We packed a lot into our five days in Thailand. We spent the first two days in Bangkok (nicest hotel we had the whole trip) visiting the Chatuchak market, kick boxing at Lumpini Stadium, the royal palace, national museum, electronics district, and various other things. Bangkok is really big and not very centralized and we got screwed by taxi drivers like we have just about everywhere else. On the other hand, all the food we had was pretty good and very cheap. The kickboxing was a highlight. The boxers we saw were pretty small (130 lb was the heaviest weight class there), but they were lightning quick and hit pretty hard. The palace was also extremely impressive.  I think our guide said there was something like 3 or 4 tons of gold plating on the palace buildings and there are so many of them built by so many kings that it’s kind of overwhelming to try to get it all in a few hours. Of course, as geeks, the electronics mall was also a hit.  Prices for hardware (phones, computers, cameras) were about the same as in the US, but you could buy any software title imaginable for less than $5 (all pirated of course).

After Bangkok, we headed north to Chiang Mai to the Lampang elephant reserve.  The reserve takes in (or buys when possible) elephants with troubled backgrounds or from owners who can’t take care of them anymore.  Thailand pretty much banned logging a while ago which left many elephant owners with huge food bills and without a source of employment for the elephants. Some owners try to use the elephants to beg in the city, others give rides to tourists. The elephant reserve is usually the best option for the elephant if not for the owner. It gives them a good home and supports itself with various tourist programs. We opted to take a one-day introductory course to learn to be a Mahout – or elephant trainer. We learned about 12 Thai commands to get the elephant to go, stop, mount, dismount, roll over, etc. Both of us learned a lot and got very wet. See photos for a narration. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

We spent the last two days in the Chiang Dao area rafting down the Mae Tang river on a bamboo raft.  The scenery was amazing and the trip was pretty relaxing except when you were trying to stay on the raft going down rapids. We stayed overnight in a Karen village. The Karen are one of Thailand’s indigenous ethnic groups. The village was made almost entirely of bamboo. The stay was ok except for the evil roosters who had no concept of sunrise. Also, we were pretty much coerced into paying for brutal Thai massages from women in the village (I’m pretty sure that sadomasochism began with the Thai massage).  Eh… it wasn’t that bad really and the rafting was terrific.

Overall, a great five days and as with most other places we’ve been, it left us both with an appetite to make a more substantial visit someday in the future.

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