view towards the national park
sweet market karaoke
the cows come to the pool
The truth is the bloom was off the rose after all the children left. The weekend came to a close and it was like the pied piper had danced through town and slipped them all away. We managed well for a while with strict school mornings and afternoons at the beach – Chris kiting and I plying the kids with popsicles and shell hunting games. We solanged around in Ole Yeller our honey bee hitting markets and driving down small roads through the towns. There were new people at the hotel – other kiters and travellers – but I have been feeling ready for a change – a little more excitement and some new city adventures. Dare I say I am growing tired of lazing about pool and beachside (omg! Sorry to all suffering through wintergeddon). We had paid for an extra week when we were in full honeymoon phase and Anderson was totally into kiting – and suddenly we found ourselves with a kid who had no desire to kite or even go into the water (jellyfish fear – fair enough he had gotten stung) and not much other entertainment. Finally we broke down and booked a driver to take us to an elephant sanctuary an hour inland. It was not the highest rated in Thailand but the elephants were totally in the wild and not handled by any people – no chains – no feeding them – no bathing them – just riding in the open back of a truck on slidey seats hoping to catch a glimpse. We had read that the best time to visit the park was between 4 and 6 as that is when it starts to cool and there is a better chance of the elephants being up and about. Our taxi picked us up at 3 and off we zoomed with Ah, our driver, in a big air conditioned 8 seater van. We had debated riding in Ole Yeller but it’s not the most comfortable ride – and it’s probably the least safest ride (no helmets, no walls, no seatbelts) and this was going to be an hour long drive. We made the absolute right decision – it was along a full highway – oh there were still solanges about but the traffic was intense – particularly if you were riding slowly. Plus it took over an hour and that was going markedly faster than Ole Yeller was ever going to go. One of my favourite sights was an older woman sitting side saddle on a scooter clutching an enormous laundry basket. We whizzed past huge fruit stands with glorious piles of mangoes, pineapples and watermelons and small stands teeming with only dragon fruit or durian. Trucks whipped by us stacked with perfect pineapples. We flew by towns and shanties, shrimp farms and vegetable farms, cows and chickens. In the distance – mountains rose up from the coastline bluey graphite each poking further above the other but helmed in by the water. As we wove further inland the houses started to ride up on stilts with doors ajar occasionally allowing a peak at a prone figure listless on a flat mattress under the tin roof. Our sweet driver had a lead foot that he rocked on and off the accelerator giving me the feeling of being pulled chest forward and then pushed forehead back. It was definitely not the most relaxing ride. It’s amazing how dusty and dry it seems peaking into roadside houses and huts with yards littered with debris, large pottery rain vessels, the occasional chicken and usually a small alter with carnations and pop bottles all covered in red dust. Then right around the corner the jungle rises up with the most lush and varied greens you have ever laid your eyes on.
We start up a mountain and shortly arrive at a ranger/visitor station the parking lot ringed with other taxis. After paying our entrance fee and cajoling the kids into peeing we walk over to a big gate and climb into our own truck – well not into it more onto it – on a narrow bench and we are off driving up a dusty red road looking for elephants. For some reason we are all feeling pretty confident that we will see the elephants. But as we drive up the pocked and gravelly road – vivid memories of Costa Rican roads – past pretty plain Jane forest (at least compared to our lush jungle drive up the mountain) we start to have a bad feeling – Anderson’s face turns towards me with a mix of accusation and sadness – “What if we don’t see ANY elephants?”. Now please understand we have fully prefaced this entire trip with the possibility that we wouldn’t see any elephants. So even though I’m wanting to say “Well then it will just be like every other day where we do not SEE any elephants and you seem to manage fine then.” I don’t and instead we remain positive and optimistically lie that there will BE elephants. I’m hoping the drive is long enough for them to somehow lose interest. But low and behold we stop at a low clearing and there in the distance are elephants!!! Our guide, Fun, points to some teensy grey smudges loitering around some bright white spots – elephants and egrets. And yes I know I have bad eyesight but these GIANT gentle beasts are barely visible. Still we make a big deal out of it – pulling out the binoculars (which of course creates immediate fights for who gets them and how long the other has had them). We milk this station for as long as we can before Fun moves us back onto the truck and we resume driving the bumpy road. Even thought this is a huge sanctuary there is still really only one road that everyone drives on so we are more like a caravan of open backed trucks dusting up the road. Chris is at least three failed charades in – losers include – Is the water from rain or from a spring in the ground? – What do tigers eat? And this one included a mistaken bunny for a fox mime (spoiler! bunny ears are both of your entire hands up on your head and foxes are just two fingers held up). And finally something about the trees but at this point I was just trying to keep from crying. Suddenly we come upon a few stopped trucks with tourists pointing excitedly and we see through the trees a small family – a herd with three moms and two babies and a daddy trailing in the distance. Now this is good and the kids are excited because they can actually see these elephants. And phew I am so glad we got to see them close up! We carry on up to a third viewpoint that is entirely devoid of elephants but filled with little biting ants – joy! Kids are dropping like flies screaming in agony – truthfully the ants are annoying but its not that bad. Here we enlist Fun to take a family picture. We don’t have many pics of all four of us – mainly because I take a lot of pics and also we just don’t take the best selfies. But my dad had been hounding me and we had tried some selfies the night before that were dreadful so we asked our guide, Fun, to take some family shots – with the sun setting and the mountain behind it should have been a sure thing. But never underestimate the Malin/Lewis magic. The magic of never having all of our eyes open. The magic of posing awkwardly. The magic of asking only people who are preternaturally disposed to take full body shots leaving the faces blurred and unrecognizable. We come across an other family of elephants even closer to the road side. Then it’s really magic – a big win for everyone. We leave happy and sleepy. The next day is a challenge – we are all a bit rangy to get on out. We make it through with a long solange ride and a slurpee. There are 7/11 s all over Thailand but none of them have slurpees which is INSANE on account of the heat! Next up is Bangkok. I am excited to have a packed schedule with excursions daily. I am nervous because I booked a super cheap room – it is central and only 80 meters from the sky train, it has a pool and three beds – two singles and a king and it has a fridge. But we just met an incredible couple from Canada who regaled us with a story about sand fleas in their Bangkok hotel. So time will tell. Tomorrow we say goodbye to this sleepy village with the widest and longest soft tan sand beach, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets with all the blues, lavenders, peaches and yellows – the incredibly soft air that blows constantly but only noticeably on the shore. The sand dollars that make their way across the beach nestled among the unicorn horn shells. Goodbye to the amazing morning glory dumplings and all the coconut pancakes that have kept Sabine alive.
I am holding out hope to return one day and stay at one of the villas on the beach with friends and family – this little town is perfect.