Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bad News

Okay, slipped on a curb a couple days ago. I was on my way to get dinner at my favorite noodle place just two blocks away from the house when it happened. They have these curbs that are like a foot high and have sloped edges, so somehow I slipped and landed on my left ankle. It hurt, and was kind of scraped up, but I figured that it was nothing too serious since I could still limp back to the house. I washed it off and went to bed.

The next morning, however, I had shooting pains up my leg as soon as I tried standing. Told my roommate, who helped find someone to take me to the hospital. Waited at the hospital for a couple hours before I could even get x-rayed, then a couple more to see a doctor. The doctor said there is a "stable fracture" and the swelling and inflammation was likely from muscle tearing. And because the bone wasn't actually broken, there is not much they can do but wrap up the foot and prescribe painkillers.

Will be coming home about a week early because of this. I fly out tomorrow night. As sad as I am to be leaving Thailand, I am grateful that I still had plenty of amazing experiences during my time here. It could've happened the first day here, but luckily it didn't. I am staying positive, and looking forward to being back home with my kitties. They will be good company while I can't get around much in the next few weeks.

Took this picture right before we went to the hospital. The swelling has gone down some since then.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tiger Kingdom

My roommate May and I ventured out to a place called Tiger Kingdom, about thirty minutes away in Mae Rim. You decide which tigers you want to get close to (smallest, small, medium, and large) and then buy tickets. May and I decided to go with everything but large. It was a better deal to do more than one or two, anyway. But we still weren't brave enough to go with large. So off we went. We started with the smallest, which were around three months of age.

They were so cute! They were all very playful, like kittens. It was actually a bit of a challenge to get one to stay in still for one second to take a photo. They made these little "rawr" noises, too, like they were trying to be big and scary tigers. It ended up sounding like a meow.

Next we went to the small tiger habitat. They were just a few months older than the first group, averaging about six months old. They were a little more mellow, so maybe a few months really does matter when it comes to maturity. Much easier to get pictures with.

Then finally, the medium tigers. We had to ask if we were at the right habitat, thinking the sign was wrong. These tigers were huge! Especially compared to the itty bitty things we had just left. But no, these were really the "medium" tigers. We were a tad nervous approaching these ones, but they ended up being the most snuggly things ever. They were just like house cats, sprawled around the ground. Some sitting composed under trees, others on their backs soaking up the sun.

It was a great experience. We spent about thirty minutes in each habitat. Then afterwards, we ate lunch at a restaurant which overlooked the large tiger habitat. And they were absolutely massive! It actually did make the medium tigers seem appropriately classified.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Today we visited the world's first elephant hospital. It is run privately by a Thai woman we interviewed. She was really amazing to listen to. She has dedicated her life to saving elephants and stopping the ivory trade. It is a very long and expensive battle. The hospital currently has eight elephants staying there, including Pong. He is a 38-year old elephant who had his tusks harvested. He is also going blind, so we had to be very careful in approaching him. But by the end, he was really warmed up to us. He was wagging his tail and feeling the cameras with his trunk. His caretaker told us he hasn't been that excited in a long time.

The woman we interviewed told us she arranges new homes for the elephants once they are recovered enough to leave. Pong will be sent to a place like the one we visited last weekend to live in his natural environment safely with other rescued elephants. The woman we interviewed:

We also got to meet a 4-year-old baby who was rescued from an abusive owner. She came in with a broken leg, but was close to being transferred. Her name is Kai, and she was not shy at all...

Luckily this elephant hospital has been gaining a lot more recognition recently. The owner has an interview with a BBC crew next week and several magazine and newspaper stories being written about her efforts. She says any attention will help bring in donations and possibly allow her to expand the facilities. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013


We have had limited internet access the last couple days, but for a really exciting reason. We finally got to get up close with some elephants! We had already been to the elephant hospital, but couldn’t get close enough to touch them. A lot of them were recent rescues and were recovering from various ailments and conditions. We visited a camp this weekend, though, where the elephants were rehabilitated and able to socialize with people again. There were 27 elephants at this park, and only 3 were born there. The rest had been sent from elephant hospitals or rehabilitation centers for a good permanent home.

This particular park is about an hour drive from the city center, which makes it a popular getaway for a lot of tourists. The park survives on the money it brings in from tours and donations visitors make. Each elephant can eat a couple hundred pounds of food per day, so you can imagine how costly it is. We spent the first day at the park just learning how to interact with the elephants. One of the first things we learned how to do was feed them. They love bamboo, sugar cane, bananas (by the bunch), and anything they can strip off the trees. They were not shy about taking anything, either. Often I would be carrying an armload of bananas over to my elephant and another one would reach over and steal some. They had to chain up one leg of the elephants (only during feeding time) to prevent fights over food. Most of these elephants are no longer aggressive, but they will occasionally have flashbacks of needing to fight for food. (Think Wookie and Royal during treat time...)

My elephant for the weekend was Khan. I love his name, especially because of the recent Star Trek movie. But he was mostly called by his nickname, Smooch. I quickly found out what this meant…

He loves to give kisses! He will wrap his trunk around your neck and give you a very loud smooch. He was the only one at the park that did this. I can now say I’ve gotten a hicky from an elephant. Khan was one of the few elephants to be born at the park. He is still considered a baby, being only five years old. He was definitely one of the more playful ones, too. His mahout (caretaker) said this is because he is still in his naughty little boy phase. Kind of reminded me of Royal… Here he is taking a rest. He just flops over wherever he wants and wags his tail.

For example, on the second day we rode our elephants through the jungle for a couple hours to a river to bathe them. They were supposed to stop and let us off before going in the water. But Khan got so excited and started trumpeting when he saw that it was bath time that he ran into the water with me on top still. We spent about an hour in the water, playing and washing. All the elephants love to load up their trunks with water and spray huge fountains over everyone.

I did get to try sitting up on one of the big ones the second day. It was soo high up! A little bit scary at first, but actually felt more stable than little Khan. The big one I sat on is named Ohm. He was very polite, even handed me my shoes with his trunk. By the way, the unflattering outfits we are wearing are to protect our skin from rash from elephant's tough skin.

It has been a couple very tiring, but awesome, days.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Just got back from a massage. Roommate May and I decided to get one to relax us before bedtime. There is a nice little place like 50 feet from our front door, so we just walked there in pajamas. It was sooo relaxing! I got an hour long full body aromatherapy massage and a 30 minute foot and hand massage on top of it. You know what that cost? $8 all together. Absolutely amazing.
I tried giving the girl $12 with tip and she gave me back $2 saying the tip was too much. Tipping is weird here. You're not really expected to tip anyone, even at restaurants. But she did such an awesome job I felt I needed to. So at least she accepted some of it.

I have a feeling I will be getting one at least once a week. And I had the idea that I will get one the day I leave since my flight isn't until nighttime. Be all melty and relaxed for the long flights.

Goodnight, everyone!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Night Market

A couple girls and I took a walk down to the night bazaar for dinner and possibly a little shopping last night. It was a beautiful, cool evening. The perfect temperature for strolling around. We took the route that lines the river.

We all got something different to eat. I was in the mood for noodles, and there is definitely no shortage of those.

It is really fun just to walk around and watch the venders make food. Got some gyoza a little later. I know Gabby would eat all they have, especially because you can get a dozen for about a dollar.

Did a little shopping, then it started to drizzle so we decided to head back to the house. About half way home, someone spotted a street cart selling something called rotee. She said, "Oh, you have to try it!" It is a Thai pancake with different fruits and things folded inside. We ordered a banana and nutella one. It took about two minutes to make, and I was eager to taste it. It was absolutely heavenly! The outside was crispy and light, and the inside was gooey with the fillings. My new favorite dessert... And only $0.50!

Will need to watch them make it more closely next time, then maybe I can recreate it at home. I have a feeling I'm going to crave these.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hot Day

Another hot and humid day here in Chiang Mai. One of our Thai guides told us that Thailand has three seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest. And supposedly we are in the hot season. Can't imagine what the hottest is like. Last night, a group of five of us walked around downtown for dinner. Can't remember the name of the place, but the menu was pretty limited English. So I just took a risk and pointed to something on the list. This is what came out:

It was some sort of pork dish with lots of vegetables and in a sweet and spicy sauce. It was delicious! And what's more, little plates of what I guess were side dishes kept coming out. I thought surely they weren't all for me, but everyone got their own. By the end, I think something like 10 mini dishes were brought. My roommate May was checking them out:

And all together, including a large Thai beer, it cost around $4.00. Someone told me this is an expensive meal for Thailand. It never ceases to amaze me what things cost here.