re: Bangkok

that one time

Advertisements

Moving on, our next destination was Bangkok! Being a fan of big cities, I was looking forward to this part of the trip and after how wonderful Chiang Mai was, it could only get better right? To save on time, we flew from Chiang Mai in the early hours of the morning, arriving in Bangkok after one hour and with the rest of the day to explore.

First thing on our list was seeing the Grand Palace and not knowing how close this was, we took a short bus journey to the destination. Attempting to cross the road while the heavy flow of traffic was momentarily paused proved a terrible mistake and we quickly retreated to the safety of the pavement. A moment that proved pivotal in shaping our experience of Bangkok. *Cue start of parallel timeline* We were approached by a friendly local who immediately recognised us as tourists and informed us that the Grand Palace was closed for a couple of hours due to a Buddhist celebration. Helpfully he marked some points of interest on a map, telling us about special markets that were held this week in conjunction with the Buddhist holiday. Lulled by a sense of security cultivated by our experience in Chiang Mai, we went along with his story and to cut this tragic tale short, ended up paying a ‘special discounted price’ (~£30) for a simple boat ride. Going along the various channels of water off the main river, I was initially terrified of being taken to a secluded location and robbed of our possessions. However, we passed by many other tourists in situations identical to us, which gave us a sense of ease, leaving us to somewhat enjoy the rest of the boat ride as much as we could. Feeling infuriatingly angry to the point where we found it quite hilarious, we ended up being dropped off just around the corner from the Grand Palace. Here, we came across a sign outside the entrance informing us ‘not to trust wily strangers’. Thanks. Really helpful.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Attempting to suppress this experience from memory, we tried to take in the beauty of the Grand Palace, but battling both the heat and the rude Mainland Chinese tourists became too much for us to bear. Retreating to a nearby 7/11 and re-thinking our plans for the day lead to heading back to the hostel to check in and wallow in our frustration chill out. In the evening we headed to Koh San Road, where we were put off by the rowdy western tourists and instead found a quieter place to comfort ourselves with food before checking in early at the hostel, which was great by the way!

  • Here Hostel: a cute hostel within walking distance of the main attractions, but tucked away enough to chill out from the craziness at Koh San. Giant slide in the lobby and free breakfast – what’s not to love!

re: elephants

wherein we paid to be elephant servants for the day.

A very important box on our Thailand ‘to do’ list was to see elephants. Reading a lot of articles about elephant welfare, we were adamant to avoid elephant trekking and other similar tourist traps such as Tiger Kingdom, which we saw prolifically advertised. Scouring through various leaflets, we eventually decided on the elephant camp that was part-owned by our hostel – Into the Wild. It was one of the cheapest that we saw and appeared to offer just as much as other camps for around 2,300 THB.

~

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

On the day, we were greeted by our guide and given bright red woven ponchos as well as a gregariously coloured bandana to wear for the day. Upon arrival we helped to unload the tuck full of food, water, etc. for the elephants and were told to walk directly to the shelter without stopping for the curious elephants, otherwise they’d steal all the food! This made for a pretty scary but exciting experience as we ran across the stretch of land between the hut and the elephants – all while the guide tried to distract them.

Our first proper interaction with the elephants involved feeding them bananas, and seeing them up close was amazing. This camp had three elephants, all girls, two were around 45/50 and the other only 5 years old! Seeing them up close really put into scale how enormously powerful they are – even the baby (!). This fact was especially underlined as we tried to cross the small river with the elephants and encountered some water buffalo. Their presence really unsettled the elephants, who natural instinct was to protect the baby of the herd. As we were quickly ushered back, they let out great trumps of distress and warning that, along with the pounding of their feet, reverberated through us. Thankfully, the water buffalo were chased away and the day continued on without incident. After walking around the nearby forest with the elephants, we were taken back to camp for lunch before getting into our swim suits and giving the elephants a medicinal treat as well as a nice mud bath. Although this was fun, I shudder to think about what could be in the mud, more so when it inevitably got into your mouth (nice). Continuing the elephant pamper session, we took them to the river to wash off. Here, I also got the opportunity to be lifted by the trunk of an elephant! We spent the rest of the day drying off in the sun before changing back into our clothes and heading back.

Quite a lot of our friends at the hostel had also booked an elephant sanctuary that day, so it was amusing to hear everyone else’s experience as well as the competitive undertone that came with each (but let’s be real, my day was the best). As the national animal of Thailand, visiting an elephant sanctuary should be on everyone’s list! With elephants appearing on everything from flowing pants to decorated temples, it’s clear how much they are loved and revered. Given the respect from the locals, it is only expected that we do the same. Elephant trekking is notorious for its inhumane methods in training the elephants, and sadly the enjoyment of customers is put in higher regard than elephant welfare. Elephant camps, however, usually consist of animals rescued from these harsh practices and are given a much better standard of life. In turn, this is reflected in the experience you get. That is, a much more personal and meaningful day, spent learning and actually interacting with these magnificent creatures.

(Apologies for the blurriness of some images, my camera got accidentally knocked onto the macro setting T-T and I wanted to use these photos heh).