Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ran Tong Elephants

We rode elephants!!!  This was one of the things on my bucket list from the beginning and it could not have been better.  I know that there are mixed feelings about wether riding elephants is good or bad for the animal, but having researched and experienced I would definitely do it again under the right circumstances.  Ran Tong Save and Rescue Elephant Center was incredible!  There are more than 9,000 asian elephants in captivity in Thailand and many of them are not cared for very well.   Some are used for heavy labor such as logging, some are made to stand out on street corners to earn an income for their owners as street beggars.  Ran Tong hears of mistreated elephants, purchases them from their current owners, and rehabilitates them.  They are kind and gentle with these amazing creatures and it really shows.  They never use hooks, sticks, or those seats that are strapped to an elephants back.  Without the support of tourist funds the elephants that are rescued at Ran Tong would still be in the poor conditions that they existed in before.  Here they roam freely, under the constant watch of individual Mahouts, or elephant trainers.  Each elephant has a personal relationship with his or her mahout, the elephants exclusive best friend.
Elephants eat A LOT!  One of the biggest problems with private elephants is the amount of food required to keep one healthy, around 200 pounds per elephant per day.   
We started out by borrowing a set of clothes that we could get dirty.  Then meeting our elephants.  Just like making friends with our kids is easier if you give them a treat, we got to feed the elephants hunks of sugar cane, and they were excited.  

We learned our directional commands from the Sweedish gentleman who runs the camp and then it was time to load up.  Maggie and Max's elephant was the only one that did this trick, so fun!  The rest of us walked up a ramp and hopped on. 

Maggie "We got to ride them bareback!  It was so cool and I felt like I was on top of the world!  The funny thing is that they have very bristly and coarse black and brown hair.  Mine was named MayLou, or at least that's how it sounds.  On our afternoon ride mine trumpeted!  It was really cool to hear."   

Eli's favorite animal is an elephant.  He was in heaven!  Jonah and I had a little bit of a harder time.  He did not appreciate the bristly hair poking his legs so he mostly sat on me.  And I spent a lot of time sitting on the shoulder area which jostles back and forth as the elephant walks.  Our girl was a gentle giant, though, Ka Moon was sweet as could be. When we were contacting RanTong to set up our tour they emailed us "Tell your kids no worry about our elephants. They are like a puppies, but just big body size."  

A momma and her baby were on the property as well.  Hard to believe they keep elephants behind a fence like this.  The baby was really friendly and curious.  So much fun!
Maggie "We went past a muddy part and MayLou wanted a mud bath.  Luckily she didn't spray up or we would have been in trouble!  Then if that wasn't enough we got to give them baths!  They waded into a pool and played down and then we got to throw buckets of water over them.  The water was pleasantly warm too, but there were bombs in the water after a bit, (poo).  I had a splash nonetheless!  Go MayLou!!"

Eli, "Elephants are my favorite animals.  Today I got to ride one, it felt good.  I wasn't even scared.  My favorite part was giving the elephants a bath because I threw water at Maggie and Max!"

Tessa, "Today we rode elephants.  We fed them, rode them, and went in the water with them!!!  Me and dad went on one together and I advised a guy to say peach pie to get his elephant to move and it worked!!!  There was a baby and it was cute.  We made friends with everyone with us.  I loved it!"
May 25, 2016

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hello Thailand

Max did such a great job recording this in his journal I'm just going to let him tell this story.

Max, "Hello Tieland! (most spelling I correct, but I just had to leave this one) Yesterday we flew from Nepal to Tieland.  We are now in an apartment in Bangkok.  We left the house and went to a snake farm.  We got there just in time for the 11:00 show.  They started off with a King Cobra.  It was so much bigger than I thought.  It was a bit longer than 9 ft and an inch thick.  The biggest one was 15 feet!  Amazing.  Then he showed us tons of other snakes like 2 Siamese cobras, a venomous yellow banded one, and one that bit the man.  We then saw snakes and learned all about snakes.  We learned about the anatomy of a snake by seeing it on a dissected snake.  We learned about how to treat a snake bite.  We learned mythology about snakes and saw an albino snake.  I was very informing."

We hold a Burmese python.  Burma is Thailand's neighbor.

No problem pilling all the people you want in a tuk tuk or a taxi.  Hooray.

"Then we went to the famous mall, the great Siam Paragon.  We got on a little tuk tuk, that was fun.  As we got close and the first thing we saw and smelled was a Krispy Kream Doughnuts!  We got some Thai skewers and rice.  For dessert we had cinnamon rolls, waffle, and a smoothie.  It was good.  Then we wandered around the mall until we found a bookstore and we read.  Then we got doughnuts and went home, but the day isn't over yet."
I have never seen a kid so excited about doughnuts.  As we approached the mall he casually commented, "I smell doughnuts."  ok.  He often dreams of doughnuts. But then the traffic parted  revealing the glow of the round neon Krispy Kreme sign.  Elation!  He would not have been any happier if we would have been entering Disneyland.  He summed it up when he exclaimed, "It's been so long since I've seen a Krispy Kremes, it just makes me happy!"
So much beautiful food at Siam Paragon.  Especially refreshing for us was that all the food was clean.    Even the whole chickens, head and feet included, cooked and ready to serve were clean.  Wow!  Some of the groceries were outrageous though, like cherries and strawberries for $40 a quart.  Aaron even saw a single cantaloupe for $35.  Even more than the food I think my kids were elated to devour English books.  We have kindles for each child, (a travel necessity) and they can get many different books from our library on their kindles, but there is something special about the texture of real pages turning through little hands.  Something captivating about walking up to a shelf and being able to peruse, pull one off the shelf and soak in the pictures.  They could have stayed for hours.  

"We had quiet time until we went to the night show.  We got there and went to the small fake town and I played an instrument.  It was fun.  Then we had a buffet dinner.  Then we saw the first little outdoor show.  My favorite part was when they did a fighting demonstration.  They fought and one man beat them all.  It was cool.  Then the real show began.  Some of my favorite parts was when they demonstrated the punishments the Buddhist believe in like if you robbed from temples you were reborn as a monstrous demon and if you drank alcohol you were boiled in a big pot and made to drink boiled oil. (Alcohol was a big no-no).  They had good actors in some parts it was really fun.  Like when the giant dragon came on and in the heaven scene the best thing you could get was a chance to float around with no legs.  It was a good day."     May 21, 2016

We took one more day to visit some of the local markets and temples.  Above is a flower market.  Everywhere we go the kids draw a lot of attention.  This is fine, except for the sweet Thai ladies cannot stop themselves from reaching out and touching Jonah.  He hates this!  He snarls back at them, "Don't touch me!"  Which they think is hilarious and of course they reach out to touch him some more.  Many times the end result is tears.
Always neat to see monks walking down the street.
All the images below come from the Wat Pho complex.

These Phra Chedi Rai (spired structures above) hold the ashes of members of the Royal Family.  The larger ones hold relics of Buddha.  Below are statues of Chinese guardians and instructors.

A few of the statues and temples of Bangkok.  That Buddha is over 150 feet long!

We had a great time in Bangkok even if it was so hot that the poor boys were completely drenched with sweat.  We drank lots of water, stood in front of every fan we could find, and lingered in the few buildings with AC.  It was super easy, and super cheap to grab a tuk tuk or a taxi to get to every where we needed to go.  So far Thailand is leaving a good impression.

Jonah, "Everything about me is awesome!"  5/21/2016