bit of a battle to see who will get bitten more. So far, I am winning (or losing depending on how you look at it). I am up to ten mosquito bites which really is not that bad if you consult my track record. Every night we have been applying insect repellent like its our job. Last night, the mosquito was able to find the one area of my body that was unsprayed – the right corner of the palm of my hand. I had a bit of an allergic reaction to the bite (Avi says its because I have lots of veins there) and immediately took benadryl to alleviate the swelling. All is well now and I am really just trying to figure out how to lose the battle of who gets bitten more.
We woke up early this morning to head to Doi Ithanon National Park. We booked a tour that lead us on a short hike to a waterfall, took us bamboo rafting in Red Karen village, and then let us play with some elephants. They come to your hotel and pick you up around 8:00am and the drive to the park is about an hour from the city. They provide lunch, transportation, and the tours. This cost us each around $60. Typically, I am skeptical of these kinds of tours because I mostly feel they are insincere. This one very well may have been – but it really did not feel that way to me. Throughout the day I did not see one other foreign tour group aside from our own and most of the people surrounding us were Thai families on vacation for Songkran. These gestures made it seem like the day was more genuine.
The car picked us up in the morning and we stopped to get two other families who were joining us on our tour. There was one family of four, two young girls and their parents, and one family of three, a mother and her son and daughter both in their twenties. The families were both from Paris and therefore spoke French the entire day. They knew English pretty well but I did learn a good deal of French today. I can now say, “let’s go!” and “its raining cats and dogs” in French.
We began by hiking to the waterfall. The walk there was pretty short and not very strenuous. On our walk there our guide, Jacky, stopped to show us a leaf that shrinks when touched and expands back out after a few moments. I had a lot of fun touching almost every leaf of that variety. When we arrived to the waterfall it was about 10:00am and the weather was perfect. There was one Thai family having a small picnic nearby but other than that, the area was empty. We jumped in and began to swim around. Jacky said we could jump off of some of the higher rocks surrounding the fall. I was very eager to do this but as soon as I climbed up to the rock and looked down, I started shaking. I am not necessarily afraid of heights but something about jumping 20 feet off a cliff into a body of water freaked me out (go figure). After some coercing from my French friends down below, I jumped. Avi and Noam went to the even higher rock and jumped from there while I stayed on lower ground taking pictures. We have some great ones of us jumping and swimming on Noam’s camera so there is a slight possibility those will resurface in July when he returns home.
We continued on from there to the river boating portion of the day. We left all our belongings in the car and went down to these bamboos rafts on the river. They told us we would get really wet and so that we should not bring anything with us. We went down to the raft and sat spread out for balance. Noam sat in the front, then me, and then Avi. We have a running joke that Avi is not allowed to be in the middle, mainly for pictures, but it applies in other situations as well. Noam’s height makes sense for the middle and because I am a girl I also make sense in the middle but when Avi stands in the middle it just throws us all off.
The river boating took about one hour. There was a very nice gentleman with a long bamboo stick (used as an oar) who pushed us along the river. The views were gorgeous and the ride was very peaceful. At certain points along the ride we would see porches filled with people who were eating or swimming along the river. The homes were much higher up and these were simply wooden surfaces with awnings where families could sit and enjoy. It is still Songkran so many people are on vacation for the week. I did not know this earlier but being splashed with water is a gesture made when you want to wish someone good luck. That is why everyone gets sprayed with water guns in the cities during Songkran. On the river this translated to a lot of splashing. Whenever we would approach a large section of people, Avi would say we were entering a war zone. Little kids would float up to our raft to splash us and we would return the gesture. Splashing with children was easy but if a grandparent ever reached you it was game over. I had buckets of water poured on my head and I was splashed with quite a force by some people. This area seemed to be a local vacation spot for many people which made the bamboo rafting all the more fun.
After the rafting we headed to eat lunch at the elephant camp. The food was delicious of course. We had rice with chicken curry, pineapples, and potatoes along with an assortment of veggies and tofu. After we ate we changed into clothes provided by the tour and it was off to “train” some elephants. They taught us various commands in Thai and then had each of us try them as we played with the elephant. We initially fed the elephant bananas by sticking a bundle of them in the elephants mouth. Then we climbed up onto the elephant and rode around the camp. Once everyone had a turn and pictures were taken we moved on to take the elephants to bathe. We rode two people to an elephant down to the river where we were given buckets and brushes. On our ride down Jacky started messing with me by nearly pulling me off the elephant. He was messing around the entire time and laughing to himself but given my grace and balance I of course nearly slipped off. I suggested he tickle Avi, who is extremely ticklish, and Avi nearly jumped off his elephant. Jacky pulled out a leaf from the side of the road and cracked the stem. He then proceeded to blow bubbles from the leaf. Nature is an amazing thing I think. We got to the river and cleaned dirt and leaves off of the elephants and then road them back to the camp.
By this point we were exhausted and sun burnt and happy and wet. We changed into our regular clothes and went back to the car to ride back into Chiang Mai. The ride back was peaceful as we watched the sun descend and looked out over the fields on the country side. The shade of green here seems brighter to me. Along the countryside you can see huge fields of grass sprinkled with palm trees and then something random like a gas station. There are couples riding vespas along the road and people sitting outside of little corner stands selling ice cream and cold drinks.