The journey back from Pai to Chiang Mai was thankfully much slower than the previous effort so neither of us got sick (plus we were steady on the drink this time haha) however it was delayed so we didn't get back to Chiang until around 4pm.
We had showers and then headed back out to the night bazaar, we spent the night doing as much of our souvenir and gift shopping as we could, which was very well done in the end! A great experience to barter and purchase with the local marker stalls. We rewarded ourselves with dinner at the food market and a well earned beer! We then discovered that the Night Bazaar that we originally thought was quite big was absolutely massive, walking a few meters further down street to a whole other inside market. However many more tourists and lady boys, and bad singing haha so we didn't stick around too long, plus the stalls get quite repetitive after a while too, so instead settled on a walk back to the hotel grabbing a crepe on the way home!
Friday was the day we had been so excited about...a full day interaction with the elephants, curtesy of Blue Elephant Private Tours. We have spent so long deciding about this trip obviously due to so much media attention recently due to cruelty, and hearing how they train from a young age or even capture wild elephants. We spent a lot of time reading reviews and looking into all of the different elephant camps, and decided on the Blue Elephant finally. Genuinely so glad we did! The day started with an 8:30 pick up from our hotel by Mr Billy and Mr Somsak, interesting characters but both nice gentlemen who explained our day itinerary and took us to our first stop the market! Here Mr Billy showed us different foods and bought our Thai lunch (far too much food once again) the journey to the camp was right over the mountain and took another hour and half of windy roads (luckily we had enough tablets left :-)) When we arrived we were given our traditional Mahout outfits to change in to! We then had a briefing about the elephants and a lesson on the different Thai commands to use for the elephants! Then it was time to go and meet them! Possibly one not the most intimidating parts of the day, we figure the elephants were hungry, as much to their mahouts dismay they did not wait till we got to them haha they came straight at us, one took Katie's basket of bananas straight form her arms haha knocking Kate into a lovely stream of mud haha what a great start! They calmed down slightly and we were able to feed the monstrosities a little easier! There were two ladies and one hyperactive large baby! Mummy was 46 then daughter one was 19 and baby daughter was 1 year and five month. Until you actually get there you don't realise the size of these amazing creatures. Next was our chance to dust off the elephants using large leaved branches, apparently their version of a Thai massage haha which proved as they seemed to love it! We then spent half an hour practicing getting on to our elephants and them riding around. This was definitely needed as it is a very strange and quite a scary experience! Being up there so high on such a large unpredictable animal can make the first five minutes feel like you just want to get off but in time you get a little used to it but to be honest a lot of the time you can be quite on edge! We then practiced a few of the commands, later realising it does appear to be more of a gimmick as the elephants only seemed to listen to the mahouts and even then they get ignored too haha! All the while the little baby was causing havoc! Some of her escapades included charging at the lady delivering some of the food and trying to get her basket, eating everything (this went for all of the elephants!) she constantly wanted to play and get attention, she stole a flip flop and tried to run away with it and even trying to eat empty water bottles, she was hilarious! We then had to disembark these giants, which Andrew did so gracefully as his elephant laid down and rolled sideways for him, Katies elephant however just stood there and katie was supposed to slide down her trunk! Haha highly unlikely, this involved Katie coming off at great speed akin to an elephant water slide and taking a mahout out on the way! All captured on video so watch this space haha! We then had our lunch! The tour was very private most of the day we'd spent just the two of us, another English couple were on the tour who we spoke to over lunch and then we all did the trek later as a herd! Lunch was a good spicy assortment of meats, rice and fruits. Before we knew it we were heading back to get elephants loaded with watermelon left over from lunch which they loved!
We've heard the stories like everyone else about the elephants being tortured and chained and beaten, and did at times consider not doing the trek, but we went on reviews and whilst there we didn't see behind the scenes at Blue Elephant but the entire day we were there we saw no chains, only open grassland, bull hooks were in the bags but never used even when things appeared to get quite serious! The mahouts that work there also live there 24/7 and genuinely care for those creatures like their own family.
The trek was through their land full of trees and grassland! In all it always seemed like slow chaos haha we didn't go far and nor fast at all and most of the trek was spent coaching baby elephant to keep moving instead of just eating everything in her path, pushing every tree over, scratching on every tree she couldn't push over, weeing, pooing the list really is endless however at one point through the trek she obviously decided to be a bit adventurous and she diverted off the path through the jungle to the top of the clearing, obviously once up there, not knowing where she was, she made some excellent noises for mum, (whom Katie was riding) so as you can imagine Mum charged straight for her, very quickly and not along the path, directly up through the foliage and trees, Katie obviously panicked and got really nervous but the staff were great and just shouted to keep calm and well balanced! As soon as mum saw baby she was fine! Here, let us re iterate this felt very dangerous and fair enough could have ended badly but this was just a mothers instinct and no punishments or anything were used, none of the elephants were restrained, hurt even yelled at! They were allowed to do what they wanted! After getting a normal heartbeat back Katie was fine as was everyone else and the trek continued through the jungle area and back to camp where we lead the elephants to some bathing pools! All day Andrews elephant had been the most troublesome (or possibly stupid haha) walking backwards into things wanting to make life harder by climbing on its knees haha but as soon as she saw the water she was a different elephant! It was beautiful to watch as she went straight in rolling Andrew off the back of her and rolling around with baby, submerging their full heads and loving every second of their baths and scrubs! Mummy however wasn't a keen bather and took some coaxing to get in with Katie still on her but once in she loved a nice head scrub and showers from her children's trunks spraying everyone! Wet and cold, we rode them back up to the field where they ate so many more bananas, covered themselves in mud once again and we said our goodbyes! Showers and Thai snacks were had before our farewells and a two hour ride back to the hotel, with major Nellie sore arse and tight legs haha we didn't walk too far for some dinner but managed a few drinks and a couple of games of pool before hitting the sack! However because someone was fishing the next day little sleep was had due to the excitement!
As we make this entry were sat by our little lakeside cottage, Andrew has three rods set and here we shall sit and hopefully catch for the next 24hours....
Fishing was fantastic, we had the 2 acre lake to ourselves here at Dreamlake. A beautiful venue with well furnished bungalows and a well maintained grounds and stocked pool. I won't bore you with the fishing details; but I caught 15 fish, with 2 being big, one a carp around 25lbs and a redtailed catfish around 40lbs, an amazing 24 hours.
We got dropped off at the train station with time to grab a picnic for the journey. We had been unable to get a decent departure time nor an air con cabin so we did not know what to expect on the train. But to be honest it was better than expected with chairs opposite each other and then at 7pm, the staff came down flattened the chairs and then laid out mattresses with sheets and pillow, we even had a curtain partition much to Andrews excitement to which he made a den. With a little sleep during the journey we arrived in Bangkok just after 6am, a rather sweaty walk today the hostel to dump our bags. We had decided to go to the 3d art museum which appeared to be a taxi ride away but was also a mall so we had plenty of things to waste four hours until we could check in! The museum was rather pricey for what it was but made for some good photos and after some coffee and a bite to eat it was time to get the taxi back through the ridiculous Bangkok traffic, where we checked in and slept for a couple of hours. As it was our last night we decided to hit one of the roof top bars for a cocktail and farewell. On route we stopped at the night bazaar adding to our tourist tat collection, a wooden giraffe lamp haha we had some amazing food and stunning view before returning to the hotel to try get some kip before the 5:30am alarm.
So here we are, up in the air on our final journey and obviously our final travel blog entry! If anything as much as writing sometimes feels like a chore it's nice to hear that we've helped some of you out with future travel plans and just hopefully made you laugh with our shenanigans. It's been an incredible two and a half years, we've learnt so much and are returning with happy minds and excitement for the next chapter in our lives together! Our advice...just say yes! Don't be those people that said "oh we were going to do that, but..."...just do it!