Of elephants and monkeys & a Thai picnic

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

 › entry 9 of 15 › view all entries
Today we hired our favorite driver, Kosin, for the day, for 1000baht. That's about $38.00AUD for the uninitiated. He is bringing his family with him - wife, Olay, youngest daughter (and aunt), Dew, and granddaughter, Ohmee.

We arose early, readied ourselves and breakfasted at the local cafe at the end of our Soi, on banana pancakes and coffee. We'd only just arrived back, to be picked up at our guesthouse, when Kosin and family arrived.

Off we went, firstly to see the elephants at the Maesa Elephant Conservation Park. It's about a half hour drive North of Chaing Mai. We arrived just in time for a half hour ride on the elephants, which would bring us back just in time to see The Show. The Show consisted of exhibiting the elephant's, and the mahout's, skills in a variety of ways. First, showing us how many different ways an elephant can be mounted and dismounted by the mahouts, the commands the're taught to respond to, from a very early age, to enable them to be able to perform their duties in an every-day manner.

Second, we saw some tricks and fun, and weren't sure whether it was the elephant's personality that showed through or the skill of the mahout. One young elephant in particular seemed to be the clown of the class, a real wag, swinging his truck around in circles after he'd done something or, while walking with the other elephants, tapping the one in front on the bottom., and shaking it's head like a recalcitrant teenager saying 'who cares' or 'catch me if you can'.

We watched elephants paint paintings......and wondered at the skill of the mahout who seemed to be able to give the elephant the subtlest of commands and directions.

As we left, we browsed the local crafts on sale, and purchased a few little trinkets and gifts.

From there we headed off to see the monkeys at the Monkey Orphanage, but before doing so, stopped for a picnic lunch with Kosin and his family in a bamboo shelter at the side of the road, not far from the Orphanage. His wife Olay had prepared some sticky rice with chillie and tomato dipping sauces, along with some cold cooked chicken wings and pork pieces. Iced water was the drink of the day, as it was quite hot and humid. While we ate our lunch sitting cross legged in the bamboo shelter, Kosin's little granddaughter, Ohmee, slept i nthe back of the taxi.

Lunch over, we visited the monkees, with Kiara being able to feed some of them from a basket of fruit pieces given to her. She ran out of fruit with one monkey to go, and was impolitely given the 'bum' by the monkey when he realised he wasn't getting any.

We watched the show they put on, showing how well trained the monkeys can be. They also train the monkeys to pick coconuts and then hire the monkeys to the local coconut farmers, as they are able to pick over 100 coconuts per day.

As we drove toward our next destination I notice what looked like a very large equestrian complex. Kosin's daughter Dew, tells me that it's the equestrian training complex for the soldiers - the Army. It's a very large and elaborate looking place with a large number of horses grazing in the paddocks, and soldiers exercising other horses on the training ground.

The umbrella factory is our next stop. We wander through the factory observing the complex and intricate making of the bamboo frames, the making of the sa-paper (mulberry paper - from the leaves), to the painiting of the finished product. We are invited to have something painted in one of their designs - handbags, clothes and even mobile phones can be painted and are done within 10 minutes, and should be dry within 20 minutes. Leanne has her mobile phone painted with flowers and butterflies, and is delighted. I have my travel handbag painted also with butterflies, making it very distinctive now. One of the women wants to paint a design on the leg of my pants, and has it done in no time. Kiara also has a butterfly design painted on her pants and a bird on her arm. She tells me I must never give those pants away!! We then discover that what we thought was only going to cost us 50baht, is in fact 50baht per design!! That's only about $1.50 per design, and worth it for the experience, pleasure and amazement it has given us. How they can paint such intricate, pretty and complex designs in such a short time just blows me away. I've promised Kiara a handmade and painted umbrella, so we go into the gift shop and buy her one of her choosing. Considering the amount of work and people involved in the making of one umbrella, the price is more than reasonable at 400baht

Onto the Thai Silk factory where we are shown the making of silk - from the removing of the silk from the cocoons - by hand over a traditional water heater heating the water the cocoons are placed in to loosen the fibres, the weaving & looming, also by hand, to the wonderful, lustrous, finished products beautifully displayed in the showroom.

Leanne buys a sild elephant as a gift for her grandson, and Kiara and I buy some silk stuffed animals for her and a silk scarf/shawl for me.

Next stop is the Thai Baan Celadon ceramic factory. Once again we are shown through the factory and the making and decorating of this beautiful world renowned product. We fall in love with so many items - in particular a large lamp with an elephant as the base, beautifully painted and decorated by hand. The price is 30,000baht or about $Au1200 !! Worth every cent, but I don't have enough cents, and probably too much sense. I did buy a very small version of the elephant, though, for about $30. Leanne bought herself a lovely coffee cup - for work.

From there we headed home, too afraid to go anywhere else lest we find even more beautiful things to tempt our hands out of our pockets.

Having not slept at all during the day, Kiara crashed when we got home and didn't surface, even for dinner. Leanne and I checked our emails and almost fell asleep on the keyboards, so showered and rested before deciding that we would need take-away for dinner as Kiara was obviousy not going to wake. I wandered down to the street and bought us some lovely curries from the Black Canyon coffee shop/restaurant just before closing. Despite it being a chain restaurant, the food is surprisingly traditional. I just love this food!!!

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Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes