We've packed a lot into our short stay, but I'll start by talking about one of the most incredible experiences in my opinion:
Cavorting with ELEPHANTS
The first place we went was an elephant orphanage where we watched baby elephants getting bottle-fed milk. Some were only 3 months old and about the size of fat great danes and others were a bit older with legs about the size of...me. Tourists paid to feed the bigger ones - they'd go thru a liter bottle in less than 20 seconds.
We then went over to the adult elephants and watched one get fed plates and plates of bananas, papayas, pineapple, and watermelon. The elephant would stuff its mouth as each piece was put on its tongue one after another, pick up any dropped pieces with its trunk, then chew and swallow the whole lot.
Next we wandered over to a field full of families of elephants, were coaxed into nervously standing next to and petting one (little did we know we would later be getting much more intimate with a much larger elephant), and saw a large blind guy eating leaves.
From there, we stopped into a small artisan factory with a sign outside saying "Poo paper sold here!" We learned that this was referring to paper made from elephant dung, which hardly smells at all as it is mostly comprised of fiber. We would have bought bunches of things from there as gifts that freaked people out had everything not been so expensive..
We left the shop just in time to see the whole herd tramp by on the way to the river to bathe.
It was super cool to see the younger, fiestier ones splash around and play in the water with one another.
After all this, we were feeling like we'd had our elephant fill and could move on to one of the other 100 things planned for the day. Good thing I thought twice and told our driver to turn his tuk-tuk (motorized rickshaw) around after passing an "elephant safari".
No, we will not be bringing home ivory jewelry...it was a spot where one could ride elephants. So DW and I clambered onto the back of Siita, a speckled older lady elephant and trekked off to the jungle..by way of a two-lane road. It felt so badass to be looking way over the tops of buses that were swerving to avoid us.
We then went into a river for an "elephant shower" where Siita, on command, sucked water into her trunk, pointed it back at us, and drenched us repeatedly. After getting thoroughly soaked, she sat down, leaned to the side, and let us slide off of her to stand in the river. Then she laid all the way down on her side and we were given coconut shells to scrub her down. Finally, we were told to come around to the other side of her and sit on her shoulder. As we got up to get out of the river, DW tripped on her leg but she was very chill about it and just moved it away. I suppose for her it was about like a dog brushing past your leg.
I never imagined I would ever be so up close and personal with such giant creatures and I could never have guessed it would be so relaxed and fun. We have tons more pics here and here. Wish us safe and easy travels on to Thailand (tomorrow)!