Saturday, February 18, 2017

Experiencing Elephants Ethically

One of the reasons I chose to come to Thailand was because of the exotic flora and fauna... including Asian elephants! There are many different elephant parks throughout Thailand, but the one I visited is exceptional. Not only was I able to touch, bathe, and feed the elephants, but I also learned of the stories of how these elephants were rescued from abuse and how the facility takes rehabilitates them. Elephant Nature Park also runs a medical care program that extends to surrounding elephant parks (since care can be expensive) and runs educational programs of how to best train and treat elephants. It is important to know that not all animal facilities ARE NOT the same in quality of treatment of the elephants, and while the price may be a little steeper compared to other facilities, you are paying for the quality of life these elephants have. It is also important to know that because of how elephants' spines are constructed, it is harmful to the animal to ride them, especially in baskets.

As travelers, I believe it is our duty to support tourist attractions that support local communities and environments. If you ever find yourself in Thailand, and want to experience elephants up close, please consider Elephant Nature Park, a leader in ethical treatment and education. Plus, look at all the beauties you can meet! (Did I also mention that it includes an outstanding vegetarian buffet??) 

Get up close and personal!

Still in awe...

Yes, they have baby elephants too! Real life Jungle Book moment

To learn more about Elephant Nature Park, please visit their website:

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Weekend Shenanigans

For me, Thailand has so far been about embracing and experiencing the opposites that this place exists in - the tranquility and the chaos. There is beauty in both, with me having more comfortability in the first. 

This past weekend is a perfect example. I saw the most breathe taking sites when bamboo rafting and hiking parts of Doi Inthonan. While floating along the river I gazed upon the tall luscious grasses that bordered the river bank, the crooks of the overarching trees, the thick spiraling vines that clung to trees and formed bridges across the gliding water to the other side. My heart was so full of awe and all I could do was state the obvious, "This is beautiful," and laugh. Then as we steered close to some of the grasses, grazing the shore before pushing off the bottom of the river away from the edge (we used long bamboo poles in this manner to steer and move forward). At this moment I felt something on my head. The mysterious object then crawled onto my shirt coming into full view - the biggest spider I have ever seen in person. The spider itself was slightly smaller than the palm of my hand and consisted of a dark brown or black color with an orange marking down its back and had chunky hairy legs. Easy to say, I lost my cool not knowing how to remove the spider without touching it. Luckily, I had two amazing fellow rafters. Abby, the closest one in front of me guided me through where the spider was located on my body (it had moved from my head to my stomach to my butt) and then used my pole to poke it off and then kill it while comically yelling, "Die spider, die!" as I jumped into the river (which I should have done in the first place). Alison, who was steering the from of the raft, stayed calm and had stopped the raft so that I was able to jump into the water. (If either one of you are reading this THANK YOU once again!) I was later informed after describing the spider to a local Thai that the spider was not poisonous, meaning I hadn't been in danger. None the less, it is a moment that will stick with me and if I ever have grandkids, they will definitely be hearing about it!

Doi Inthanon was also filled with incredible beauty and a little bit of fear (a lot less intense than the last story I just shared). The fear was from heights as I descended bamboo ladders and bridges to fully take in the crashing waters of one of the four waterfalls we saw on our hike. Fear also crept up when I eased myself into the waterfall pool and swam around. Even as I type these words I cannot quite believe that I am describing my life - a person that has taken so very few risks. And I think that this is one of the reasons I chose Thailand for studying abroad. I was tired of not taking risks and in many ways putting myself out there. As someone who can be quiet and shy I want to experience life beyond those two fronts. And you know what? It has been the most exhilarating experience. To do things you would never conceive yourself doing. To have wild stories about swimming in waterfall pools and spiders and more. The moments where my heart skips a beat can be frightening yes, but those moments, especially balanced by the peace I feel when I fully take in a waterfall or the view from a peak with fields and villages below are the moments I most cherish. Thailand is both tranquil and chaotic and for me, that's where I feel most alive. 

Swimming in the waterfall pool with Elyse
The amazing view!

More waterfalls