Baan Chang Elephant Park: Tristan’s Account – 11/1/2013
We were picked up by a minivan at the Secret Garden Hotel.
Once we arrived there, we saw many elephants, 24 to be exact, with one more coming that night.
We got dressed in our uniforms: button-up shirts and shorts. Our guide, Sumit, led us to big baskets of sugar cane and bananas. He said to be careful with some elephants: a 40 year old female and an elephant with a machete cut on her trunk.
We fed them food and I felt inside one’s mouth – squishy! A small elephant gave us kisses with its trunk.
After that we sat down at a bench and Sumit ran through the commands for riding elephants. Non Long was for the elephant to sit down so you could hop on and off, Pai was to move the elephants forward, how was to stop the elephants and to turn you said Kwai and kicked the left ear to turn right, and the right ear to turn left.
Later we had lunch: soup, sweet and sour, breadcrumbed chicken and rice. We threw all the bones into a pond to feed the fish.
After lunch we rode on elephants through the jungle. I went with Dad, who sat on the back and I sat at the front, so it could steer. At the beginning I got an elephant hair, which Dad plucked out. We also noticed the words Baan Chang Elephant Park were carved into the skin. I wondered if it hurt. It seemed very unstable, up so high, especially when going downhill.
Then we scrubbed all the elephants in the bathing hole. The elephants sprayed us, then we got dry and went off to get out of our uniforms. Nana and Pop bought us some t-shirts and we left back to the hotel.
Chang Mai – 12/1/2013
On the 12th of January, 2013, we went on a van ride around Chang Mai. Our first stop was Chiang Rai, the white temple. It was entirely white and covered in tiny mirrors. It is a Buddhist temple and is 14 years old. Our guide, Kate, said there were statues of four animals, and every person was like one of them, like the Chinese zodiac, and it depended on when you were born. There was the serpent, which was water, the elephant, which was land, the swan, which was wind, and the lion, which was fire.
There was a shrine with a well inside. We tossed coins in for good luck. We also passed a golden toilet.
The temple had carvings of serpents and elephant tusks, which represents water and land. Inside an inner room were pictures of people who’d gone to hell; Michael Jackson, Transformers, Kung Fu Panda. Outside was a fire-breathing monster and hands reaching up to drag you down to hell.
Next we went to the Golden Triangle. It was called so because there they sold opium, which was so expensive it was paid in gold, and triangle because it bordered three countries: Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. There was a river there called the Mekong River and was longer than 2000 km, all the way to China. We went to a market in Laos by a boat ride.
Last stop was the long-necks villages, where women wore six kilogram bronze rings around their neck to lower their shoulders, which makes their neck longer. At first they did it because while the men worked in the gardens, the tigers tried to attack the women, so the women wore them because the shininess scared the tigers away, and over time it became tradition. We walked in the village, saw the longnecks and I bought a bronze ring. Then for the next five hours we drove back to the hotel, stopping only for dinner at a seven eleven.
Tiger Kingdom: Tristan’s Account – 14/1/2013
We were given a choice of big tiger, medium tiger, small tiger and smallest tiger to go in with for ten minutes.
We had lunch first. It was a buffet and I had a Thai dessert which tasted like rice pudding.
When we (Mum and I) were ready, we went into the small tigers cage. There were four tigers inside. Three tigers were asleep. As we approached, the awake tiger was lying on a log, gnawing on a stick. He didn’t mind us coming up to pose, in fact, he seemed more concerned with his stick than with us.
The next tiger was a female and we sat right next to her. We noticed then that all the tigers had white spots on the backs of their ears. The photographer had me lay down with the tiger and rest my head on her back. We then left.
Hellfire Pass – 21/1/2013
On the 21st of January, 2013, we went to Hellfire Pass. The small museum next to it told us all about the Konyu Cutting (Hellfire Pass). It showed us what they ate (a few vegetables, rice and dried fish), rations, and the sicknesses.
The Hellfire Pass took approximately 250,000 Asian labourers and 6,000 prisoners of war to build it. It took them from 1942 -1945 to build it, but about 92,400 people died. They died from cholera, beriberi, pelegra, malaria, dysentery, tropical ulcers and more. After the completion of the railway, the POWs that were still surviving were either kept in Thailand or sent back to Singapore. However, many who recovered still carried mental scars.
As we walked through Hellfire Pass, we saw small holes in the rock where dynamite would have been stuck to blast out the rock and a broken drill bit embedded in the rock.
After finishing at Hellfire Pass we went on a very loud old-fashioned train which drove along some of the Thai-Burma Railway and across a bridge with a good view of the river Kwai.
Phuket – 2/2/2013
Mum, Dad and I went on three dives with South Siam Divers Company. Our first dive was Koh Doc Mai or Flower Island. It was a wall dive and we saw lots of fish, I saw a bamboo shark with big eyes.
Our next dive was my first wreck dive, The King Cruiser. I sat on an underwater toilet. We saw scorpionfish, which were like underwater chameleons, ells and shrimps which chewed my gloves, trying to chew my fingernails.
Our last dive was Shark Point, which should have been called No Shark Point because all the sharks were gone, fished out for shark fin soup. We saw blue-spotted rays, clownfish and a tiger-tailed seahorse, which was quite big. Our safety stop was in a beautiful group of pink and purple coral. We went out for dinner and had a birthday cake.