One of the first rules about traveling ought to be, 'always have a back-up plan.'
I did all the research the night before as to how we were going to get 60 miles out of town to the elephant conservation center on the way to Lampang. We were to go across the river on the iron bridge and see the Tourism Authority Office. There we could buy a ticket for the local bus headed south. When we got across the bridge there were about four businesses that said Tourist Office. One interesting sign that had the official TAO logo was standing tall at an empty lot. After inquiring at the other offices we found that the TAO office was gone and we need to go to the main bus terminal across town. Thankfully we started out early! A songthaew was conveniently waiting for us -- a quick negotiation before we get in and we are off to the bus station where we find a myriad of choices for buses and nothing written in english. Regardless, they are not going to keep us from the elephants. A one-way ticket with a bus headed to Lampang and we were on our way, with no idea how we were going to get home.
The elephants were amazing! This isn't no disneyland tour. There was virtually no one there and mostly locals and you are on your own to figure things out. We took an elephant ride through water and up a hill around the forested grounds, sadly, Andy and I were a little dismayed that the mahout (elephant's master) used a 'hook-tool' at the top of his head to guide him. It looked painful.
The elephant bath was very playful, you could tell that the elephants were definitely having a fun. One elephant got away from his mahout and started swimming away from the crowd which brought some uproarious laughter. But the real highlight was when the elephants came back for some treats after a bath well done and a rather large elephant that had stored a bit of his 'bath water' in his trunk came back and squirted Andy head on and drenched him. We called it the elephant blessing.
We did manage to catch a bus back to Chiang Mai and on the way concocted a plan for massage treatments at Oasis. And an Oasis it was! I had a combination of modalities . . . a body scrub followed by a hot herbal ball meridian massage, accupressure, reflexology, and then hot oil with long luxurious strokes. It was wonderful and I have to say the Thai know how to do it!
We didn't arrive back to our lodge until 8 pm tired and famished, but somehow made a turn around for our last dinner at a place called DASH! It was a lovely out-door setting, with perfect little white lights against a hazy sky and Thai food. Some of the best we've had. Stir-fried vegetables and a couple of curries. Twice Thai women selling flowered lei's came by asking Andy if he would like to buy one for his gal (me) and he said no, but when the last one appeared with a beautiful night-blooming jasmine lei for 90 bhat he splurged, tired of mom being mistaken as a date.
Today we are gathering up our belongings to head back to Bangkok to spend a couple of days. I've posted some pictures . . . let's see if I can figure out a way so that you may see them!