Meeting the Elephants

People often associated Bangkok with elephants. It seems only fitting that I would make my first weekend here an elephant weekend.

Saturday:
I joined another family from the embassy, also newly arrived to Bangkok, on a day trip to the Dusit Zoo. We had two young boys amongst us, so the prime attractions were tigers, lions, pandas and elephants. The mother of the boys kept doing an air punch after we were able to tick off any of the boys’ priorities. Jetlag and plain moodiness don’t mix well in three year olds, apparently. Watching the kid’s temper swing up and down like a roller coaster made me feel vindicated for my own struggle with jetlag.

It took us ages to find the elephants. The older kid was getting moodier and moodier about not seeing his elephants. He has special interest in elephants, given that he shares his birthday with the National Zoo’s Kandula. Of our luck, the elephant house would be the very last and final thing we find in the zoo.

It was pretty much a relief for all the adults by the time we found the elephant house. The boys were enthralled, completely forgetting how frustrated they had been earlier. As they were standing on a tiny wood observation platform trying to get eye contact with one of the elephants, I notices a man pushing a wheelbarrow down the sidewalk, stopping not fifty yards from me. The wheelbarrow contained an assortment of bananas, grapes, lettuce, and some other greens. The was feeding time for the elephants.

The keeper started tossing the food. Like any well trained animal, the three elephants saw him and lumbered over, opening their mouths for him to try to toss the food into. The keeper noticed the kids watching and started handing the banana bunches out to the kids, demonstrating how to make eye contact with the elephants and tossing the food as they lift up their trunks and open their mouths.

As the American family with two blond young boys (and an Asian nanny- me), we were given preference to have closer access to the wheelbarrow. I actually didn’t throw as much as I would have liked. As the camera toter, I assigned myself the role of take photos. It was so much fun, nonetheless.

I should have taken note of the time.. I believe we were there around 1pm-ish. Perhaps I’ll try going again.. preparing to wait a while afternoon for another opportunity.


Sunday:
I thought that was it for elephant experiences. I was stunned, and pleasantly surprised, to see an elephant crossing Sukhumvit when I got of the Skytrain to go home, walking on the skywalk. Clumsy me, I couldn’t dig out my camera until she has crossed the road already. I was amused that she had crosswalk privileges instead of having to use a traffic lane like a vehicle. I wonder how she manages the rather unstable, rocky, and sometimes narrow sidewalks.

Taxis

Are a hit or miss. And when you miss, you miss big time.

In a rush to meet up with my boss and his family, I decided to try taking the cab.

What a miss. I was taken on an hour-long excursion before I finally got him to take me back to a major landmark that we both understood- which was further from my intended destination than I originally started off!! I said “Soi Lang Suan” and got “Soi La Salle.” I knew something wasn’t quite right when he took me on the tollway, although I was assured he knew where he was going. When I saw the street sign, I made it clear I was agitated. I started throwing out names of other major landmarks and Skytrain stations to get him to take me OUT of the burbs and back into the city center. Asok, Wireles Road, US Embassy, Lumphini Park. He finally offered “Emporium” Oh, yes, thank god.

That was a $6 lesson I took to heart. If you can’t get someone to write the address down in Thai, have a map or book that has a nearby landmark written in Thai. Also, many people have told me the taxi drivers don’t seem to understand maps. Boy are they right! Mine was reading the map I had sideways WHILE he was still driving. At which point I just gestured for him to hand it back because at least *I* can read it.

Better yet, just take the time and take the public transit. Which sometimes is faster anyway. Someone actually had a good strategy around his version of the taxi tour- he called one of the local Thai employees who work at the embassy and handed the phone to the driver. The embassy employee talked in Thai to the driver and directed them where passenger wanted to go!

Arriving in Bangkok with a cold

I called Dad from Dulles Airport, on my outbound trip from the United States. In a way, it was a farewell call to him. Dad can be surprisingly sentimental. In any case, during the call he observed that Bangkok was the furthest away from the east coast as I could have gone, distance-wise. I had doubts about that claim, but at moments, it would feel like it.

I finally landed into Thailand the same time my tickling throat flared up to a full-blown cold. It really is a horrible place to get a cold. Because of the heat and humidity, all buildings are air conditioned to the point that one would get cold.

In fact, my very first major purchase upon arriving turned out to be a North Face fleece jacket. Before you mock me, it was on sale and so far paying off major dividends. I’ve been wearing it every day at work and in the nights going to sleep with it on.

So, whether you come here for a visit or to move here, make sure you pack a jacket in that suitcase. You never know when you need it. If not, I’m borrowing it.