It was an exciting stay in Bangkok – my first ever stay in Asia. And the trip on the night train to Chiang Mai was tough, too. So there was a drinking competition with whiskey between a Scotsman and me, which got on me very badly. And yet…
We look around what there is to do in Chiang Mai. Firstly, there is the temple complex of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which we must see. We also learn about an elephant farm outside of Chiang Mai that offers elephant rides and bamboo rafting.
I can’t imagine doing this to my stomach, but now I have to continue pretending I’m a full recovery. I haven’t even had breakfast yet. Thanks to a small stopover at a market in a small village, I can settle my stomach with a few small things.
I act like I’m fit.
The drive to the elephant farm takes longer than I thought. Chiang Mai doesn’t look like Thailand’s second largest city, but it takes a considerable amount of time to get out of it. The path leads past other small villages, paddy fields and finally into the mountains and jungle. After endless switchbacks through valleys with small rivers and winding paths through the trees, we come to a cleared area.
A few huts testify that we have probably arrived at the destination of the journey. If you like, you can buy a bag of sugar cane to feed the elephants. One of the pachyderms stands chained in an open field and pokes around in bamboo remains with his trunk.
The mahouts lead the other elephants to us after a short time. One can sit on chair-like saddles on the backs of the animals. The elephant guide is fun and offers me that I could also sit directly on the elephant’s neck. He looks incredulous when I say I definitely want to do this. It is interesting. The alternative for the tourists would only have been more convenient.
The ride goes through a river, up a mountain, through scrub and jungle, and again through a valley covered with all kinds of palm trees, banana trees, ferns and more. Since I am sitting in the mahout’s place, he has to walk next to my elephant.
That’s Indiana Jones feeling.
Don’t do: Elephant Riding!
Only years later do I find out that these rides on elephants are bad for the animals. The husbandry conditions are mostly very bad, the elephants are beaten and abused and the cavalry with the tourists on their backs is not good for them either. I would not do it again and would advise against everyone for the sake of the animals.
To think of bamboo rafting, you have to imagine four or five bamboo stems tied together to form a water-permeable surface about six meters long but barely a meter wide. I share my boat with Brian, the New Zealander, and the raftsman, who keeps the raft in the middle of the river and the current with his stick. We recommend leaving the cameras at the farm to protect them from moisture. At first I curse myself because the river is so calm, mangroves grow on the banks and small beaches form access to the forest. But then the rapids come.
Brian has a good laugh and the raftsman is also very happy today. Both are dressed only in a shirt and shorts. However, I wear my shoes, which in a short time become small aquariums for tropical fish. Socks, shirt and trousers as well as my bum get wet quickly. Then, after a three-quarter hour drive, comes the waterfall. The boat falls bow-first into the pool of foaming water two meters below. But after the raft dives vertically into the water, it doesn’t want to come out: it’s stuck.
The raftsman falls into the water and tries to get it back up with Brian. I claw at the boat like a hydrophobic cat. I’m already up to my stomach in water and worried about my passport, my money and the mobile phone in my pocket!! It takes us five full minutes to free the raft from the rocks again. I’m just a dripping laundry bag. When we then arrive at a shore where our tuk-tuk collects us again, I can at least state with peace of mind how well a simple leather purse can keep water out for a short time.
The hard cover of the passport has also done its job and the phone is dripping but still works. (My thanks to Siemens!) Luckily for the raftsman, because I still have to pay for him. He just laughs himself to death about having fun at the waterfall. I find it funny too, and we laugh together.
Dripping and wet I reach the hotel in Chiang Mai again. I shower and change. Next I want to visit the holy places of the city. It’s probably a little quieter there.