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Open Features: 8 - Time For Thailand

Our driver, Sim, took us to the elephant conservation park, about an hour from home. This we enjoyed hugely, not very commercialised and the elephants were well cared for. We saw them logging etc, and painting pictures. 'See the famous abstract paintings by our elephants!'

Maria Volant shares her further travels in Thailand.

Min and Sim Take Care of Us

Hi to all, and we hope that the weather at home isn't too bad.

On Monday morning we hired a car and driver for the day. The car turned out to be a very swish minibus with air con, and lots of room to spread out. Bliss.

Our driver, Sim, took us to the elephant conservation park, about an hour from home. This we enjoyed hugely, not very commercialised and the elephants were well cared for. We saw them logging etc, and painting pictures. 'See the famous abstract paintings by our elephants!' We watched them bathing and saw the elephant hospital etc. It was not too crowded, a few school groups of well behaved kids proudly wearing their pristine uniforms and teachers with loud hailers (loud hailers! Can you imagine that at home with our lot?) and a fair amount of Thai as well as foreign visitors.

Sim then took us to visit an ancient area of Chiang Mai, on the outskirts. A little guide rushed forward; her name was Min and she offered to take us around the ancient city. We set off with her in a little horse-drawn carriage. She was keen to practise her English and kept saying, 'Amazing! Oh my God! Unbelievable!' at every opportunity.

She said she could talk French to Yves, 'Je m'appelle Sim, et vous?' She's so sweet and so earnest. When she made a point, she would say, 'Yes, yes, yes,' fixing us with a solemn stare, her head bobbing up and down as if it were on a string. Like most of the Thais we have met, she loved to tidy us up and chivvy us around. 'This way, 10 metres here, you can stop five minutes!' etc.

The city consists mainly of temple ruins, and when she ran out of English, she would content herself with repeating herself non-stop as she trotted us round briskly from ruin to ruin. 'This 300 years old temple, Lanna style, 300years old temple, Lanna style, Lanna style....' etc. We enjoyed this very much, and at some point told her that she was beautiful. This she scorned; pointing to her dark skin, she said, 'No,very bad. I want your skin.' (pointing to me). We told her that we wanted her colour skin in our country and she was genuinely surprised, which in turn surprised us. We thought that they would all have realised that.

We had been fascinated, incidentally, to see that most of their soaps, lotions, etc. contain skin whitening ingredients which they are very proud of. Goodness knows what harm it does to their skin.

In between old ruins, there is a living,thriving village with houses being built and refreshment stands, of course. We have never been far away from food and drink here. Tour finished, the pony driver helped us down, and said, 'Thank you, sir,' to each one of us - sirs and ladies alike.

We waited for our driver. Apparently he had gone off for a massage. Refreshed, he collected us and we went back home, and then finally find the displaced food hall of the Night Bazaar and stuffed ourselves with huge prawns.

Then back home. The Reggae bar next door were belting out 'Tide is High' by Blondie, very, very loudly, in reggae style. Good Lord, it's hard to explain what it really sounded like: bumpity bump.

To bed.


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