honeymoon

Honeymoon Day 6 Part 2: Crouching Humans, Sleeping Tigers

Manop thought we ought to go to Tiger Kingdom after Maesa Elephant Camp. We weren't sure at first, but since it was on the way back to the city, we decided to stop by. Besides we were getting hungry, and Tiger Kingdom has a restaurant.

It's a bit pricey to get inside Tiger Kingdom. I think it's because it costs so much to keep the tigers well-fed. None of the tourists want to end up as tiger meat, you know...

The first cage you see is that of some tropical birds. I was confused at first because I was expecting TIGERS!

Tiger Kingdom: birds

But you see...they were around...just hidden...

Tiger Kingdom: hidden tiger

We went to the younger tigers' cage first. That's me rubbing a seven month-old tiger. He was in bliss. (Stay that way...good kitty!)

Tiger Kingdom: Nadia Lee and tiger

Hero Material sorta fell asleep...

Tiger Kingdom: Hero Material and tiger

Then the tigers fell asleep... It was just, you know, too exciting for words.

Tiger Kingdom: sleeping tigers

We decided to leave them alone and moved to a cage with older tigers. They were almost two years old IIRC.

This one didn't like it that Hero Material kept touching its ass, but I think he gave up on humans leaving him alone.

Tiger Kingdom: tiger (given up)

Satisfied tiger after he ate my hand....

Tiger Kingdom: satisfied tiger

(Just kidding! LOL. No tiger has ever bitten me. Just that darned shark a few years back...!)

And now, preeeeeeesenting....Spicy Sausage! (I kid you not. That's really his name...)

Tiger Kingdom: Spicy Sausage

This is Hero Material and me with Meatball. (Yeah...this poor thing got named Meatball...)

Tiger Kingdom: Hero Material, Nadia Lee and Meatball

And here's one of the cubs from Tiger Kingdom. Isn't he adorable? :wub:

Tiger Kingdom: sleeping baby

Afterward, we decided to get lunch. This is the view from our table.

Tiger Kingdom: view from table

Manop asked us if we wanted to do anything else, but after tigers and elephants we were too tired. So we returned to the hotel instead to rest. Ahh....air conditioned room...I miss you so.

At around dinner time we decided to roam the streets around our hotel. We found a guy who made cool decorative hangings with metal.

Chiang Mai street shop

Then we went to a cashmere store. Everything there was hand-made. Check this beautiful scarf out! I'm not holding two scarves in the picture. It's just one -- but folded so you can see how it looks different on each side.

cashmere

Hero Material bought me a pink one. :wub:

present from Hero Material

(It's creased in the picture, and that's my fault because I left it folded for too long...)

present from Hero Material

We also found a hilarious T-shirt shop.

funny T-shirts

Finally...a seafood restaurant! Look how huge this prawn is! And the lobster too!

giant seafood

That's our dinner. Grilled fresh king prawns. Only $6 for the plate.

grilled fresh king prawns

Finally our dessert...! We had pineapple & mango smoothies. They were super sweet and delish! I've never had a smoothie this nice before. The largest one was only $2, but I didn't want something that large, so I got a small one, while Hero Material indulged in the super sized version. It's a good thing we don't live in Thailand, because we'd probably become diabetic.

smoothie shop

Coming next: Day 7 -- temples and wishes...oh my...!

Honeymoon Day 6 Part 1: Maesa Elephant Camp

The next morning Hero Material and I got up early for our taxi. We were a little worried that the driver might show up late, but he came on time. And to make it even better, he spoke great English and knew a lot about tourist attractions, etc. The best thing about it was that his rate was very reasonable, and Hero Material and I could do the tour leisurely, on our own schedule.

(FYI -- if you want to hire him for a private tour in Chiang Mai, his name is Manop, he works for Chiang Mai Airport Taxi, his car number is 11, and his work contact is 08-1885-1563 [Don't forget to punch in the country code for Thailand first if you're calling from overseas!] or if you prefer, you can email him at nopcm02 at hotmail dot com.)

Our biggest concern -- now that the taxi thing was squared away -- was that we didn't want to go to an elephant camp that had abused animals. I heard some horror stories from a British couple in Phuket. The wife said the elephants she saw were so abused that they tried to beat their own trainers! Ack.

The elephant camp we chose was Maesa.

There are the pictures from the entrance. The portraits you see below are the king and queen of Thailand from way back when they were still young.

Maesa Elephant Camp entrance

Maesa Elephant Camp entrance

Maesa Elephant Camp entrance

Maesa Elephant Camp entrance

Maesa Elephant Camp entrance

As we walked in, we saw elephants bathing. That's how the show begins, BTW. They looked so happy in the water.

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant bath

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant bath

Here, you see people collecting elephant poo. Per Manop, elephant poo is very fibrous, so the camp recycles that into paper. (So the next time you think you're a shitty writer, now you can have the perfect paper! Perfect for shitty first drafts!)

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant dung gathering

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant dung paper

Along the way, you can see an art gallery. It displays paintings by elephants at the camp.

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant art gallery

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant painting

We went to the main arena for the show and waited. It takes a while for all the elephants to show up because they move in a leisurely fashion. They were very quiet though. You don't hear any thuds or anything like that, which was kind of surprising.

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephants gathering

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephants and mahouts

The people you see on the elephants are called mahouts. They're trainers and caretakers. Elephants do not like to deal with people they don't know or like, so it takes a while to earn the animals' trust and become a mahout.

Finally the show got started. You see how they march in with a welcome banner and all the elephants are linked, trunk to tail.

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant march

This baby was also part of the show.

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant march -- baby!

Here's a very short video clip I made with my digital camera. This is a kind of elephant musical, featuring hoops and harmonicas.

Many elephants were very playful. They sometimes stole their mahouts' hats.

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant steals mahout hat

Elephants are also excellent soccer players. Look at this goalie posing!

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant goalie

Here are short video clips of elephant soccer!

And the super goalie!

As you can hear, the Europeans in the audience got REALLY excited during the soccer portion of the show. :D

Afterward the elephants painted some pictures for us.

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant artist

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant painting

Then to thank some of their hard-working mahouts, elephants gave a Thai massage...

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant massages mahout

Maesa Elephant Camp: mahout still lives!

(No, he wasn't mortally wounded...just bowing LOL)

The dart throwing competition: Who will prevail? An elephant or human children?

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant v. humans

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant working hard to crush humans

(Actually they tied...)

Finally the elephants built a wall of sorts. You can see how strong they are! (FYI -- they were all fully grown elephants...no babies.)

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant building something...

And look how triumphant they look after they're finished. :wub:

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant showing off

After the show, the elephants came closer to say hello to the audience.

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephants say hello

You can see me and Hero Material with the elephants.

Maesa Elephant Camp: Hero Material, Nadia Lee and elephants

This elephant liked us a lot because he got tons of bananas from Hero Material. HM bought a bunch of bananas to give to the elephants, but he held them too close to one, so the closest one got all of them. Oy...

Maesa Elephant Camp: Hero Material, Nadia Lee and the greedy elephant

We were a little thirsty and tired, so we had some coconut juice then went off into the jungle on an elephant.

Maesa Elephant Camp: ride -- off we go!

Look at the caravan!

Maesa Elephant Camp: caravan

Elephants don't move very fast, so it wasn't unstable or anything, but it can get a little scary if you don't like the height.

Maesa Elephant Camp: view

As your elephant carries you around, it wants to eat. Well, the problem is that sometimes the grass it wants is on the downhill slope...! Ours actually tried to go down the slope instead of following the trail. So the mahout had to scold him some. (But he never hit the elephant!)

Maesa Elephant Camp: hungry elephants

Another pic of us on the trail...

Maesa Elephant Camp: Hero Material and Nadia Lee on an elephant

The view of the elephant camp:

Maesa Elephant Camp: camp view

The final stop was a stream. That's where elephants can drink water; because it's so hot and humid, they need to cool off, rehydrate...and bathe. But you gotta be careful because they tend not to think about the fact that the humans on their back don't want to get wet!

Maesa Elephant Camp: stream

Maesa Elephant Camp: humans got wet...thanks, elephant!

After we got done with our ride, the elephant lunch time started. Some of them also got a nice cool shower.

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant lunch break

Maesa Elephant Camp: elephant shower

We went to the nursery to feed the elephants there.

Maesa Elephant Camp: feeding elephants at the nursery

You can see the mother and the baby. He was so young that he couldn't eat any regular food, so we didn't get to feed him, though his mom ate a lot of bananas.

Maesa Elephant Camp: mom and baby

Maesa Elephant Camp: baby elephant

Maesa Elephant Camp: Hero Material feeding Mom

Maesa Elephant Camp: Nadia Lee feeding Mom

Afterward, we went to several huts with exhibits. Here you can see the tool that mahouts use to control elephants. It's basically used to tug at the elephants, but some jerks apparently use it to hit them in the head...! Grr.

Maesa Elephant Camp: tool exhibit

Then we went to see the record-setting painting by elephants. We weren't allowed to take pictures there (kind of a like an art museum...), but you can read about it here.

We also bought some souvenirs. We don't tend to buy them much, but since Maesa obviously treated its elephants nicely and we wanted them to continue to be cared for in the manner they deserve...

I'm breaking the log for this day into multiple sections because there are too many pictures, etc. After the camp, we went to the Tiger Kingdom, where Spicy Sausage awaits! Coming up next! :)

Honeymoon Day 5: Chiang Mai!

Hero Material and I made our way to the airport -- this time Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort arranged for it -- and got there in one piece and with plenty of time to spare. Phuket airport is one of the worst I've ever been to, alas. It's nowhere near as nice as Bangkok, Incheon or Narita.

One thing I suggest that people do is eat before boarding. This time we flew economy, and the food was horrid. I can't stand mayonnaise -- I hate the smell of it, the color, the taste of it, the texture -- and it was in all their food. So I couldn't eat anything. By the time we landed in Chiang Mai, I was extremely hungry and was getting a nasty headache from the low blood sugar.

Chiang Mai airport is much better than the one in Phuket. The Airport Taxi company was very good, and we were able to get to Le Meridien Chiang Mai for just 120 baht (less than $4).

I really liked the main entrance.

Le Meridien Chiang Mai entrance

And the elephant fountain just looks awesome.

Le Meridien Chiang Mai fountain

The hotel appeared very new and modern.

Le Meridien Chiang Mai lobby

Le Meridien Chiang Mai lobby wall

And of course, our room (the most important thing!):

Le Meridien Chiang Mai bedroom

Le Meridien Chiang Mai bedroom

Le Meridien Chiang Mai also gave us a nice platter of fruit with a memo from the general manager congratulating us on our marriage. I have no idea how they knew I love eating. LOL. Fruit in Thailand tastes awesome. Crisp and juicy and sweet. *bliss*

Le Meridien Chiang Mai fruit

The hotel also has a lovely pool.

Le Meridien Chiang Mai pool

Since I was starving, we decided to go out and walk around and find a place to eat. This is what it looks like outside our hotel.

Chiang Mai street

Chiang Mai street

After we ate something -- I think it was some kind of curry or whatever...I can't even remember to be honest because I was that hungry, and my head hurt too much. But afterward, I felt so much better, so Hero Material and I decided to walk around some. We found some interesting street shops.

Chiang Mai night street

parasol

dragons

And look what we found!

baby elephant

He's only four years old. We got to feed him some sugarcane. He wasn't chained, and his owners didn't use sticks or anything to make him move around, and it was obvious that he wasn't being abused. It cost me 20 baht to feed this little sweetie. :wub:

After that, we got a foot massage at a place called Let's Relax, on the second floor of the big McD building you saw above.

Around 9-ish or so, we returned to the hotel and asked our concierge about going to the elephant camp. We thought about doing a group tour, but decided against it because we didn't want to be at the mercy of whatever schedule the tour company decided on. The concierge recommended that we take a taxi out there. He made our reservation and everything. Yay!

Day 6 -- (BIG) elephants here we come...! W00t!

Honeymoon Days 3 and 4: The Name Is Bond, James Bond

On Day 3 Hero Material and I got up super early for our breakfast (again at the buffet) and went to the lobby to go to the dock. The shuttle was actually on time. Yay! And the weather was fantastic -- sunny and beautiful albeit hot.

First we went to Ko Khai Nai for snorkeling. The island is beautiful.

Ko Khai Nai: island

Ko Khai Nai: island

And the big rock below looks like a Godzilla head:

Ko Khai Nai: Godzilla

The fish around the island don't seem afraid of people at all. The picture below was taken in the shallow water (shin-deep) with my digital camera. They come very close to the shore.

Ko Khai Nai: fish

Afterward, we went to Tham Lod caves. They're sea caves, and you can see the beautiful view inside. They're almost like a room within a room or something.

Tham Lod sea cave

Here's the same cave picture but I'm looking upward.

Tham Lod sea cave

Another cave -- this is accessible by kayak only. (Or maybe you can swim if you feel brave...)

Tham Lod sea cave

And a beautiful cliff --

limestone cliff

Ko Pannyi island's floating village -- this is where we had lunch. It's a Muslim village, so we had to wear shorts and shirt, etc. to look modest. The waitresses on the island were in a full veil, etc. I have no idea how they do that in such heat and humidity. Oy...

Ko Pannyi floating village

And finally...the James Bond island!!!!!

James Bond island

Here's Hero Material bringing me a big rock. I mean, I asked him to get me a rock, but I guess he didn't get the note that I prefer the sparkly kind...

Hero Material's not so sparkly rock

We were completely exhausted by the time we came back to the hotel. Besides, another storm hit us hard. So we decided to stay in and try their buffet. It was pricey -- about $30 / person plus 10% service charge and 7% tax, beverage not included. But the food was very delish...!

dinner

And the buffet came with entertainment. We had dancers...

dinner entertainment: dancers

dinner entertainment: dancers

...and an Elvis Impersonator... (It took me a while to realize that he was supposed to be Elvis...)

Thai Elvis

And a man/woman singing thingie...

I spent the next day (Day 4) reading in bed because I felt exhausted. I think I was dehydrated from the tour and all. It doesn't feel that hot because we were on a speed boat, but the Thai climate really sucks all the moisture out of you. I should've had more water. Oy...

But I got to finish Kresley Cole's If You Deceive. Which was excellent.

Day 5 -- Chiang Mai...! With elephants! Tigers! Pandas! Coming soon!

Honeymoon Day 2: Beach, Storm, Food!

After a good night's sleep, Hero Material and I decided to get some grub and check out the pools and the private beach.

This is the view from our breakfast buffet table.

view from buffet table

And our superb breakfast food.

breakfast

The breakfast buffet was very good. It's pricey -- about 600 baht / person (1 USD = 30 baht) plus 10% service charge and 7% tax, but worth it. The resort is completely enclosed, and Hero Material and I didn't want to trek out for cheaper places to eat.

Also restaurants around the pools were not open for breakfast except for a cafe. So if you didn't want the poolside buffet, you were stuck with the cafe.

After we gorged ourselves on omelets, sausages, bacon, pancakes, fruit and so on, we decided to walk around the compound. The landscapes were impeccable and well-maintained.

Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort compound

Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort compound

Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort compound

The private beach was gorgeous. Pristine with beautiful white sand and crystal clear water. It was actually fairly warm. Well, compared to the frigid water of the North Atlantic anyway, which is where we went swimming this past summer. :)

beach

beach

massage on the beach

By the beach was a giant chess board. The below is Hero Material posing victoriously as he check-mated his (imaginary) opponent in just two moves.

victorious Hero Material

Hero Material and I chilled out at the beach for about four hours. He went for a swim; I just dozed off and enjoyed my cold coconut. Afterward we decided to make an appointment for a night-time massage because the resort spa offered 30% off if you come after 9 p.m. We chose Le Stone (the spa's hot stone massage course) for that night at 9:15 p.m. then went to the concierge for two things:

  1. to charter a boat for a tour of Phang Nga Bay for snorkeling and checking out the "James Bond island" (Ko Tapu)
  2. to make a dinner appointment at Acqua, which is supposed to be one of the best Italian restaurants in Patong beach, so we wanted to try it

The concierge told us that the chartered tour was sold out because their private boat was unavailable until April 1, which was when we were scheduled to leave Phuket. The concierge recommended that we try a travel office (on the premises) for a third-party tour. So Hero Material went there to arrange for it, leaving me to deal with the second item.

The reservation was super easy. The concierge also arranged for our transportation to the restaurant.

Alas, the taxi never came.

Around 5:00 p.m. a killer storm hit the area.

storm

Obviously this meant the taxi couldn't come on time. We waited twenty minutes past our appointed time then canceled. Seriously, dude...! It's so hard to go from Japan where everyone's super punctual -- nothing short of a typhoon or massive earthquake can make anybody late for anything -- to Phuket where obviously it's okay to be late. I was looking around to hear the PA announce, "Dear honorable customers, we have no words to describe how sorry we are to cause you this unimaginable and intolerable inconvenience." *sigh*

Since we refused to go hungry on our honeymoon, we decided to eat at the resort and went to its Thai restaurant Wang Warin.

Wang Warin interier

We ordered their recommended Thai course. It was superb, not too spicy and with ample portions. We were totally stuffed.

Wang Warin Thai courseWang Warin Thai course

One of the head honchos came by to ask us about our dining experience. We told him it was excellent. The service was good, and the food was just right. I have no idea how authentic it was -- hey, I'm not Thai and don't know much about its cuisine -- but I liked it. :)

But another disappointment awaited us when we returned to our room. The spa called us and said it couldn't do Le Stone for two because one of the masseuses was unavailable. The receptionist offered us another package, but we were set on Le Stone, so she rescheduled us for the next night at 9:00 p.m.

Though Hero Material and I were unhappy at first, we decided that maybe it was for the best. Since we would be snorkeling and so on the next day, maybe it'd be nice to have an eighty-minute massage at the end of the day. :)

Our third day in Thailand coming soon -- James Bond island and snorkeling...!