Animal overload!

For those of you more familiar with my misadventures last year… remember all those attempts to pet some sort of an non-domesticated animal? Swim with the manatees in Fort Myers, pet a buffalo in Montana, or swim with the dolphins in Miami? None of which came to fruition and I had to settle with a tentative petting of a stinky goat in Mount Vernon.

Well, here’s a single day of my life in Chiang Mai:

Elephant neighbour

I’ve always suspected the elephants that walk around the streets of Bangkok were either living or being unloaded near my neighbourhood.

But I never expected to bump into one right on my street. No, I didn’t literally bump into it. It was walking the opposite direction, on the other lane. The only reason I saw it was because the person perched on it caught my attention, not the elephant itself.

For big animals, they can be surprisingly stealthy. Think of it. No hoofs.

I assumed after my first couple of encounters, that it was one elephant. I was wrong. This one is definitely different.. given that’s it stands over three feet taller and probably half a ton heavier. Oh, yes, that number was completely random. I can barely estimate human weight, how the heck was I supposed to explain how much bigger an elephant neighbor is more than his distant cousin that I see more often. Yes, the gender was a guess too.

So, that brings my tally of elephant count to a definite at least three different ones who are brought walking around the streets.

I’m still a bit dazed that there was one on my street. My street isn’t a throughway. There are a couple of restaurants but not that far down from the main road. Most buildings are apartment and condo buildings, creating what many call a “high soi” neighbourhood (more on that later). The biggest activity is a huge number of condo buildings under constructions. So, where the hell was it coming from and why?

Meeting the Elephants

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

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.

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.