Date: Dec 15th, 2009
After I checked in, I really didn’t have much time to sleep as it was already past 6am and my tour van would pick me up by 8am. So I went downstairs for breakfast with my laptop in tow.
The breakfast isn’t included in the room fare but my pancakes with ant-tipped honey and coffee cost me 100 baht (Rs. 130, including tip). The van picked me up at 8am and went around collecting all the other tourists from nearby hotels.
I’m not usually the ‘package tour’ kinda guy because the ‘sights’ sometimes offered really don’t interest me and they often include places where you are expected to spend money (souvenir shops, handicraft shops, casinos etc.). But whatever, our first stop was the Maesa Elephant Camp, 20kms from Chiang Mai city.
You can read about the place on their website but we were there for a slew of activities, first of which was the elephant show. Basically, the elephants perform a variety show for us. From greeting us, kicking around footballs, lugging around wood, to painting (which you can buy) and other things that are intended to entice a chuckle from the audience. Amusing, if you are a kid — or one whose easily amused.
I know, I know — they’re elephants and it’s not easy to train any animal to do things like that but you can get a drift how the show is by the several videos visitors have put up on YouTube.
When I started shooting, the autofocus just froze on the camera (“Oh crap” moment #3). This put me off-mood immediately. Mostly because I had my friend, Jyothy Karat‘s 70-200 f2.8 lens mounted on and I thought it was the lens’ fault. It was upsetting because me and Jyothy’s lenses are like a bad omen. I’ve always had bad luck with them. Anyway, I switched off the camera and after a while, it was fine. I did manage to take a few photos of the show but I accidentally deleted them upon return. The only photo I have is this:
So instead, you can check out photos from the camp other people took!
By 11am, it was over and we moved on to our next activity — an ox cart ride! Yup, an Indian flew to a different country to take an ox ride! Needless to say, the back-breaking ride was a complete waste of time for me. Even the woman from Montreal who sat next to me found it terribly annoying.
When we finally got off the ride, it was at some village where stalls were set up with items on sale by the villagers there. I walked with the lady from Montreal, Christine her name was, through the stall as we waited for our next activity.
Which was another ride but fortunately, this was on elephant. Me & Christine got into ours and felt this was way better. Weirdly, as we talked more, me and Christine shared common interests. She, like me, was travelling alone, has her own blog (it’s in French) and is recording a lot of footage from her travels to put up online one day.
The fairly long elephant ride was actually enjoyable. Especially when it went into the river. I’ll post the HD video of it later.
By 12:30pm we were back to where we started the ox ride. I insisted on tipping the mahout since Christine paid for the bamboo shoots the elephant was fed (you’ll see it in the upcoming video).
We then had lunch at the camp restaurant. It was a buffet lunch consisting of food that tasted more like the Indo-Chinese food you get here. Mediocre except for the fried chicken.
After the mediocre lunch, next up on the itinerary was bamboo rafting on the river surrounding the camp.
It started off well… until we got stuck near some shallow rocks.
The ride was smooth and quite relaxing…
… but after half-an-hour or so, it got quite boring and with the hot sun, me & Christine were kinda itching for it to get over so we could get back to our air-conditioned van.
(I have HD videos of the rafting and I will put them up later… once I figure out how to edit video properly)
We eventually did get back to our van. Next stop, a village inhabited by the people of the Kayan tribe (Wikipedia link). The ‘long-neck’ tribe gained mainstream attention after National Geographic did a documentary on them (or at least, that’s how I got to know of their existence). Originally from Myanmar, fearing the military conflicts in Burma, a lot of Kayans fled to neighbouring Thailand where many of them sought refuge — as tourist attractions.
Again, just like the Tiger Temple at Kanchanburi, the settlement of the Kayan tribe in North Thailand by the Thai government has also drawn controversy. Accusations have been made against these ‘human zoos’ because the ‘village’ actually looked like a bunch of huts/stalls manned by a young girl selling all sorts of souvenirs. Some items made by them, others surely mass-produced. There was even an entrance fee (which I didn’t have to pay).
Freedom aside, I just hope the income the ‘long-neck’ people earn from tourists really do end up in their pockets and not in the hands of the Thai tourism department.
After I took a few videos (which by now, you know you won’t see for a while) we left the ‘village’. I thought the tour was over as I really wanted to get back to Chiang Mai city — but there was one more stop.
At some orchid farm. Not really interested in knowing much about the place while the talk was being given by our guide, I simple walked around and played with the 50mm lens.
After this, we were finally done. The tour van dropped us back at our respective hotels and Christine and I exchanged business cards so we’d keep in touch with each others escapades.
Other posts in this series: