If you had just one day in Thailand, I would tell you that you absolutely must make a trip to the Kwai River and visit the Elephant Camp next to the river. From start to finish the day was absolutely perfect. On our drive back to our hotel at the end of the day, I couldn’t sleep because I was on such a high of endorphins.
Damnern Saduak Floating Market
We took a bus ride early in the morning to the Floating Market. I was thrilled to see this talked about shopping experience. It did not disappoint! We took a boat through the floating market before being dropped off to shop ourselves. When we walked off the boat, we were asked if we wanted to hold a Lemur? Um.. OF COURSE! I was the first person to hold him while my husband was the first to hold the python. After our animal encounter, we walked around the market, shopping for souvenirs. It was amazing the food that was being cooked in canoes or the full shops that had been set up. Definitely an experience you have to see for yourself.
After the Floating Market, we visited the War Cemetery where we learned about the history of Asian labors who worked on the Death Railway under the Japanese army to construct a portion of the Burma-Thailand railway. The cemetery was very touching and historical. We took a drive from the cemetery to a restaurant along the railway across the water. We even ventured across the railway after lunch.
The Elephant Camp was one of the most amazing moments of my life. If I am being completely honest I was excited for our Thailand trip for two reasons: to see the elephants and beaches. I had been dying for this day, this moment, this experience. I even bought an elephant shirt in preparation on Khao San Road, the night before. When our bus pulled up, I saw elephants walking around, some with people riding on them, some just walking around. My heart started racing. At this point, we had already seen a lot of animals but this was the ultimate animal experience. **We interrupt this usual programming from your sponsor – Mrs. Planks and Planes. I thought long and hard as well as lots of research into visiting the camp. In the end, I felt fine visiting this camp as there was a reason we drove 3 hours to nature where the elephants can roam free. So please don’t let me comments saying how horrible it is for these animals. I witnessed first hand how they are treated at this particular camp and left with no guilt. Now back to your regular post** When we arrived we were able to purchase bananas for the elephants as they walked us through the forest and nearby water. Few notes to make about riding on an elephant:
1) It was higher up than I thought it would be, so the first minutes is just adjusting sitting on such a large animal
2) It was much rougher in terms of my back than expected
3) It required a significant amount of core action to ride the elephant where the original rider sat
As we walked through a forest, feeling each and every step the animal took, our elephant and his rider collected leaves and flowers to make me a flower crown. Every girl on an elephant got one made for her. I wore that thing all day. I LOVED it. Not many can say an elephant collected flowers to make you a paper crown! We got to walk through the water with the elephant before they allowed us to take turns riding on the front of the elephant as our “driver” hopped off to take pictures. The husband went first and I kept asking why he was grabbing the seat behind him. When it was my turn to “drive” my question was answered. It is not easy at all! It required strength and focus to stay up as the movement of the animal was jostling. The ride was exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. We finished our almost 30 minute ride with a show from the baby elephants. They did tricks like throw darts, hula hoop and dance. I was on cloud nine when we got a chance to take a picture with the elephants and one kissed me on the cheek!
Bamboo Rafting down River Kwai
When we were asked to put on life jackets, even if we knew how to swim, I started to get a little nervous. There are a lot of laws or rules that we have in the US that were lacking in Thailand. Therefore, I felt it they were making us put life jackets on, it might be scary. The rafting started out mild and even allowed us to jump off the raft at one point. The husband and I both jumped off and floated down the river along side the raft. I was so happy just cruising down the Kwai River, in my flower crown the elephant made me, laughing and joking with our new friends. However, a mile down the river, we were told we had to get back on due to rocks and rough waters. The light bulb in my head went off as to why we need a life jacket. After the river rafting, we drove back to the elephant camp for some fresh pineapple and a change of clothes before heading 3 hours back to Bangkok. It did not matter to me because I just had one of the best days of my life.