Chiang Mai Elephants

Southeast Asia, Part II: Elephants, and the Road to Laos

In the last blog entry, I detailed the first part of our trip to Thailand, where we went up from Bangkok, passed through the city of monkeys, explored a little of Chiang Mai and then spent some time in the beautiful hippie village of Pai.

Chiang Rai Thailand rice fields

After our time in Pai, we hitched a ride back down to Chiang Mai. One of the things that we wanted to do in our time was Thailand was see elephants, but when it comes to elephants, it’s highly important to do your research first, and make sure that what one goes to is an elephant sanctuary: there are numerous abusive elephant camps throughout the country, where the elephants are tortured with bullhooks, chains, and more. In addition, what many people don’t realize is that “elephant riding” is terrible for the elephants themselves; the weight of a human being puts a tremendous strain on an elephant’s spine, which is only multiplied when a heavy saddle is also weighing them down. Basically, elephants should never have to carry humans.

This is why it’s important to not fund these elephant-riding places with tourist dollars, and to instead give that money to the elephant sanctuaries. These sanctuaries work to provide better care to the elephants, better lives, more freedom, no torture, and NO RIDING. In addition, sanctuaries use their revenue to buy elephants away from the riding camps, thus freeing these animals from their abusers.

In the sanctuary we went to, it was clear right away that the workers truly care for the elephants, and are devoted to the cause of better elephant treatment in Thailand. In the sanctuary, we had the opportunity to walk with the elephants, feed them, bathe them in the river, and generally just spend time with them. Elephants are one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet, and it shows; they are more majestic than I could ever have realized beforehand. Looking into their eyes, one sees the soul of a noble creature that deserves respect, compassion, and honor.

Pictures? Yes, of course!

After the elephant sanctuary, we went back to Chiang Mai and spent a few more days enjoying the sights, spending time with new friends, and finally getting ready for our trip to Laos.

On the way to Laos, we made a pit stop in Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai is arguably most famous for its bizarre and beautiful White Temple, but we didn’t get the chance to stop in and see it, since we had to hit the road to Laos the next morning. We did get the chance to go to the night market, and indulge in these crunchy grasshoppers. Quite an interesting snack:

Chiang Rai grasshoppers

The next morning, we caught the early morning bus to Chiang Khong, a Thai town on the border —and then, we crossed the Friendship Bridge into Laos, and entered the village of Huay Xai.

In the next blog, I’ll delve into the details of our slow boat ride down the Mekong River, Luang Prabang, and more. Stay tuned!

 

 

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Meanwhile, in Thailand…

Hello back there! Just stopping in briefly to say hi; will do a full report after I get back, but in the meantime, we’re having an amazing time out here in Thailand.

The photo below was taken while hanging around in Lopburi, Thailand’s city of monkeys. And when I say city of monkeys, I truly mean a city where the monkeys have taken over — chilling out on the sidewalk, hopping onto people’s cars, crawling on the telephone wires, stealing people’s sunglasses, they’re everywhere. Needless to say, it’s a lot of fun.

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We’re now up in the mountains of Pai, and then headed further north!

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Off to Thailand!

The travel siren has called out once again. It’s been almost a year since going to Morocco, and it’s time to head across the world again.

After getting married last August, we decided to hold off on doing the honeymoon immediately; since we already love traveling to distant locations as often as possible, we decided to plan out something special, a longer trip, and we decided that the place to go was Thailand.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll be jetting off to Bangkok, and then heading to northern Thailand, where we’ll spend the rest of the month exploring as much of the country as we possibly can. Will post pictures as soon as I get a chance, but in the meantime, we have bags to pack, lists to check off, and a flight to catch. Hope all of you are doing well; let me know if anything exciting happens, and we’ll talk again soon!

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This Year, Upcycle a Christmas Tree

If you’ve been looking for a way to have a Christmas tree, but don’t want to either cut a living tree down or buy one that’s been molded from plastic, I’d like to recommend the approach that my wife and I started last year: upcycling a dead tree.

Basically, we went out to the woods, found a dead old tree, and upcycled it into a one-of-a-kind Christmas tree. Instead of taking a living one, which has been growing for ten years or so, and chopping it down, I like to think of this as taking a dead tree and bringing it back to life. Like a Phoenix Tree, if you will.

Aside from the obvious benefits mentioned above, it also results in a highly unique looking Christmas Tree. Frequent readers will remember the tree I posted last year, and here’s a look at this year’s tree below.

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If anyone else likes the concept, go for it, and let me know how it works for ya!

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George Orwell, on Freedom of Speech

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The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion. The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them. The decline in the desire for individual liberty has not been so sharp as I would have predicted six years ago, when the war was starting, but still there has been a decline.

– George Orwell, in 1945

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California!

A person’s life is built from so many puzzle pieces, each of them connecting to each other in a handful of different ways. You can’t remove any piece from a puzzle, even if a new one replicates its basic shape and intention. There’s something mythical, weird, and surreal about taking the time to look back on an old puzzle piece, and remembering why it’s so important to you, so specific to your life experience.

This last week, we’ve taken a vacation back to California, which is both my birthplace and the place where I first took off to on my own journey of adulthood, to visit family, rediscover memories, and make new ones. It’s been a great time so far; a particular highlight for me is always going back to Hermosa Beach, where my dad lived in the years before he died.

Today, we’re going to shoot off to Northern California, and continue the journey. I don’t have too long to write here, as I’m about to hit the road again in a few minutes, but wanted to stop in, say hi, and wish all of you regular readers an amazing week.

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Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

There’s a reason that places like Portland, Phoenix, Denver, and the state of Vermont have all moved to rename Columbus Day. Aside from the moral necessity of having a day to recognize the indigenous peoples of the Americas, it’s also because Christopher Columbus is far from the heroic figure that he’s all too often painted as; I won’t go into a long diatribe about his many violent and terrible actions — there are plenty of articles online, for those curious to research the matter — but instead, will simply agree with the growing consensus that today’s holiday should honor not him, but the people who were on the American continents to begin with.

So happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day to all, and celebrate it however you wish! Cheers, and I hope all of you have a great day (at least, those among you who are on this continent; for all of you guys overseas, enjoy your Monday!).

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