Elephants an Thai food
May 19, 2016
|Up early for breakfast then on to the bus and the Elephant Conservancy – a refuge for elephants that would otherwise be redundant. The use of elephants in the logging trade, their traditional role, has been outlawed so all the elephants used for that were out of a job. Several refuges were set up to help these abandoned animals. This one not only took in otherwise “useless” animals but also operated a hospital for injured elephants – especially ones who had been maimed by land mines – several had been given artificial legs.
Thai elephants don’t exist in the wild state any more – all are held by various parks and refuges, almost all kept to make money from tourists. There were at one time over 200,000 Asian elephants in Thailand but now they number between 2,500 and 5,000. It is still legal to own elephants, but they have to be registered, like cars.
We arrived at the park early as we had scheduled an elephant ride. Kitty and I were the first to get an elephant to ride, and we were followed by Alice who was by herself. We first went across a pond and water up to the elephant’s stomach. Then we followed a jungle path where the lead elephant – us – first stopped to smell a large mushroom, then snorted and chased away a snake that was near the path. As we went on we passed a nursery with several very young elephants, then through another pond and back to a platform where we could dismount. The ride was very wobbly with back and forth movement every time the elephant took a step. Afterwards there was a second ride by another group then all the animals went into the pond and were bathed by their trainers.
Then off to the elephant show where 13 elephants displayed a variety of skills and abilities – from what a war elephant looked like to demonstrations on how they were used in the past to move logs. The show ended with a variety of tricks, including me playing catch with an elephant – I caught five of the seven balls the animal threw! The performance ended with three elephants painting pictures, one by himself and one young one whose trainer held his trunk and painted pictures for him. When that was all done we could (and did) buy food and fed the elephants. All in all a lot of fun and beneficial to the survival of the animals.
We then headed off to lunch at a downtown restaurant where the main course was flambé chicken - covered in oil then set on fire. A pretty good meal and my first taste of Thai beer – Singh. Ashley and Joe left us at the restaurant to hire a motorcycle and ride around town. We went with the group and did a riding tour of downtown Chaing Mai – looking at the old town, the city walls, and some o the old structures of the Lanna culture that controlled this area up until the 14th century.
We then stopped at another temple – Wat Shitif Eyeno - one the family wanted to see. Alice, however, needed spices so we set off to an Herbal store – which it turned out was all about essential oils and nothing about spices. Back to the temple and saw that it was a new one and immediately behind was a temple that was destroyed in the 1300s by an earthquake, attempted to be rebuilt, then abandoned. That threw our schedule off a bit.
Back to the hotel at 3:00 to get ready for out 3:30 start for a Thai cooking class. We were at the lobby on time but the cooking school didn’t show until 4:30 – and then it was a lady in a car who was to take us to meet the class. As we left the hotel she almost caused a motorcycle with a young child in front to crash into us. Lots of traffic.
We met our guide – Rickey – at the market and he did a rapid fire talk on spices and other stuff we’d use that night. We were with a large group of young women who were staying in a youth hostel together – one from the US who had an aunt with a place at Smith Mountain Lake. It was all rather rushed and abrupt. We wandered around and Alice got some spices and as we got back to the alley the group was leaving! We caught up and all piled in a van and headed out into the country.
After at least 45 minutes in heavy and crazy traffic we turned off into a winding alley in the middle of nowhere. I was sure we were all going to be kidnapped and sold into the sex trade… But we ended up in a wide open field with a large cooking school in the middle – open air – surrounded by a large garden of spices and rice and a nice pond – plus there were a pair of cranes in the field.
We all had individual stations, cooker, pots, cutting blocks, knives, and all the other stuff we’d need. Rickey went over some fundamentals and ideas about spices and other basics, then we were given ingredients and made a sauce, then a soup, then more. We ate as we went along. There was a lovely sunset then the bugs started to show up. Just big ones.
The final work was to make a phad dish – Holy Basil, morning glory, or chicken with cashew. Then the owner came out and started ordering everyone about – but it went well. We finally cooked the food we had prepared. I got to play with fire – set my dish’s oil on fire – which was quite fun. We ended up eating as much of what we prepared as we could.
We finally got back in the van and to our hotel at about 9:00 – all three exhausted. A busy but interesting day!