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Is That an Elephant Between Your Legs...Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

THAILAND | Monday, 23 March 2009 | Views [638]

The last few days of my trip to Chang Mai was when the REAL adventure began! Chang Mai is noted for their treks and it was exactly what I was looking for. A red sungtuaw (a red truck with a covered bed...lined with benches) arrived at my guest house early morning and transported me and 10 other lucky trekkers up to the hills about an hour out of the city. Our first stop: Elephants!

Aside from seeing the in captivity at the zoos and some random elephants on the streets of Bangkok, this was my first encounter with these magnificent creatures! The typical protocol for an elephant ride would be two people seated comfortably on a metal bench on top of the elephants back. Yeah...that wasn't in the cards for me. The guides miscalculated the number of trekkers and I was stuck without a seat! The guide explained, not to worry, the elephants head was also an option. So, I hopped on with a bit of hesitation, knowing that the neck/head of the elephant was reserved for the locals. Despite the prickly hair and the constant snot shower on my legs, riding an elephant head on was the best seat in the house. I held on for dear life while going through the river, up the hills and through the woods, but that's what traveling is all about. Confronting fears, living each day to it's fullest and experiencing anything and everything with a smile.

The trek itself was fantastic, but it was the company that was stellar. It's really interesting to observe the dynamics of random groups of people. Everybody has their own story: from their homes thousands of miles away...from their traveling experiences...from everything. I've discovered that going on these organized excursions is one the best ways to discover new friendships. We had 24 straight hours together. Hiking up hill for 3 hours, pain, sweat, thirst...but doing it all together. Group dinners, beers, shots of rice whiskey and sing-a-longs with the locals...There's nothing else to do but talk and really get to know your new friends.

We all awoke to the obnoxious sounds of the roosters scrambling about outside our bamboo bungalow. It was an early morning wake up, but we had a lot to cover before we headed back to Chang Mai. Before I left for my trip, I asked my friends to give me travel tips and recommendations, and I have to give a shout out to Cheri, my supervisor from CK. She was brilliant in suggesting that I bring small gifts from the states, wrap em up and give them out when needed. I had a bunch of LiveStrong bracelets from my roommate, and some flashy red bike lights free from Bank of America. I brought a few of these gifts along with some pens and the village kids were all over them. The kids loved the lights and the bracelets, but their all time favorite was the pen. A simple plastic object full of liquid that is the most commonly stolen item in the US...and in my experiences, the most advertised piece of junk, is like gold to these kids. Next time I trek, I'm bringing OfficeMax with me!

After we said our good byes to the village, we were off to explore. The back country of Chang Mai was rather dry, brown and compared to the beautiful forests of Portland, not very beautiful. I guess coming from the NW scews my standards of beauty.

A few waterfalls laters, some more hiking along the river, white water rafting and a bamboo boat float, we approached the final destination of our voyage. The red truck. We were all sad to leave, but made plans to all get together that evening to celebrate. And...a celebration it was ;-).

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