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Phuket. Let’s Go To Phuket Then

Well this really blows.

We had planned to be in Vietnam and Cambodia by now. But with all the red shirts and yellow shirts feuding, and both of Bangkok’s airports shut down due to civil unrest, we were sort of stranded in Chang Mai. Not a bad place to be stranded mind you, but we had plans to see Angkor Wat! We had our malaria pills ready and everything! We could have taken busses and boats to Laos, and escape from there, but that really didn’t seem that appealing to be honest.

So instead we waited it out and grabbed the first available flight to Phuket. The crazy thing is, all flights route through Bangkok. Check out the ghost town of an airport.

This is one of the busiest airports in all of Asia, yet there were hardly any planes on the ground and even fewer people in the airport.

It’s crazy to think that just a few days ago this place was over run by several thousand protesters! What a site that would have been to capture on film!

The trip must go on however. We have to make it to Sydney by New Years, and that’s less than a month away! So we’ll just have to make the best of it.

42 Legs, Corner Pocket

Wicked! We were playing a nice relaxing game of 8-ball today at a nearby bar and about halfway into the game Jay decided his best shot would be the 6 ball in the side pocket. As he stepped up to the table to line up the shot and peer down the cue stick, his right foot slid forward so fast that it appeared as if he had suddenly broken out in an Irish Jig. My first reaction was to laugh hysterically. My second reaction was to scream out “JAY, LOOK OUT! THERE’S A BABY DRAGON LATCHED ONTO YOUR FOOT!!!” But I was too slow. It all happened so fast!

Out of nowhere this MASSIVE centipede had appeared and bitten Jay in his ankle! No joke!

[view it in full size]

When I say MASSIVE I’m not even exaggerating. This sucker was easily 15 inches long!!

After it punctured Jay’s ankle flesh, it scurried off towards the bathrooms like a serpent. Blegh!


With no idea if these things were poisonous or not, I snapped a picture of it in case we needed to show it to someone for identification. Heck we weren’t even sure if it was a centipede at all since it seemed to be missing 58 of its legs! Later research confirmed centipedes really do only have 42 legs. False advertising if ya ask me.

Anywho, the people in the bar started to panic, all confirming our worst fears that it was indeed poisonous. So they grabbed a shoe string and tied off Jays leg at the knee. You know, in case they needed to amputate the foot, might as well get most of the leg too while they’re at it. Another person at the bar grabbed a pair of tongs and bravely captured the critter and double bagged it for safe transport to the hospital. I commandeered the hostess of Rick’s Pizza shop and we had her drive Jay and his centipede to the nearby hospital for evaluation. Jay was diagnosed with obsessive dyslexic attention phobia of the compulsive cerebral cortex disorder. The centipede however, according to doctors, should make a full recovery.

While Jay was being whisked off on the make-shift two-wheeled ambulance, I pulled out my ipod touch and started googling to find the worse case scenario. Is he going to die? Will he be able to walk? Should I call his parents? What about his fantasy football team? Who will take over? OH THE HUMANITY!! I’m so ill prepared for situations like this.

After about a half hour, and what seemed like several hours of discussion with a visiting Belgian man who’s friend was also once bitten by a centipede, Jay came hobbling back with a bag of meds in hand and a bandaid over the wound.

The doctors had cleaned the wound, prescribed him some anti-itch pills and passed the bag-o-legs around the hospital for everyone to gawk at.

Turns out Jay will be just fine, and both his feet will be reattached in the morning.

Only in Thailand.

The Thai Way Or The Highway

Thailand is such an interesting country. You can be walking through a city like Chang Mai and tucked between a 7-11 and a massage parlor you’ll find an a old pagoda.

You really have to stay on your toes and keep your eyes peeled to uncover some of the hidden gems of the city (or look at a map I guess).

I didn’t have a map when I peered down a narrow walkway that led to the 600 year old Wat Chedi Luang.

Is it just me or do Buddah’s always look hyper-relaxed? Is that an oxymoron?

Speaking of morons… have these guys ever heard of safety harnesses?

I was scared for my life just walking down the sidewalk as these guys performed their high wire rebar act while arc welding with complete disregard for the flammable humans below.

See that’s what I’m talking about. The Thai people see a task at hand, and they do whatever is required to accomplish that task. By any means necessary. If someone says to put a roof on a building, you put a roof on the building. So what if there just happens to be a tree in the way!?! You don’t ask questions, you just build your roof around the tree.

So long as at the end of the day, there is a roof over your head.

Backpackin’ With Pachyderms

In this post I will test the theory that dates back over two thousand years:

“You can never have too many photos of elephants in a blog post”

-Confucius ~7 B.C.

Early this morning we received a call in the hotel room. It was the front desk letting us know that our ride had arrived to take us to the Patara elephant conservation. We hopped in the van and after a few brief stops to pick up 4 more people, we were off on a 45 minute ride up some windy roads into the jungle.

After a brief briefing from our guide about elephants in Thaliand, we snatched up a bushel of bananas…

…and headed out across the planes the find our new four-legged friends…

Now you can’t exactly walk up to a four ton animal and just expect to shake it’s hand and suddenly be all buddy buddy. They need to know you are friendly, and you need to know that they are in a good mood. One sure fire way to befriend an elephants is to feed it of course!

Mouthful after mouthful of bananas. They would lift their trunks, and open wide. With 3 or four bananas in hand you would shove your hand into their warm wet mouth and they would delicately slurp the ‘nanas from your hand using their soft and mushy pink elephant tongue.

Be careful not to get your hand caught in their teeth! Those suckers crush tree branches with ease!

Oh and be wary of the tusks too, they can poke an eye out if you’re not careful.

Once you’ve made nice, the elephants will flap their ears and fly away swish their tails. A sign that they are comfortable with you and know you are friendly.

Me and my buddy Boonpakwould be spending a lot of time together today.

Now that we could get close to them and them close to us, it was time to check to make sure they were in good health.

Are they perspiring in a healthy manner? Check the toes.

Yup. Sweaty toes. Check.

Is the dung aroma that of celery and bean sprouts?

Yup. Turds are on point. Check.

Are the females pregnant? Nipple check.

Affirmative. She’s expecting. Baby’s kicking. All is well.

Our group passed their health exam with flying colors, so it was time to prepare them for their daily walk. The first order of business is to clean them off. Since they can’t reach their own backs, they tend to toss dirt on themselves in order to keep insects away. It’s not recommended for you or the elephant to sit in a dirty back as it would be like sitting on a double-sided sheet of extra-course sand paper. Ouch!

Now unless you are wearing stilts, it’s very difficult to reach the back of an elephant to clean it. So, if you can’t go to it, it must come to you. And that means getting them to lie down for easier access.

Then you take hold of a large handful of branches with leaves, and you sweep the excess dirt of their backs.

With most of the large particles gone, it’s time for a more thorough washing. So you grab ahold of the ear lobe..

…(don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt them) and you lead them down to the river…

…for a nice scrubbing. It’s sort of like washing a car…

…except the car has an unfinished leather interior, and the car is inside out.

Once the dirt is gone, it’s time for a rinse. With baskets in hand it’s scoop and toss. Scoop and toss.

It takes a lot of water to rinse and elephant. But not surprisingly, very little water to rinse a human as Boonpak demonstrated to Jay. SQUIRT!

Okay! It’s time for our walk!

There are several ways to board an elephant. One is by having it lift it’s front leg which you then use as a stepping stool to hoist hoist yourself up. The next is to have them lie down and you just climb aboard.

And the third option is to have them kneel down and you go head first.

But wait!

How do you steer an elephant?!?

Well… in Thailand you say Thai commands.

Here’s our elephant lingo Thai cheat sheet.

It comes in really handy when your ride wanders off into the shrubbery near by.

We’ll that’s the idea at least. Either my Thai is really bad, or my elephant was really hungry, or my elephant just couldn’t give a rats ass what I said and he wanted to let me know who was in charge. Fair enough. You win Boonpak. But only because you outweight me. I’ll just sit up here and wait until you’re ready.

We rode on the backs of of our friends out of the medow…

…past some farms…

…across some rivers and through some trees…

After straddling an elephants head for a while…

…your legs can tire (and I’m not even carrying anyone on my back!)… so if you like, you can extend your legs a bit and tuck them in behind the ears to stretch.

It took us a while (elephants aren’t exactly sprinters) but after walking for about 30 minutes, we eventually started to descend upon our resting point…

…the waterfall.

We all took our turns crossing the river…

…and after some exploration on foot (human foot that is)…

…we gathered around some large banana leaves for our lunch.

Once we finished our grub, we gave the excess non-meat food items to our rides, and I even fed Boonpak the tablecloth. He loved it! In fact, he loved it so much that he offered to go swimming with me. What a sweetie!

I couldn’t exactly say no, I didn’t dare say no, so I hopped on his back and he lead us straight into the deep end for a refreshing bath.

He plopped over on his side and just lay around for a while. Every so often he would stick his trunk out of the water — just like the periscope on a submarine –for some fresh air, before submerging it again.

Such a doofus that Boonpak is! Like father, like son. I’m still not sure which is which though.

After our little swim, we all mounted up again and took them down the road…

…so that they could grab a bite to eat too.

After they snacked on some shrubs, we learned a new technique for getting back into the drivers seat. Straight up the trunk. Like a ladder of sorts.

Only this time, we would sit on their head!

Yeah, you read that right. SIT ON THEIR HEAD! And they didn’t even complain one iota!

The view from up here is amazing…

We rode like this the rest of the way back home.

In the end it was sad to say good bye to our friends. But the good thing is that elephants never forget, so we will always have a friend in Chang Mai, waiting for our next return. See ya next time Boonpak!

And please remember…

Flight Of Gibbons, Grunstras And Moores

Today was certainly a unique adventure. We were swooped up at our hotel in a minivan full of 6 other adventurers. The van then shuttled us off to a mountainous area of Chang Mai about an hour outside the city. After many twists and turns, zigging and zagging up the mountain, we arrived at our destination. The home base for the Flight Of The Gibbons – A Rainforest Canopy Adventure Tour(TM). First things first….

Becoming acquainted with our safety gear.

And once we found a set that fit, it was time to strap in for about two hours of zip lining through the forest!

Once the gear was secured to us, and us to the gear, we took a quick hike from the main rode, through the forest…

…and down to the first platform…

Several meters away, high above the forest floor, was another tree. With another platform. Nothing between the two platforms but a metal cable suspended high above. Gulp!

There’s no turning back now!


Look ma! No hands! Wait, actually… mom, don’t look. Close your eyes.

Ok. You can open them now. I made it safely across to the other tree…

This routine basically continue for a couple hours. Zipping from tree to tree, making our way through the forest just like a gibbon would.

In between a few trees, we would have to lower ourselves to a platform below to reach the required height for the next zip.

Other times, it was a matter of crossing a narrow wooden bridge…

In the end, I’m happy to say that we all made it to the last tree, and down the last rope, and got out alive!

Another successful Thailand adventure for the record books.

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