Chiang Mai 2022 || Elephants!

I want to fill my life with slow sunny days, trips to the market for good food, and anything that makes me feel alive. I want long walks. I want to lie down in a nice bed at night. I want to feel every single thing that’s happening around me. I want to feel the tender kind of happiness, the one where I allow myself to be soft because I’m kindest to myself.

I don’t think I’ve felt alive for a long time. Most days, it feels like I’m simply coasting through life and letting the current flow me to wherever it’s bound to take me. And for a while now, it seems that the water’s been still and I’ve been stuck. Aimless and drowning quietly.

Whenever I travel to somewhere that’s nature-themed or the outdoors. I always tend to wonder whether I’m just taking from them. I know it sounds weird. And it made so much more sense in my head. I’m not a good, kind, nice person – I hold a lot of anger and resentment and I’m also quite petty. I don’t have a lot of good thoughts, and it’s already taking a lot of my capacity just to make sure I never act on the ones that aren’t kind or productive. But most times, when I travel to somewhere remote (like Siquijor), or to a nature park (like the Elephant Retirement Park) – I tend to wonder whether I’ve just been taking from them without giving anything in return.

Being in Siquijor for more than a week, disconnected from the world, gave me a semblance of short-lived peace. It gave me long restful nights. It gave me a reason to come back home when I realized that the voices in my head are all mine. And they’re not too bad. Maybe that’s what being stuck in a jungle with barely any mobile data or internet will do to you. I took something from that place, and while I did pay my dues with money, I wonder if the act of taking that peace home and filling my cup meant taking the same amount from someone else’s cup. Ugh it’s hard to put into words.

I checked out of The Inside House today to move to K Maison Lanna Boutique Hotel. I was lowkey sad to be moving out of this nice fancy hotel. But the staff here has been so much friendlier and it seems more intimate than being at TIH, if that even makes any sense. Pailin and Tul from reception are both super chatty. I took my time eating and stuffing myself with everything I can from today’s breakfast before I checked out. Since my pickup for the Elephant Retirement Park was scheduled for noon, I left TIH a few minutes past 11 AM. By 11:30, I got myself to K Maison where Pailin checked me in immediately. Initially, I thought I’d have to leave my luggage and just check in once I got back from the elephant park. But I guess I got lucky!

Honestly, this room is beautiful and would have been such a great first room in Chiang Mai. But I felt a bit sad about checking in here since it also kind of felt like a downgrade from my previous room. Haha. Especially because the snacks in the bar now have a price tag lol. I checked out the room and went back downstairs to wait by the lobby for the pickup. Pailin stopped eating her lunch (honestly, I was so embarrassed at the fact that she even stopped eating to wait with me) and chatted with me about my plans in Chiang Mai. Because of Loi Krathong/Yee Peng, she did say that the hotel’s fully booked until the next week and she foresees that the entire week would be so hectic for the city. This was good because this is the first time since 2019 that they’ll be holding an event like this again. When I told her that I’ll be doing a sunrise hike in a few days, she took note of it and told me they’ll make sure someone was in the lobby to wait with me and to prep some packed breakfast for me. They were very nice about it and I changed my mind about being in a smaller hotel all of a sudden. My favorite thing about K Maison is how intimate it seems. While TIH had premium services and a premium experience, you can also tell that the staff tries not to be intrusive and that you’ll seldom feel them while you’re there. Which is a nice feeling as an introvert. But there’s also charm when you’re on a first-name basis with the staff and they recognize you when you go in and out of the hotel. They’re also quite accommodating too.

I was probably the third stop by the ERP staff by the time they picked me up. The rest of the people in the van were all Europeans (from Italy and Spain) who barely spoke English (literally talked to the guide using google translate). So it was such a quiet trip for me while they all chatted with each other. I was the only solo traveler in this batch, and I decided to just sleep throughout the long drive to the park. Getting there was relatively uneventful. There were 5 baby elephants (ranging from 5-10 years old). They were HUGE, but apparently, elephants are babies until they have fully grown into an adult at 25. They prepared lunch (I barely ate because I was still full) before we went and picked bananas and chopped bamboo to feed the elephants.

If you’ve ever been to Nara Park during the mating season where the deers are crazy aggressive, this is how aggressive the elephants were in trying to get food. They’re very smart so they recognize the bags used to carry their food and would place their trunks inside your bag if you are too slow. But they were smart enough to know that once you handed the bag to the guide, that meant that the bag was empty and they move on to other tourists.

I think the sad part would be the fact that this park seems to be one of the underfunded ones and I’m guessing that without the money from tours the past two years, the park struggled more. It kinda felt like for me, it was my reality for one day. But for the elephants and the people who manage the park, it’s their everyday life. We fed the elephants, gave them a mud bath, and played with them in the water. I wasn’t really sure if the elephants enjoyed it as much as I did though. I hope they did.

When I got back, I asked Tul if he can help me book a reservation at Cuisine De Garden Chiang Mai because they needed a bank deposit to confirm a reservation. I paid Tul and he transferred the money for me via Line and got me my reservation! He also pointed me to the direction of Warorot Market (walking distance – about 20 minutes from the hotel) so I can scour the market for good finds. Only to realize that this market is the same one that I went to during the bike tour! It was great because I already know which ones I wanted to try and eat again, and I went and bought so much food (and fruits, as usual). I nabbed some daifukus while I’m at it because there were so many flavors and I haven’t tried them all yet. But since I’m a bit too full with all the food, I have 3 pcs left in the fridge for another day.

Sometimes, it feels like this trip is too long but it also feels like time is passing by too quickly. I’m confused about whether I like that idea or not. I tried rebooking my flight on Saturday to an earlier time because I feel like maybe I’ve run out of things to do in Chiang Mai now that I’ve seen the elephants but the rebooking fee is now at 4000 baht. No thank you! I will once again take that noon flight and hope for the best. Hope I don’t end up regretting it because being stuck in an airport alone just makes me feel lonely. I like going on trips, but it’s always spending too much time at the airport that gives me all the feels. It’s such a transitionary place, kind of like a crossroads at times. Some people are leaving their lives forever, some are embarking on an adventure, and sometimes, it’s one of those places you never get around to visiting again. It feels like at every airport, I leave something behind for something else without knowing whether what I’m gaining is worth what I lost. And hanging out in airports with just my thoughts for company kind of makes me so much more introspective than usual.

But then again, today feels like one of those rare moments in life where you think that if one day, life falls apart, I’m just glad I had this moment. I had spent a day doing something totally new and feeling like life has a purpose, no matter how miniscule. It’s one of those days I hope I get to look fondly back when everyday life starts being dreary again, like some ray of sunshine to brighten up the day.

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