Hello Chiang Mai
Well our time at Elephant Nature Park has come to a close and we’ve shipped back to Chiang Mai for a few days. It, too, is a bustling city just like Bangkok but doesn’t have the overzealous tuk-tuk drivers and overwhelming size of it’s larger sister. We just walked through the amazing night market, a maze of street after street of open-air stalls selling food, clothing, artwork, and a huge variety of other things. I’m not sure how often it happens but it can’t be every night or nothing would ever get done. The streets are clogged.
Yesterday we traveled to a hill village to plant trees there. Elephant Nature Park has purchased an addition 150 acres of old plantation land in order to reforest it and provide a “natural” location for elephants to be brought. This will not provide the hands-on approach visitors to the park expect, but emulates living in the wild for these elephants. Guards will be placed at the edges to ensure nobody enters to capture the elephants once more. After a harrowing ride in the back of a truck along winding roads passing great rice paddy fields we were let off to start the 1.6 mile hike up to the field we’d be planting. It had already been cleared of grass so we were broken up into teams devoted to digging, carrying plants, fertilizing and picking up the resulting trash. It was very hard and hot work climbing up and down that steep hill. Thankfully a group of Chiang Mai university students were there too to help plant. It will be a great sight in ten years when the diverse assortment of trees have grown into jungle.
Today, our last day at the park, we got up to wrap blessed orange cloths, much like those the monks wear, around some of the trees surrounding the outside of the park. Buddhism plays a central part of 95% of the population here and even illegal loggers will avoid cutting down such protected trees. We took one last walk around the park and then enjoyed an elephant washing before heading out.
Tomorrow we’ll be visiting some temples in the morning (including one with built-in caves and no talking!) and in the afternoon will have a “monk chat”. I don’t know exactly what this will consist of, but I hope we’ll be free to ask questions and truly understand what the life of a monk consists of.