Thailand 2014 – Day 10 – Floating market and Elephants

The phone goes off.. it is 6:15 am, and time to start getting ready for the day. A freshen up and coconut bun/cake thing later and we are in the lobby for 7am, where our tour guide for the day, named Jay, is waiting for us. He is a small buff thai guy, with a friendly smile and good English, off into the minibus we go to start the day.

Around an hour later, the bus pulls into a small alleyway between some market stalls, it hardly looks like much of a market, much less a floating one, just a few small stalls and a boat repair shop from the initial view, however he soon leads us up back onto the road where there is a viewing platform on a bridge. Below us lay the floating market, a series of canals with shops on either side of the water, and filled with boats of tourists and locals selling food. The most common boat shops are fruit boats, loaded to the brim with bananas and more exotic fruits like water guava, pineapple, durian, rambutan and mangoes.

We hired a boat for a few hundred baht, our tour guide coming with us to give us a rundown of the history of the market and everything that lie within. We soon found out that staring too long at a stall can cause the owner to lean forward and grab your boat for a while to try and sell you things, we ended up with a bag of saffron this way. The guide tells us to slash whatever price they offer by 70% to start with, as the market is heavily inflated due to tourism, we didn’t really buy a whole lot because of this, but still got to try some of the food – some coconut pancakes and local mango sticky rice (best one so far). It was particularly impressive to see just how far some of the boat food vendors go, with many bringing full tanks of gas onboard and selling hot dishes like pad thai, others bring BBQ sets onboard for grilled bananas or similar. After passing through the touristy section of the canals, our guide leads us down a more remote canal section before giving us some history on local life, and pointing out fruit trees and vegetables growing wildly on the side of the canal, he picks a leaf off one of the plants and hands it to us to smell – a strong fragrance of tom yum soup.

We’d soon be back on the road, our next stop was the river kwai bridge, a place full of history, the bridge itself apparently built by british prisoners or something, i’ll be honest I was taking pictures while he was explaining. Not too much to say here, we turned back half way because two wasp nests had found its home on the side of the bridge.

Back into the minibus for another hour or so, we were really starting to get out into the countryside now, with rice paddies and fauna becoming the standard view outside the window, and trucks slowly reverting back to phuket style open top buses. Our tour guy requested to make a quick stop to buy some fruit, the minibus coming to a stop at a roadside market stall selling impressive quantities of fruit and veg. He let us have some mangosteens while on the road, tasty but messy to eat.

Eventually we’d reach our destination, the elephant camp, me and my brother were the only ones doing the actual activities themselves, so we changed into swimwear and made our way down into the camp, where we were greeted by some 10 or 12 elephants out in the open. Our elected elephant for the day was called ‘Full Moon’, a female who would piss itself shortly after meeting us. It was very docile however, and let us pet and hug it, we fed it a few bunches of bananas, which it would eat in their entirety with its trunk. The trainer then led it, and us down a long path down to the nearby river, where we would be washing and playing with it.

^Note: Jay was talking over the second part of the video, I muted it because it was kind of irritating to listen to

Full moon enters the water first, and promptly releases a piece of shit the size of my chest, it splashes into the river and then floats on the surface of the water, slowly being carried away downstream – me and my brother stand by and wait for it to get clear before coming any closer. Then the bathing starts, we start by cleaning it with brushes, full moon assisting by pelting us with trunk after trunk of water as we brush it down, soon after however the brushes are thrown back to land by the trainer, and we start just messing around with it. If there has ever been a bizarre adventure event, going for a rodeo ride on a 3 ton elephant would probably be one of them – we’d clamber on top of it, and attempt all manner of posing as it sprays us with its trunk. The trunk itself was strong enough to pick me up with ease, then the trainer told it to drop me and it did. Meanwhile, our tour guide has entered the water himself while still wearing his jeans, and proceeds to use my camera to snap some 250 pictures during the half hour or so we are in the water, a true frank west if there ever was one. Eventually it’s time to take it back to rest, we ride on top back up the hill path to the camp, feeding it some corn along the way.

After washing the river water off and getting changed, it’s time for some well needed lunch, 1pm or so and we hadn’t really eaten anything since 7am aside from a bit of fruit. We stop off at a restaurant on the side of the road and order a selection of dishes, our tour guide plays both interpreter and waiter for the half hour or so. An impressively plated lunch of pad thai, tom yum goong, chilli beef salad and yum woon sen, all tasting fantastic – you would think we were at a 5 star restaurant going purely by the taste and effort in presentation, however it’s just another hut on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, serving food for a few pound a dish.

Then some downtime, the trip back to Bangkok would take 3 whole hours, the majority of which would be spent drifting into and out of consciousness while listening to music. Once back at the hotel, a little rest and relaxation, little bit of dicking about in the gym and a whole lot of blogging whilst on the toilet (literally, laptop on an ironing board and on the toilet trying to clear my ongoing stomach issues). Eventually, it was out once again, back to Siam Paragon for dinner and a little walk around the shops, we had dinner at a katsu place – vary gud, but not as good as the authentic thai stuff we had for lunch. The mall itself was huge as expected, with huge sections of the mall even dedicated to selling cars – this place is literally large enough to have multiple car showrooms inside.

That’s about all for today, a train ride back to the hotel, some mangoes and mangosteens and some more blogging later and we come to the end of another day in Bangkok. Tomorrow is our last day in Thailand – how depressing.