Final Blog

Hello All,

It has been about a month since I left Thailand.  Not too much has changed in my life back home except that my tan has faded.  I just finished reading my old blog posts and reminiscing about the Thailand sun.  Below are some of the highlights of my thousands of pictures.  The ones shown are mostly from Bangkok.

I hope you enjoyed looking through my pictures and finally seeing for yourselves the beauty that Thailand holds.

Thank you for reading!

-Tori

Elephants!Elephants! Part Two

Hey all!

Like Madison, I have been much too busy to write on a consistent basis.  We arrived on the island of Phuket two days ago and we haven’t stopped doing things since!  Before I tell you of all the adventures we’ve been having here, I will first finish telling our day with the elephants.

(continued from previous post) Once the elephants realized we didn’t have any more food to feed them, they lumbered out towards the fields.  After the last of the food scraps and baskets were put away, we headed over to the river.  As we walked down the stairs from the walkway and stood on level ground with the elephants for the first time, we realized just how huge the elephants really were.  Standing next to them and throwing water on their backs was a moving experience.  Just by the simple act of washing the elephants, we started to learn how to interact with them and learn their true nature.  We learned to keep an eye out so that we could keep a safe distance from their feet.  We learned how to approach them in a safe way and whether it was a good idea to approach them at all based on their mood.  The elephants learned how to interact with us too.  Later, when we were playing with the baby elephants, the older elephants were protective at first but then learned that we only wanted to have fun and let us be with the baby elephants alone.

Aisha and I helped some of the workers tie together grass for the baby elephants to eat.  One of the people we tied grass with was the founder of the Elephant Heaven.  She amazed me.  The way she crouched on the ground next to the baby elephants, stroking their trunks and allowing them to stand taller than her was incredible.  She let herself be in a vulnerable position to their crushing feet and strong trunks yet seemed to feel totally at peace.  The other worker sitting with us was from France.  He had come to the sanctuary as a paying volunteer.  He was at the sanctuary when the male baby elephant was born and the two became connected.  He was then offered a job at the sanctuary as a paid worker and has been there ever since.  Aisha and I both decided that we wanted to have his job as well.  We also decided that if that plan fell through that we might be able to disguise ourselves as elephants (we had been watching the way they dived headfirst into the mud pits and felt that we could probably pull it off just as convincingly) and stay at the sanctuary as well.  We proposed this plan to the French worker and were told that we would probably have to learn how to charge other elephants as well.  We decided that this was not a good idea and have since been devising another plan to go back to the sanctuary.

The day was very moving for the whole group.  We learned about the plight of domesticated elephants in Thailand and were given hope about the situation.

Here is a link to information about the elephant sanctuary we visited.  If you are interested in donating, click the link below.  The money is used to care for and buy abused, domesticated elephants, so every penny counts.

http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/howyoucanhelp.htm

Thanks for reading!

-Tori

Elephants!Elephants!

Chiang Mai is exhausting!  Yesterday, we went to an elephant sanctuary!  We left early in the morning and traveled in vans up a mountain.  On the way there, we watched a TV episode called Caught in the Moment which showed all the work the elephant sanctuary had been doing.  When we arrived, we were led upstairs to a patio-like roof.  We sat on pillows around long tables as the cool breeze of the mountains played with our hair and our tour guide gave us the lowdown.  Always wash your hands before feeding or touching an elephant.  Don’t pet James Bond, one of the dogs; he might bite you.  It’s a good idea to always approach the elephants with food; otherwise, they will be a lot less amiable towards you.  Try to only touch the elephants on their sides and try not to touch them on their trunks too much.  They don’t like that.  Only approach an elephant if it’s with its Mahout, or keeper.  The rules were a bit overwhelming, but did not damper our enthusiasm one bit!

First, we fed the elephants their snack.  As we went downstairs to the porch the most beautiful scene opened up before us.  A vast green valley littered with water buffalo and elephants stretched out to a hill covered in trees.  The hill looked like it came straight out of a picture book; there was a silhouette of the trees and vines at the top of the hill that looked almost unreal. In the valley, there were trees as well.  Around each tree was a wooden porch on stilts.  Some of the trees even had small buildings built around them.  To the left of the porch we were standing on was a long walkway high above the ground.  The roof of the walkway was built from hay.  They nicknamed the elephant sanctuary “Elephant Heaven,” but I don’t think they realize how accurate the name really is. 

The elephants lumbered over to us being led by their mahmouts.  We filled baskets with various fruits and began to feed the elephants.  We would hold out the fruit towards the elephants and they would take it, wrapping the end of their slobbery trunks around it and bringing it to their mouths.

There is so much more to write about our day with the elephants, but I am afraid I don’t have the time right now.  Hopefully, I will finish telling our story later tonight (your morning!).

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Thailand Love

I can’t even begin to explain my love for this country.  So far we have been in Thailand for four days and it already feels like a month (in a good way!).  After traveling in planes, waiting in airports, and riding in buses for about 30ish hours, we arrived at our hostel around one in the morningIt is a charming place with a guitar in the lobby and handpainted maps of Bangkok the walls.  

On the first day, we walked to Chinatown, Thailand’s oldest shopping districtOn the way there we passed through a neighborhood filled with carparts storesNow, this may sound boring, but it is my favorite part of Thailand so far.  It is filled with windy alleys filled with little shops with greasy dirty car parts literally overflowing into the streetsThe photographer in me instantly fell in love. 

Next, we went on a longboat tour of the canals around BangkokWe passed lines of houses on stilts with porches filled with bright clothes hung out to dryWe all agreed to buy houses on the canals when we retire and live togetherThere was a very romantic feeling to the simplicity of the housesNext, we walked to the Grand PalaceIt was very impressive, but a tad too sparkly for meThe buildings were completely covered in mirrors and lightsMy favorite part of it was the Temple of the Emerald BuddhaAfter walking around in the blinding light, it was very nice to step into the quiet shade of the templeThere was a very captivating calm that filled the templeThe Buddhas in the temple held their right hand up, as if telling those looking to pause and take a breath. 

Today, we took a longboat down the riverWe ate lunch at Pizza Hut!!  It was much fancier than any Pizza Hut I had ever seen in the statesAfter that, we walked around and soaked up the sights and smells of the streetWe relaxed at the hotel for the rest of the dayI am hoping to upload my pictures as soon as I finish organizing them.  

Stay posted! 

Tori 

Elephants and Adventures and We Haven’t Even Gotten There!

Hello!  Sawatdee Kaa!

My name is Tori and I am a senior from Connecticut.  My senior project will be the school-sponsored trip to Thailand, led by T. Sonya and T. Deb.

                My original attraction to Thailand came from T. Sonya’s description of the trip.  She described her passion for traveling and her awe of the diversity of culture and tradition Thailand held.  Being a well-worn traveler myself (I was in five countries just this past summer!), I cannot begin to explain my excitement upon hearing her describe all the wonders that Thailand holds.  And so my decision to go to Thailand was set in stone and ever since, I have been waiting anxiously to go. 

                These past few days between the end of school and the start of my project have been busy.  I am staying at my friend Julia’s house where there is never a dull moment.  We have been shopping for last minute items on our packing lists, hanging out with friends, and we’ve even made a cake!  Inspired by the TV show Cake Boss, we decided to make our very own Thailand Cake!  Pictured below, you can see an elephant (we will be volunteering in an elephant sanctuary), water with a boat (we will be staying near and visiting beaches during our trip as well as visiting the floating marketplace in Bangkok), a zip line (well, we won’t actually be zip lining, but we will make some day trips to see some wildlife), and the beautiful faces of all twelve girls that will be going on the trip.  I hope this explains some of my excitement!

             Above is a picture of everything I am bringing with me to Thailand.  We are only allowed to have two carry-ons, so I had to pack light!  I wish I could say I am feeling a little nervous about traveling with twelve of my classmates for two and a half weeks, but all I can feel is excitement.  I cannot wait for the moment the wheels of the plane lift off of the runway and I am carried away to Thailand.  I have done a fair share of traveling and I cannot even explain how excited I am to be abroad again.  I love the feeling of walking out of my hotel (or hostel!) and walking down the street, being surrounded in a culture so fascinatingly different from my own.  In college I plan on studying international relations.  I have a dream in my heart of peaceful co-existence between nations.  I believe that understanding other cultures is key to international peace.  One of my greatest hopes of my senior project is to strengthen my knowledge of Thai culture so that I may start college in the fall with a great passion for international relations and the world abroad. 

                As I travel, I will be updating my blog with news and pictures about my adventures.  Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy following my blog!

-Tori