One more visit before our tour ends.
We go to an elephant camp in a Thai national park.
Our guide tells us that at this camp the elephants are treated very well. They perform for visitors from about 10AM until 2PM. Then we are told, they are free to go their own way in the park. Elephants only sleep about 4 hours a day. So the elephants usually are awake doing elephant things until about 2AM when they bed down for a few hours.
The power and intelligence of elephants combined with their long day has in the past made them subject to abuse working in forests in logging operations. Now this is illegal in Thailand but it reportedly still takes place in a few pirate logging operations.
But we are visiting a national park where the elephants are very kindly treated. At least it does seem that the mahouts (elephant trainers) are gentle with their proteges.
Here is a mahout and his baby:
Soon after we arrive at the camp it is time for the elephants to take a bath.
The elephants put on a show in a large coral. Their mahouts have them build log walls, dance, beg for applause, etc. But for me the most impressive part of the show was the painting. The elephants with no obvious prompting from the mahouts drew good images of flowering plants, trees and of an elephant:
Note: I was already beginning to feel ill and was not very observant. Sueann later told me that she thought she saw the mahouts giving queues to the elephants as to what strokes/color to apply to the paper. She is probably right.
Here are some of the finished pieces:
After the show Sueann and I get friendly with these big guys.
Well, should we take a ride on an elephant or should we not? I ask our guide and she responds that this camp is kind to the animals and that once in your life a ride on an elephant is a good thing.
So for 800 baht ($22.40) each we mount a platform and ride on an elephant for an hour on a lovely mountain trail. This is not a smooth ride.
Our elephant is hungry and stops every few minutes to probe the hillside vegetation with his trunk. Finding what he likes (Sueann believes it is bamboo vine) he pulls a large section of green vine away from the hillside and chomps on it as we move on.
We return to our hotel where it quickly becomes apparent that I am getting sick. The next morning we summon a doctor who says I have bronchitis, gives me a shot of penicillin and says she will return the next day. The next day I am obviously worse. The doctor listens to my chest and tells me I now have pneumonia in my left lung. She says I should go into the hospital. I am not fond of this idea so I decline. She gives me a massive shot of penicillin and says she will return the next. And so it goes.
We spend the 6 extra days we have extended to tour around Chiang Mai in the hotel room. Sueann has a little cold but manages to go for a walk around Chiang Mai once or twice a day.
By the time we are scheduled to fly back to Bangkok so we can catch our flight back to San Francisco I am quite a bit better. The trip back isn't too bad at all.
When we arrive home a nurse-practitioner at Kaiser sees me and says I should be better in about a week. I pass much of the time during the next four days very pleasurably writing this dairy of our trip.
February 5, 2007
The Very End
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