I was up bright and early this morning. I had booked an excursion to an elephant sanctuary about an hour and a half outside of Chiang Mai. While the idea of riding an elephant sounds extraordinary, I’ve become aware since being here that many of the tours who offer this are unethical. I was careful to choose an excursion that promoted preservation rather than exploiting these majestic creatures. One by one all nine of us were picked up and in the open red truck we loaded. The drive itself was an adventure. At one point we all grasped tightly to the overhead bars as we bounced up and down and to and fro along the dusty country roads..on we went ..into the wild.

The truck stopped and we all took a second to get our bearings after a drive like that. Over the tiny wooden bridge we crossed, then what seemed like a collective gasp, we stood in amazement as three elephants fed along the greenery ahead.

Throughout all three countries the “elephant” was revered for various reasons. Most notably in Thailand as the strongest beasts of burden to lead kings into battle with the Burmese. These intelligent creatures are also known to represent good fortune. To see one finally in person in their natural habitat was one of the most extrordinary experiences. Massive grey statures with rough, creased skin and eyelashes to make any woman envious. We spent the afternoon with these magnificent creatures..walking with them down the river, feeding them bananas, then taking a mud bath-scrubbing their rough skin with the clay.

We followed the elephants into a water hole to rinse ourselves. The baby elephant plunged in as any child would. Their personalities and character evident in their loyal interaction with each other as well as with our guide who the baby considered to be part of the herd. When our guide collapsed to the ground baby wrapped his trunk around his arm and pulled him back to our straw hut.

I sprawled my body against the hot stone watching these beautiful creatures meander around me..as precarious as their steps may be, they never lost their balance.

This was significant to me. The importance of fostering wisdom, staying loyal to my herd and always maintain balance. There’s a gift everything I see and touch along this journey.

After scrubbing the clay off my body I checked off the next ‘must do and see’ in Chiang Mai and hit up the Sunday market. Streets of vendors selling everything from jewellery to food to mango tree trays. The streets slowly flooded and the music grew. But as soon as the clock struck 6 we all stood still with respective attention to Thai national anthem which played daily. Respect. It’s everywhere in this culture. Slight bows with hands together as in prayer to greet, taking your shoes off before entering any establishment, polite etiquette.   Throughout  this trip these simple values are honoured all around me.

The night finishes with a nice dinner with my fellow foodie blogger friend and brotha from anotha motha!

He suggests we eat at Dash and I was not disappointed. I ordered Plah Rat Phink  (rest assured it was not rat..bet I made you nervous after that tarantula huh?). It was fried sea bass with tamarind sauce and it was lovely.

An earlier night tonight ..tomorrow is the big day…..one more sleep until I eat at Gaggan’s!!