Elephant Trekkin’: Kanchanaburi Style

Date: 1/18   –   1/24

Location: Bangkok    –   Kanchanaburi

The last Bangkok entry concerns parades, package tours, and pachyderms. Not necessarily in that order.

Andrea signed us up on a tour-guide-tour because we’re tourists and it was nice and air-conditioned and we didn’t have to worry about anything because it was all planned out for us. It was a welcome break from scrambling first across the internet doing research about where to go and then running to and fro across the humid tangle that is Bangkok’s streets trying to find said places.

Instead, we were picked up at our hostel by a van with the A/C turned up to full blast and as we picked up our fellow tour-mates, I promptly fell back asleep because it was like 6 in the morning.

Anyway, the tour was to Kanchanaburi, the province west of Bangkok where you can see various things like a WWII cemetery. The Bridge Over the River Kwai [which I knew nothing of except that it was in the title of a movie I haven’t watched.] The River Kwai itself. Lunch on a floating barge. A bamboo raft ride down the river. Followed by a jaunt on an elephant.

The WWII memorials served to remind me that the war actually did reach Thailand and the crude but still informative museum taught me that “the phenomenon of war” does indeed “bring adverse effects to society.” No but for real, I didn’t really know too much about the war years in Thailand, but now I do. Every country I’ve visited seemed to have a museum telling everybody about how horrible Japanese occupation was [because it really was horrible ;_;]. And what was more interesting was that at each of these places, a lot of Japanese nationals were visiting on tours. I spend a good amount of time trying to think of a place where people could visit [effectively ruling out the Middle East] where Americans committed war atrocities on a large scale. The civil war kept popping up in my mind but that was national in-fighting. I was thinking more of an overseas site and I can’t believe it took so long, but Hiroshima. It’s like Americans visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It’s not like we did the crimes ourselves, but as a country, I feel like we should be sorry. Perhaps this is how the Japanese feel when they visit the Korean War Memorial or the Hong Kong Museum of History or the War Museum in Kanchanaburi. It’s a complicated topic, really, and one I won’t pretend to understand. For now, it’s good to know that these things happened. Sad times for sure, but that’s war for ya.

On a lighter note, HERE’S A BABY LEOPARD BEING NURSED. D’AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. I could have paid ~$4 to hold it too and take a picture but we were being herded into the van. ;_; I’m so sad. SO SAD.

~ ~

Anyway, the way to the elephant kraal was super ghetto aka it was a voyage through the jungle complete with the promised bamboo raft and also a rickety rope bridge that crossed the river and was super scary and we actually didn’t cross it but it was fun to take pictures anywyay.

We eventually reached the elephant enclosure though. It was over-run with Russians, if you could believe it and elephants [of course] being ridden by rough’n’tumble boys from the Thai countryside. We all got on and set off for the hills.

Now, if I were describing riding an elephant to my parents, it would probably be “a fantastic experience and one that not many people get to do.” And don’t get me wrong, all that is true. But allow me to be frank in saying that the back of an elephant’s head is wrinkly and covered in coarse hair. Hence, if I were describing riding an elephant to my friends [which you all are, right?], it would probably be “like riding a gigantic mobile scrotum.” x_x Forgive the imagery, but that is also the unfortunate truth. Once you get past that fact though, being at the helm of an elephant is pretty friggin’ awesome.

At one point, the Thai elephant-ranger made motions to me and sounds came out of his mouth and then I shrugged at him. At which point, he jumped off of the elephant with my camera. I was a little bewildered at first and then I realized he had said: “I am going to let you drive this elephant while I take pictures of you. Just give me $2 at the end of the trip, kay? Kay.” It was a pretty sweet deal. The first thought [and this is silly] that came to mind was “oh my god, I don’t have an elephant license.” But despite my illegal driving of said elephant, it was pretty simple. They were trained and it probably didn’t even matter what I did up top, they could follow the path no problem. Except for the one time when my noble steed got distracted by a fruit tree. And then I had to wait while it ate for a second and then I whacked it with the driver’s stick and it went back on its way.

And to get rid of all the imagery of mud and jungle steaminess out of the way, here’s some falling water with a rainbow. We went to a local waterfall afterwards and it was refreshing and photogenic. Good job, tour people.

~ ~

While the girls went off to go see the floating markets, I went to go look at the Jim Thompson House aka a manor made of around six interconnected antique Thai houses that are joined together in the traditional nail-less way. It is also a repository for a whole bunch of south east Asian art and is supposed to be really quiet and tranquil in the midst of Bangkok’s mall district [which I also took advantage of. ALWAYS WITH THE MALLS.]

On the 23rd, Bangkok’s sizable Chinese community was having their Chinese New Year celebration. In all honesty, I wish I were in Hong Kong for this one, but I guess it wasn’t in the cards aka I forgot to take this into account when I made plans. Oops. Anyway, the China-Town of Yaowarat was all decked out and there were reporters and everything. Food stalls overtook the streets and there were dragon decorations everywhere, this year being the year of the dragon and all.

I was walking around the street and got really thirsty, which isn’t a surprise because it’s so hot in Bangkok that I’m always thirsty. Anyway, people were giving out free bottles of liquid and I lined up in order to grab one from them. My first thought was: “Ew, this is warm.” And then I looked down and it turned out that the yellow bottle I was holding contained soy sauce. Ugh. Not what I wanted. But now I have a free bottle of Thai soy sauce. I will use it upon return to Japan. To further the mild disappointment, according to the Buddhist calendar [at least I think it’s the Buddhist calendar] it isn’t even the year 2012. It’s the year 2555. Who knew?

They gave out free Thai flags and people lined up on the side of the street waiting for the Queen [or the Princess. I couldn’t tell] to come wave at the people in her bulletproof car. After all the waiting, I aimed my camera and shot. And then I realized that I forgot to take it off of long-shutter speed mode. By the time it clicked and finished recording, she was gone. Sad life.

~ ~

Random note: Stoplights here have countdowns. I don’t know which is more painfully frustrating: not knowing how long you have to wait at a red light or knowing exactly how long you have to wait. -_-;;

~ ~

On our last night there, I had on my to do list: “Get drunk and eat a grasshopper.” Literally. That’s what it said. There was a peddler outside selling all sorts of fried insects [including cockroaches. Er yeahno.] but I guess I missed him or Monday is his day off or something. I was so psyched too. Ahoo. I ended up getting drunk anyway and talked to Bobert for the rest of the night. I don’t know if I’ve described Chang’s to you before but it’s the type of Thai beer that’s cheaper than Singha and tastes like it too. Officially on the labels, Chang’s is 6.4% alcohol but word on the street is that there really is no regulation. Hence, any given Chang’s can be between 1% and 15% alcohol. It’s the luck of the draw and that’s pretty fun, if you believe the rumors. I’d like to say that my three 40s that night ran on the strong side and I ended my time in Bangkok with a true and proper “Chang-over.” Good job, Thailand.

3 Responses to “Elephant Trekkin’: Kanchanaburi Style”
  1. The baby leopard. I die.

  2. Anonymous says:

    it’s grace, too lazy to sign in but

    “oh my god, I don’t have an elephant license”

    lol what is your life ka

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