Thailand – December 3, part 2

About the place I’m staying, in Chiang Mai – Tonnam Homestay: Yul, the Thai owner and manager, picked me up yesterday at the airport. When I arrived, I met his French wife, Cecile. We talked about babies, children and families, and the losses we’ve experienced. We talked about her surprise pregnancy, and as I offered my congratulations, I also offered to practice prenatal yoga with her. The baby is due in June. She is hoping for a boy, and wanting to practice yoga if her nausea subsides before I leave here Saturday. My room here is huge and quiet. I’ve already fallen asleep in the hammock out on the deck. I have yet to lock the door to my room.

Pom runs the kitchen (covered space, no walls) with great skill, a lovely smile and a quick laugh. I think everyone who stays here falls a little bit in love with her. The place was full (8 rooms) last night, but down to 3 rooms full tonight. Two fabulous and funny French women from Bordeaux are tearfully leaving tomorrow. I arrived with a German father and son, and they are leaving the day after. We all cooked dinner together tonight with Pom. Get this menu:

– Fried egg rolls, sliced and served wrapped in lettuce leaves with fresh herbs and sauce
– fresh water fish stuffed with herbs and grilled. Also served wrapped in lettuce leaves with fresh herbs and sauce
– soup with mushrooms and shrimp
– cashew chicken
– Garlic spinach
– banana chunks cooked in coconut milk

Talked to Yul for a while tonight after dinner. He is justifiably proud of his “spot on the river”. Quite accomplished, he has taught English and French, taught riding (horses), and was a tour guide here in Thailand. He is taking me to a Hmong village tomorrow. He collects cars, among other hobbies, so tomorrow we’re taking the open jeep.

Practicing yoga daily on a teak deck overlooking the river, joined today by a beautiful Thai woman who was recently studying in Stanford. She is here with her Italian boyfriend who is studying Thai yoga massage.

Thailand – December 3, part 1

First day in Chiang Mai, got a 2hr oil massage where I’m staying, then went to the Sunday night market. Most wonderful food stalls. Had a great dinner of sushi, veg kabobs and a banana waffle. Could not eat any more, tempting as it was. Watched school children do dance routines, very basic, somewhere between TV jazz and ballet. Began to rain so I bought some gifts then grabbed a tuk tuk back to Tonnam Guest House. Slept well.

So today was elephant day. I got picked up around 9a and with 6 others we were driven about 45 minutes out of town to the edge of the jungle. They gave us each a set of clothes, sort of Iike prison garb – denim cut offs and denim shirt. First we fed the elephants -bushels and bushels of bananas. Then we learned the basic commands: go, stop, right and left, get down on your knees so I can get off! We practiced on two elephants, a mom and her 6 year old daughter.

Before lunch, we learned about the rescue center and how they arrange to buy, then transport the elephants. It is now a crime to take elephants out of the wild.

After lunch, we climbed up on our elephants, barefoot and bareback, and rode through the jungle for about an hour and a half. Uphill is easier…

We ended up back at the camp, where we got off the elephants and our guides took them into the river. We grabbed buckets and brushes and followed them in. About waist deep, we splashed buckets of water over the elephants who were now lying in the river. Ok, so there is elephant turd floating around, but you just ignore that, they are vegetarians and it’s more grassy than smelly. The elephants love their time in the water, and will spray you as you splash them. After brushing them down, we said our goodbyes, showered (probably the best feeling shower I’ve ever taken), then returned back to our respective lodgings. The trainers took tons of pics, and our guide is posting them on their site tomorrow. I’ll be able to download and share them. I would do this again. It is right up there with kayaking among whales as one of life’s highlights. There is a village near here in northern Thailand where you stay with a family for a minimum of two weeks, cook with the family, and care for elephants as they are reintroduced to the jungle. Anyone?