An elephant encounter – finally!


cropped-ken-elephant4.jpgIt’s Sunday again. And I’m bored again. So I asked my friend, Nan, who has a large Honda motorbike, if she could take me somewhere to take pictures. Did she ever!

So, despite my abject fear of riding on a motorbike, we headed off west toward the mountains. Since Nan doesn’t speak English, I had no idea where we were going, but it looked promising as we ventured through real Thai living areas away from the farang population.

We were headed for a hillside containing a temple on top. I wish I could tell you the name of this statue and temple but all the signage was in Thai and I have not been able to find anything on the Internet. Here’s a peek:

temple3UPDATE: I learned the name of the temple today – Wat Phrathat Khao Noi, located at a particularly significant historic site. The area is believed to have been the site of the ancient Pua town (also known as Woranakhon), founded by Phraya Phukha and governed by his adopted son, Chao Khunfong. The temple, which sits atop a hill, boasts beautiful vistas of the surrounding area.

The construction of the Phrathat (or stupa) and Wihan (assembly hall) were completed in 1283. Inside the pagoda, it is believed that relics of the Lord Buddha are enshrined, the heart of the community’s faith. The architecture also showcases the great skill of Nan craftsmen, constructed in the Tai Lue style. The assembly hall is covered with two tiers of shingles, in a low, sloped Tia Chae shape. The entrance gate is of the Lan Xang style. The main Buddha image is in the local art style and there are mirrors are attached at the back of the image in accordance with Tai Lue beliefs.

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First, we had to climb these stairs. Interestingly, we were the only people there, except for the monks. The stairs were a killer, but not as bad as Khao Takiap.

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Nan, of course, had to leave the bike behind

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Intricate designs at the base

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And even more intricate within

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Stopping halfway up, a break and a photo

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Nan has been sick, so a rest at the top was welcome

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An altar at the top

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Three views of Hua Hin above

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Kind of like a carnival game, where you toss coins (offerings) at the bowls

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The statue above is about 5-6 stories high. I’m sure there is a long story to go with it.

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This is all stuff around the statue

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The temple

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At this point, I thought we were done. Nope. Nan had more in store.

We rode a short way behind the temple grounds and came upon this.

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And then, the elephants

But after a brief stop, we rode some more, down a dirt road past a sign that said “Elephant Park.” Really?

I’ll be darned if there wasn’t an elephant camp tucked into the forest. Five elephants were standing under trees, all chained. I don’t condone this, and when a lady came out and asked if we wanted to ride the elephants, I gave her a stern “no.” They should not be trained to allow us to ride them. It is a very bad ordeal for the elephants. Thankfully, worldwide disapproval of how elephants and other wild animals are treated in captivity has risen to a high level.

Still, as at least my daughter knows, I have a strong affinity for elephants – even though I’ve never actually met one. In fact, I have a small collection of elephant statues, including my first, a teak carving bought in Thailand 20 years ago, as well as a very small metal one my daughter gave me that I travel with. I was very excited.

I asked if I could take pictures and the malmuts there, once they realized I didn’t want a ride, were more than happy to assist. I gave my camera to one and a second invited me over to what looked like a young female to have my picture taken. What happened next was amazing.

I was somewhat fearful. These are huge animals. A swing of a trunk could kill me. One of the male elephants even bellowed at me when I was taking his picture. But I had to hold it together – there were strangers watching.

The elephant was very tame, smelling me from head to toe and even showing me the inside of its truck at one point. When the photos were finished, I lingered to stroke her and look into her eyes, talking to her. She looked at me with big brown eyes as if she understood my soft tones as one of a friend. It was truly a spiritual experience I will never forget. And I even have pictures!

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What a GREAT Sunday! Oh, the malmuts wanted me to buy a “souvenir” but the prices for a simple cord with a vial of elephant hair was far too much. I offered half and started to walk away. I bought it for half and gave a small amount extra as a show of good faith. The least I could do – we were their only customers on a Sunday.

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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