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Woke to chanting monks, they walk down the street and if you want them to bless your house or your day you give them some money and they say a prayer for you. I’m glad I can pray anywhere or anytime myself, and it’s free!

There aren’t a lot of bugs here I’ve noticed, other than Mosquitos. Not like in Houston with lots of cockroaches that seem to love the toilet seat. If you get up in the night to go to the bathroom and don’t turn the light on, you end up sitting on them – that wakes you up! Or Mexico, at the Bible School especially, where there were scorpions, centipedes, the big orange ugly ones that you need an antidote for if you’re stung, coral snakes (you die), big black snakes, tarantulas, rhinoceros beetles, frogs, geckos, well you name it! Haven’t seen a thing here, even at the elephant farm out in the country.

That’s where we went today, about an hour out of town with the Taiwanese kids. First of all we took a raft ride down the river. This is a raft made of bamboo tied together and a couple little backless benches on top. There was a man with a long bamboo pole who used it to push us and guide us along. Next was an ox cart ride, ending up at a corral where the elephants put on a show. Walking on hind legs, kicking a soccer ball, dancing to music, taking money from the audience and painting a tree with their trunks! They are smart animals! An elephant can live up to 70 years. Such gentle giants.

They served us a nice buffet lunch with jello in coconut milk for dessert, yummy. Then for our ride on the elephants. To get on we climbed up a platform and crossed a little plank to get into the small seat secured on top of the elephant. There was just a piece of tied rope that went across in front of us. All seemed fine until we went down into a gully. That small piece of rope was the only thing between us and sliding right out of our seat to be trampled under the elephants hooves! I’m sure glad the Burmese man riding bareback in front of us knew how to tie a sturdy knot! We bought some sugar cane to feed our ride and got a close up look into his nostrils. The guide kept hitting him on his head, I wasn’t sure that was a good thing! Poor elephant, it even bled at one point. But he behaved until we dismounted, the guide had to pry my hand off that small rope (just kidding). But it was a relief to have arrived without incident (me being picked from the bottom of the ravine and rushed to the hospital for example 🙂 it wasn’t that bad, but I had my moments.

Since I was too busy staying alive I wasn’t able to take many pictures, so we bought the one they took of us. It is a beautiful picture, I am even smiling (this was before the gully). The paper frame is made from elephant dung! Apparently the elephants dung can be watered down and put through a process and it makes nice light brown paper, now that’s recycling!

One of the tour guides in front of was a lady-boy. So beautifully made up, then they speak in this low voice and give themselves away. If you look closer you realize they have broader shoulders and bigger hands and feet, but such beautiful faces. These lady-boys are quite common, they are waiters, cashiers, here and there. No one pays any special attention to them but it’s hard to not stare. I always wonder what brought them to this place and my heart goes out to them.

On the way home we went up Doi Suthep mountain on which stands a famous Wat (Temple) dating back to 1383. The story is that a white elephant carrying a holy relic wandered up this mountain, laid down and died at the top, so this monastery was built on the exact spot to house the relic and is now a buddhist university. We climbed the 306 stairs and were rewarded with spectacular views. You must take off your shoes to go into the temple area and of course you can buy incense to burn to the many buddha statues. A little farther down the mountain we stopped at a magnificent orchid nursery. Most of the orchids are hybrids, cultivated in a mixture in a bottle. Once they have sprouted and grown to a certain size they are transferred and hung on these long ropes. Their roots hang down, they don’t need soil. Quite impressive to see thousands of brilliantly coloured orchids row after row. These are gorgeous flowers. A wild undiscovered orchid that is harvested from the jungle is worth thousands of dollars and men risk their lives to get them. But the majority of the orchids are sprouted in a bottle!

Since we drove an hour to do this elephant trek, the kids didn’t want to drive again today so we won’t be going to the tiger center. This is a place where they drug the beautiful wild tigers so people can lay down beside them and get their picture taken. I don’t think this would be allowed in Canada or the U.S.

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