Goodbye to Thailand.

For her last week with us we went to the North of Thailand with Grandma Vi. We flew up to a city cmalled Chaing Mei. We had planned on taking the train up and back with her, but it was a 14 hour trip for 12,500 baht (1,000 Baht = $30) for a first class sleeper bed, (two beds with it’s own cabin). Sadly, a sixty-five minute flight with a discount airline was only 17,500 Baht which made it far more worthwhile, but lacking in that cultural experience category. We made up for it by taking Grandma on a whitewater river rafting trip though! It was over two hours drive just to get to the start point, wheer we had lunch before launching down the river. It wasn’t near as hairy as the trip we took in Costa Rica, but still pretty good for Grandma’s first time EVER. (Never mind her general lifelong aversion to water.) We all got good and wet while having a fantastic time. This one didn’t have still camera pictures available, but they videotaped everyone who went rafting that day and sold the DVD for a very reasonable price (just under $10). Funny part is though, that we didn’t get the video that night or before we flew back to Bangkok the next morning. Instead, I went back to this hotel in a few days once we returned to Chaing Mai on our official GAP tour and picked up the DVD. I finally got a chance to watch it the next day and it was great! Fantastic video of the five of us in some tricky sections and going through chutes and over shelves. All were smailing and laughing throughout though, (even Grandma Vi).

The day previous to river rafting we had take a tour to the Thailand Elephant Conservation Center. There are several elephant camps with a 30-60 minute drive people can get to for a show and a ride for pretty cheap. We had read about the work of the Thai Government sponsored Conservation center though, and opted to pay a little more, (and drive a little further) to see it. They also had a hospital there which was sad and heartening to see at the same time. We were pretty sure that this was the place the Reader’s Digest featured Cowtown “Voluntouring” family had gone to. There was an option to stay there and learn about elephant training (in fact, you star in the shows!) and to care for the anuimals for one or three days. All meals and lodging are included for $80/day, which I thought was pretty reasonable considering the experience one would get. If I had known more beforehand I certainly would have arranged it for us all after Grandma left, (can you guys who know her imaging GV shovelling elephant poop, or riding one all by herself around the neck while it pulls logs and paints pictures in the show???). The show included showing different ways elphants pull, move & manipulate huge logs for the forestry industry, painting pictures with a watercolor brush, and doing various physical tricks, (such as walking along a 7m log as a balance beam, turning around on it and walking back!). We really enjoyed being there, except of course for learning about all of the injured elephants who have portions of their feet blown off by land mines from the war.

Once we returned to Bangkok, it was Grandma’s last night for shopping (like we could fit any more in her bags!!) and relaxing before the 26= hour journey home. Luke bag was just a little bit too small, so we packed all our stuff (inc. an abundance of heavy DVD’s) in Luke’s small MEC bag for Grandma to take back as her second piece of luggage. Then we stole Grandma’s MEC larger bag (the same as Claudette’s and mine) and bought her a cheap rolling duffel to get home with. We looked up Cathay Pacific’s luggage weight guidlines on the net and discovered that her two bags were more than double the allowable economy ticket weight. Very nervously we approached the desk and the ever so friendly agent just shuffeled the bags on through without a second glance! One obstacle down one to go… The only other concern we had was her getting the bags througfh customs in Vancouver. Luckily, she claimed $680 of the allowable $750 amount and the “nice little old (but semi spry) grandma” card palyed out well as she waltzed right on through with a few hundred pirated DVD’s and computer software worth about $30,000! (But “Shhhhhhhh”, don’t tell anyone.)

After she left we began our second GAP tour with an immediate upgrade in hotels from a $18/night ultra basic one that we were willing to pay for to a $150/night one with a huge pool, crisp nice sheets and gorgeous decor and furnishings. The internet prices also jumped from about 28 cents/hr to a little over $10.00/hour! Needless to say we checked e-mails and did picture backups down the street at $1/hour. The next day we spent wiuth a great tour guide going through various markets and sights of Bangkok. One of the coolest things was going through a six day a week morning wholesale flower market. The smells and colors were tremendous and beautiful! A few of these pictures are in our on-line gallery. We also toured some well irrigated farms between Bangkok and the Ocean (about a 12km streatch) and then flew to Chaing Mei again the next day. Back in the North we spent the afternoon touring some more Buddist Temples and sights before driving five hours the next day through the town of Chaing Rai and up to the tiown of Chaing Khong on the Meekong River, adjacent to the Laos border. There wasn’t much to see in this sleepy little villiage, but the kids and I found an internet place with blistering fast speeds that we hadn’t experienced for uploading pictures since Australia!

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