Showing posts from February, 2013

Northern Thailand: Elephant Riding

H, my colleague gave me a puzzled look when I told him that I was not at all keen on riding the elephant.     I would go home with pleasant memories of having had an amazing fun playing with the baby elephant and a personally rewarding experience of working with the kids.     For H, riding the elephant was the ultimate reward for volunteering at the Elephant Home. The Elephant Home is an eco-tourism and conservation park north of Chiang Mai, Thailand in the village of Maetaman.   Part of its profit supports the local community by supporting reforestation efforts and contributing to the local economy.    They offer one to five-days elephant training programs and two to four weeks volunteering programs. (Check out the link below for the many programs they offer).   While the many so-called elephant camps in Northern Thailand take in 1500 to 2000 tourists a day, the Elephant Home takes no more than 15 tourists a day, so it could offer a more intimate experience.   Tourists and v

Northern Thailand: Mae Taeng Valley

Oh my God, I can hardly open my right eye, it's full of dried mucous! I cannot possibly have pink eye. I need to be at the school by 8:30. I look in the mirror that's mounted above the sink and I panic. I immediately approach my homestay host. My host sees my swollen eye with no reaction of worry. She says, "We go to the clinic on the way to school." We stop at the clinic which is across the river, less than a 100 yards from my home-stay. My host goes in to the doctors office first, probably to explain the situation and warn him that I don't speak a word of Thai. The doctor and my host usher me into a room with a tiny bed and ask me to lie down. The doctor leaves then comes back with a big vial of antiseptic and pours it into my eye, followed by a drop of antibiotic (I suppose). It works like magic! I feel much better. I still don't know what caused the irritation. Perhaps an invisible tiny insect struck my right eye or the smoke from

Northern Thailand: Random Notes

Naked Mango Shake, Banana Pineapple Shake & Blue Magic I'm taking a break from my work assignment at the elephant home and spending the weekend in Chiang Mai.   I get to hangout with other volunteers: S from Canada, M and S from the US, and H from Japan. On our first weekend together we get to exchange notes about our assigned work locations and areas of interest. Over dinner we share photos and stories of our first week of volunteering. M has the most colorful experience by far when it comes to food. She describes how she caught her food (shrimp-shrimp, little crab, sucker fish), and how she popped the whole crab and fish head into her mouth and had maggots for dinner. S from the US talks fondly about her home-stay family. I share a video of H dancing the "Gangnam Style" with the kids from school.  S from Canada and I have our share of getting lost on our first day in Chiang Mai. She reminds me so much of my niece who went to teach in Korea and tra

Chiang Mai Flower Festival: Photo Essay

The mural details on the this float are amazing. Everything is made from petals! My arrival in Chiang Mai, Thailand coincides with the Chiang Mai Flower Festival. The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is held every year in the beginning of February (Feb 1-3). Call it good Karma for I have three days to spend in the city before heading to my work assignment at the Forest Conservation at the Elephant Home. My program director offers me a quick tour before dropping me off at my guesthouse in the Old Town part of Chiang Mai.    We are heading to the riverside and the moat when I noticed a street that is cordoned off.   I ask my program director what’s going on.   It occurs to him that it’s the beginning of the flower festival.   He points me to the restaurant where I can get lunch and tells me that the Suan Buak Haad Park, which is the center of the flower festival, is just around the corner.   He says it’s an area that I can explore on my own since it’s really near my gu