After a 4:15 AM alarm, we met our driver at about 10 till 5 and started the 3 hour drive to the Elephant Camp. Once we got there, we were fed breakfast and took in the excitement of the camp. The first thing was a ride through the rain forest jungle. As the first tour of the day, we got 2 separate elephants and had a great ride.
We learned that the elephants LOVE bamboo and will pretty much try anything to get it. Earl’s elephant was a huge male that towered over my female elephant. The mahouts (elephant drivers/trainers) took a ton of pictures and tried to teach us some commands. After our 45 minute ride, we got back to camp and then got two more elephants and different mahouts so that we could wash the elephants in the river.
After I changed into my awfully not flattering bathing suit, we rode new elephants down to the river. I was totally unprepared for the elephants diving completely under water, but they can swim, who knew? So, we washed the elephants in the river and Earl actually got a chance to stand up on the elephant while it was in the water. His elephant had a lot of fun with him and even sprayed him with water from his trunk at the end of this ride. At this point, I was really tired and glad to get a Sprite before we went to feed the elephants.
So, ride #3 was to feed the elephants, once the mahouts got the idea that we would be okay handling these animals, we rode the elephants onto the roadside where they could feed. The elephants like tapioca, but we couldn’t feed them that since the tapioca around was on a farm that we were instructed not to get to. As we were riding the elephants on the roadside, we were very amusing to the locals on motorbikes and scooters. They kept laughing every time any one saw us. After almost 3 hours of elephant riding, my inner thighs and abs were sore. No wonder all of the mahouts were so skinny! There is definitely some work in working elephants all day!
Next stop was lunch at a local restaurant. This restaurant was basically a Thai buffet and the guide was worried that we didn’t eat enough, but by this point we were pretty tired and just ate enough to get us through to the next adventure. It had also started raining by this point, but the bamboo roof on the little hut we sat in kept us dry. When Earl went to the building with the restrooms, that roof actually leaked while out “native” bamboo and reed roof was completely dry underneath. Earl and the guide went to take pictures of one of the most infamous parts of the “Death Railway”, this was a railway that was built during World War II by Thai and other Asian slave labor and thousands of British, Dutch, Australian and American POWs. Over 200,000 men died in its construction from both the dangerous working conditions and diseases like malaria, typhoid and starvation. The bridge over the River Kwai was also part of this “construction” project.
The next stop was the Tiger Temple. This is a preservation and sanctuary area for tigers. This Temple started by taking care of tiger cubs that were abandoned or where their mothers were poached to leave the cubs to fend for themselves. The first part we got to see was the walking of the tigers to the quarry, there the guides led us to get our pictures taken with some of the adult tigers. Next we went back up the hill to watch other tourists help with tiger exercise, this basically consists of people standing with inflated plastic bags that encourages the tigers to attack. While this was going on, our guide checked to see if there were any openings in the cub feeding, and we were lucky enough to get 2 spots as the rain had kept people way. In the meantime, before the cub feeding we fed the deer, took pictures of the water buffalo and the wild boars that were also in the sanctuary and had a chance to see the tiger cubs that were seen by the general public. We also stepped in an anthill at some point and these ants were huge and their bites were pretty painful! Ahh…the joys of a nature preserve.
Next stop was the cub feeding, the cubs were very active as it had been raining and was a little cooler than normal. There were 2 1-year old cubs, 2 6 month old cubs and 2 3-month old cubs. One of the 6-month old cubs managed to attach himself to Earl and those two had a great time playing together. There was another guy on the tour that got as attached as Earl did and his shirt was absolutely covered with tiger footprints after the tour. The little ones liked to play, but the big ones really like to get their belly rubbed just like you would with a house cat or dog.
After we got the play with them a while, we got to bottle-feed these cubs. I stared with one of the small cubs and then moved on to bottle feed one of the bigger ones, while the small cub stayed really close. Earl got to feed his favorite. After the cubs were well sated and ready for a nap, we put our shoes back on (they like shoelaces and think that shoes are toys) we sadly got back into the van for the trip to see the famous Bridge on the River Kwai.
The bridge at first glance doesn’t really look too impressive or strategic, but it was actually very expensive for the Japanese to build in terms of cost and had a huge cost to human lives. Many of the lives lost in the building of the “Death Railway” were lost in the building of this bridge. Especially as this bridge was heavily bombed during World War II.
Finally, once we walked the bridge, we said goodbye to our guide and got in with the driver for our 2 hour drive back to Bangkok and our hotel. Once back at our hotel, we got dinner at Shabu – shi. This was a combination between Shabu- Shabu where you have a pot of broth where you cook your own food and the Sakura sushi train in KC, where the food comes around on a conveyor belt. After a 590 THB ($20) dinner we came back and uploaded some photos and then I went to bed very early.