This was a weekend to keep in the history book. I will admit that I was not looking forward to going because I’ve become comfortable with time to myself and have had little lately. The trip loomed with three whole days of being around other people nonstop. I also did not want to be out of Pattaya on a Saturday. I prepared with typical over thought and slept little the eve of departure. As the sun rose I made the necessary wake up calls to the crew and headed down to the van. Arising and being on the way before six is normal for me now, and my usual practice is to fall straight back to sleep. The entire van minus the driver was snoring before we reached the highway.
The group consisted of Rick, the most recent Languagecorps arrivals, and myself. These arrivals include Kate, a full of life Australian, Justin, a full of opinions American, Alaina, a full of questions and uncertain answers Brit, and Tom, an American who reminds us all of the reasons we vacated that powerful nation. A game of word association taught us much about each other and saw us into the car ferry. A short swaying ride on a boat, a rather hilly drive, and a few slices of toast later we settled into our rooms and dressed in our worst for elephant riding. A truck came to pick us up at our bungalows and we made our way up the muddy track to the ‘riding stables’. Nervously bumping along this impassable during the rainy season road we made only one stop; in order for the driver to set the wheels to four wheel drive to stop us sliding along sideways. While waiting for the animals to be washed, harnessed, and saddled, we discussed the nature of some other elephants, stray dogs, and the jungle. The scene being entirely picturesque photos could not be resisted. Boarding the elephants from a sturdy wooden platform proved an awkward task if one did not want to step directly onto the elephant’s head. I hopped, in bare feet, onto the lead elephant with Kate followed by Tom and Alaina and then Justin riding solo. For us out in front on an elephant with a name a mile long that we can’t remember and a driver who didn’t want to tell us that his nickname was ‘fat’ so told us only his given name also a mile long and unremembered, the journey was consumed by laughter. The driver was kind enough to take photos of us perched and howling with laughter atop the elephant, to stop at a watering hole so that we could have an elephant shower, and to allow Kate to sit on the beast’s neck and ‘drive’ the thing back into camp. Being a fantastic elephant she responded very well to all of the commands and wolfed down the bananas we were prompted to feed her back at the ‘stables’.
Riding an elephant is almost like floating through the jungle, except for the constant reminder of gravity in the lurching gate of a three ton animal. We rode through a valley with hills of green surrounding the well worn path and tree branches covered in ants hitting us in the face every few paces. It came to be a magical experience accented by fits of laughter brought on by the driver. The eternally green jungle shimmered with remaining droplets from the morning’s rains; which had also cooled the air slightly but left a dampness that washed away with spray from the elephant’s trunk. Wet and not ready for the end we pulled into the stables, fed the elephants and the drivers sugar bananas, washed our hands, tipped the driver, and clambered into the truck for a less exciting ride back to the bungalows.
After a nap and a frigid shower in the economy but more than appealing bungalow it was into town for dinner and wandering from bar to bar along the beach. We ate at a plastic table and lawn chair set up about twenty feet from the surf, stuffing ourselves with delicious Thai food and barbeque ribs. The beach front offered several bars and a few fire shows so we stopped and watched and moved on. Settling at a place with mostly Thai patrons and after Tequila we created our own dance floor in the sand and worked off a few bites of the dinner. Upon arrival back at the bungalows we found that Alaina, who had remained in bed with an upset stomach, had been vomiting profusely and needed to go to the hospital. She had been struck with food poisoning from some bad pork a few days earlier. Kate is first aide qualified and I had gone to the hospital not five nights before with the same affliction so we knew exactly what she needed and how she was feeling. It turns out the clinic should have paid Kate and me for the entertainment we provided in efforts to keep Alaina’s mind off of the pain. She awoke the following morning feeling much better but wished to sleep for much of the day so we altered our plans and everybody took a nap. The healthy members of the group ventured out in the afternoon to do some shopping in a fishing village a scenic drive from our location. The village is along a pier and offers a variety of seafood, snorkeling and diving trips, shopping, and bungalows on stilts. Upon future return to this island, I will look into staying in this village in a bungalow suspended over the smelly salty water of the
The waterfall is about a twenty minute hike upstream into a national forest. The trail is not difficult but for the hikers we saw in flip flops it must have been treacherous. The height of the falls reaches fifty meters and fills a gorge like pool at the base with cool fresh water. Soaking in the 77˚ F water with fishes nibbling the toes takes me back to the thousand places I have been swimming. Here there are Thais all around in their t-shirts and shorts cheering on two boys racing across the pool and struggling after a ball that has flown out of reach. They peer at us falang girls in our bikinis diving off the outcrops and sunning on the heated boulders. Photos are taken and bags are packed for the walk back down. Grilled chicken and bathrooms greet us at the base of the trail. We eat again and pile into the van for the trek back to Pattaya.
It is a holiday and the line for the ferry snakes along the road for several miles adding at least an hour and a half to the trip. With feet dangling from the stern of the ferry and the sun on our backs we wave goodbye to the island host of a fabulous weekend. On the road each retreats into their own bubble filled with personal music preference and desired snacks. What seems like ten hours later but is only three we pile out of the van and head home to unpack and prepare for tomorrow.
Weekends like this one remind me why it is that I work. Yes my job is based in the assistance of other people and I enjoy helping them with getting settled, their teaching, and anything they might need, but it is a job. Spending a marvelous few days in the jungle riding around on elephants, taking a nap in my private and dry walled bungalow, and being in the company of people that I do enjoy is a good reminder. It’s terribly unfair to everybody else that this trip was work for me. They say one should be paid to do the things that are loved, so I guess for right now, I’m doing all right.old posts