30 March 2013

Arrival Time. Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I arrived in Thailand a little nervous. For one, this is the first time I have traveled alone. I mean completely alone. I wasn't meeting anyone here and I had planned out all of my tours and where I would stay on my own. 

Yes . . . I moved to Singapore on my own. But I had a job waiting for me and things were sort of planned out for me . . . This trip--my Spring Break in Thailand--was completely based on the elephants. And they couldn't help with the planning at all.

I first heard about the opportunity to live with the elephants when my friend from school, Vanessa, was staying with me while she was waiting for her apartment to be finished up. It feels like this was ages ago, but really it was around the first week of September 2012. (A quick 7 months ago!! What??!) She kind of mentioned in passing how much she loved elephants and that when she lived with them . . . I stopped her right there. You lived with them? Where, when, how can I have this experience? She mentioned the place and I started doing research. 

And that's how my Spring Break in Thailand began . . . 

A few months later--let's say November--my friend Stacey messaged me telling me about her friend from Arizona who goes to Thailand every year to live with the elephants. Turns out she goes to the place where I made my reservation. So I contacted her to find out about the elephants (their safety, how they were being cared for) and where I should stay. 

She mentioned Suan Doi House. She said that it was homey and charming. That'll work. 

What I didn't realize was that by "homey and charming", what she meant was that I would never see another person ever--except for the concierge--during my entire stay. Nor did she mention how incredibly crafty this joint was . . . I mean everything in the entire place had some sort of handmade embellishment. 

When the taxi picked me up at the airport, I thought he would be taking me out into the country somewhere. Nope. It was a short 15 minute drive from the airport. But you would never know that. It's down an alley-type street off of a very busy thoroughfare. But you would never know that either. 

I walked through the gates and it was like going into the rose garden in Narnia or something. Plants and garden spaces were everywhere: it was incredibly lush. Everything was open. Birds singing, frogs and lizards chirping, and cats lazing about--not just real ones, but white ceramic ones (hundreds of them). 

And color. There was color everywhere! Elephant statues with blankets on them. Banners hanging from trellised ceilings. Flower garlands. Painted wooden signs. Thousands of beaded drapes, separating seemingly nothing in open-air walkways. Brightly colored clay butterflies on even brighter, neon walls. 

It was truly incredible. I walked around after arriving for about an hour just photographing crafty things. 

Look at my bedroom. It's like one big giant be-bobbled doily. Everything was so lovely and pleasant to be around. I felt like I was in my grandmother's bedroom (my grandmother's bedroom if she hadn't been sharing it with my grandfather). Parlor lights (sconces), each with their own wall switch, hanging above or beside every piece of furniture in the room. And for a tiny little room, it held a ton of furniture: one tall dresser, 2 plaid-cushioned chairs, 1 large wardrobe, a refrigerator (just about full size), a bar, a vanity desk (with a gorgeous, oddly shaped old mirror attached), and a large king-sized bed. Of course each piece of furniture had a pink-infused tapestry laying across it. The refrigerator was hot pink (unfortunately, the lighting won't cooperate for me to take a picture). I really want to ask them if I can take the refrigerator home, but that might be overdoing it just a bit.

There isn't a wall that is untouched in the place. This particular wall holds a bunch of old historical photographs. I loved the green color of the wall itself. It was such a great color to bounce off all of the darker green colors found in the gardens and plants, just opposite of this wall.

Tapestries hanging from the ceiling above the stairs. A crocheted lamp cover with a much-too-large lightbulb hanging out from below. More beaded curtains hanging just beyond the lamp. A pink and yellow pillow--with short, squatty tassels attached to each corner--sitting on the child seat of a bike parked in the lounge area. Plastic woven rugs at every doorway, in every open floor area.

The library. Oh my goodness, the library!! While I was waiting for a ride to The Oasis (you'll see, below), I found some stairs leading up. I couldn't tell where they led too, so of course I became curious and started up. A sign about halfway said to remove shoes. So I did and kept creeping upwards. About four steps from the top, it became clear where I was going. The most magical place in the world. An open air library, with a large glass table in the center of it and a handmade rose chandelier hanging over it with two crocheted lamps on either side of it. Honestly, I couldn't spend too much time in this room if I tried. I want to live here. The tapestries, the floor pillows, everything was perfect. Glorious. I keep trying to justify staying home just so I could hang out in this room all day. Maybe on Saturday, my last afternoon here . . . Absolutely enchanting.

Here's one of the many, many real cats. She was laying on a table down below the library. I shot this image as I was leaving. I kept saying things to her, and she would answer everything I said with a muffled meow under her breath. She never even opened her eyes once. 

The Oasis. Because I had the whole afternoon free, I decided to spend time at one of the local spas. And let me tell you, the absolute best way to kick off Spring Break? A four-hour stint at a spa. Yep. It was a Good Friday, indeed.

Here's what I chose off of their menu of options: Paradise of Oasis. "This is your one-way ticket to paradise. Your stress evaporates when exposed to a Thai Herbal Steam treatment then a Body Scrub expels the toxins of modern life, using the products of your choice. Next, a Thai Herbal Clay Body Wrap draws out years of accumulated pollutants and contaminant. Then an Aromatherapy Hot Oil Massage erases residual tension … and finally you enjoy a refreshing, beautifying Thai Facial. After four-hours of pampering, you emerge like a butterfly from its cocoon – transformed!"

Needless to say, the whole experience was completely transformative. I had my own personal steam room, and my own personal shower and toilet--both completely out in the open air. (I said transformative . . . ) If you've never taken a shower outside, I highly suggest this. It's very "freeing", to say the least. 

The lady who was providing all of my treatments was incredibly nice and very tiny. She was hilarious! I was trying to be modest and stay covered, and she was just kind of like whatever. She kept saying, "Excuse me, how are you doing?" At one point during my massage, she actually jumped on top of the table and basically sat on top of me. Hey, whatever works!

It was such a lovely place. My own little space. I made her take a picture of me with cucumber all over my face . . . 

They even provided me with a light lunch: a vegetarian sandwich and coconut water. The sandwich had portobello mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, olives, and cheese on it. There may have been a basil spread on it as well. It was really good, and the perfect amount of food.

I got back to the hotel around 7pm. Around 8:30pm, I went into their restaurant for a quick bite to eat before going to bed. The cats made their way to my table. The same cat I saw earlier in the day snuggled up next to me while I ate. She was so sweet. Another cat rubbed against my foot during my entire dinner.

I had a Chang beer, pork wontons, and noodles . . .

And rice dumplings in a ginger sauce for dessert. Everything was fabulous.

Again, I never saw one person outside of the concierge the entire time I was there. But there are at least 40 rooms here. So someone must be somewhere, right? 

Magic, I tell you . . . Thai magic!!

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