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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Travels in Thailand, part 4

One of the activities we'd booked was an elephant ride through bush tracks on a mountain range.  Not only did it include the ride itself but some other cultural things like tapping rubber trees for their latex and making sheet rubber, preparing a Thai curry from scratch with the spices in their original form - roots, leaves etc and a few other things besides.  The day was to finish with an evening cruise and dinner on Chalong Bay in a gorgeous old traditional boat.

Unlike the short elephant ride we did bareback in Vietnam which was a bit painful on the nether regions (certainly for a guy!), this one involved decent seats and was perfectly comfortable.  Boarding the elephant from a ramp was pretty easy too. The ride is smooth until steep downhill sections when you go down in a series of lurches which has you hanging on tightly!

The comfort of a decent seat!

Fantastic view from high in the forest

Trying to pick my pocket for goodies!

We had a short trip in a cart pulled by a water buffalo.  My goodness, they are seriously big and the size of their horns defies belief.  This one was a big old softie but I'd hate to meet one that was ticked off!

A seriously big animal

Rubber tree tapping

Thailand still seems to have huge rubber tree plantations whereas when we were in Malaysia, the planting of Palm Oil forests seemed endemic.  I have no idea of the planting of palm oil vs. rubber in terms of long-term economics but palm oil plantations are quite poor for supporting biodiversity under the canopy.  No magic bullet, that's for sure.

After yet another humid day of activity, it was a perfect end to go for a buffet dinner cruise on Chalong Bay as the sun began to set - sheer magic!
Our boat at the wharf
Cruising past a tropical island

Sunset over the mainland - Big Buddha on the highest hill

Next day, it was another day of great activity in the shape of ATV riding and we were collected from the hotel and taken to a forest area on the east coast where it was all due to take place.  We knew that there would be big mud holes and streams as well as forest trails so a change of clothes was prudently packed.  Like all of the activities we'd been on so far, the Thais deserve every accolade for their timing and organisation, without it being overdone.  On arriving at the ATV base, we were plied with cold drinks to prevent dehydration and given a comprehensive run-down on riding the ATV's.  This was followed by an easy circuit of the base camp to let people get used to them. The ATV's were 400cc 4 strokes so there was the potential to cause some grief if not handled with a bit of respect. Two of the riders looked downright incompetent and seemed to be having trouble co-ordinating the lever-operated throttle and brakes, so they had guides on the pillion to watch over them. Was still wary of going anywhere near them though!

 ATV Central, although only about 10 people on our trip

Forced smile before setting off.

Arty shot of Jennie - she's clearly not impressed!

The terrain  through the forest was fantastic, with steep up and downhill grades, mud holes, streams, fast forest tracks and even in sand and sea through the mangroves!  Both Jennie and I had no problems with the terrain as we'd ridden racing 2 stroke ATV's in NZ's south island a few years ago (Jennie had actually given me a complete riding lesson on one part of that day!) but some of the other riders were finding it a bit tough.  One of the riders kept following me too closely and actually ran into the back on one downhill grade, fortunately with no damage.  I feel a bit guilty now, but solved the problem by deliberately banging open the throttle at the next mud hole, getting wheelspin and dumping several kilos of exceedingly sloppy mud over the driver.  He kept his distance after that!

A bow wave of mud and water

Half way through the day, we looped back to base for a lunch of fresh tropical fruit and more liquids to keep up energy levels and hydration. Jennie's right thumb had nearly seized up due to the throttle adjustment on her ATV so I suggested that she double up with me for the second half of the ride. Some of the mud holes were deep and the tyres got a bit floaty so the extra weight would help although you'll understand that I was exceedingly careful in the phrasing of this to avoid a swift kick where it hurts most.

The second half of the day was equally huge fun although the driving standards of some of the people hadn't shown much improvement.  On one tricky section, we heard a scream from behind followed by a glancing blow and the sound of foliage being rent asunder.  When we stopped and looked round, there was an ATV half-buried in a bush with the rider totally inside it and the guide/instructor completely in the open on the pillion giving a broad grin and a wink.  It was clear that the rider had got badly out of shape and had panicked, so the instructor simply reached forward, grabbed the bars and steered them into the bush.  What a hoot!!

Hmmmm.... can we get through that?

Yours truly among the mangroves and sea

We had yet another fantastic day, we were completely knackered and slept pretty darned well that night.

Final episode to come.......

10 comments:

  1. An elephant ride and an ATV ride, not your cookie-cutter entertainment. How cool is that. You guys look great on the ATV's. Jennie, you rock! (I hope you win that scooter!) and yes, Geoff, you look pretty cool, too! Next time I wanna come with ;-) I like your vacation style...

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  2. Sonja:
    Yep, you might as well stay home if you're going to lounge on a beach all day. Jennie sends her thanks for your comments and is preening herself :-). We've hot some large cases, maybe we can tuck you inside next time!

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  3. Wow, you guys are doing a bit of everything. Love the picture of you and Jennie on the elephant. And why is it I can picture you with an evil grin as you spray your follower with mud on the ATV ride? Good job on getting him to back off though.

    Can't wait for the next installment. I almost need to be eating popcorn while I read the narrative.

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  4. Trobairitz:
    I confess to having a quiet chuckle but felt a bit guilty because when we got back to base, it was clear that he didn't have a change of kit. I'm not exactly heartbroken though :-). Final instalment under preparation!

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  5. What a brilliant day out, fun filled and action packed. It was tremendous that both of you did the ATV riding through what looked like some serious terrain and mud. I can see this is turning into one memorable holiday.

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  6. Gary:
    What Phuket Island lacks in culture, it more than makes up with fun things to do - could have spent double the time there and not got bored.

    Jennie is a closet hooligan. She still reminds me that I chickened out before she did on the racing ATV's in NZ on a steep downhill section in the Remarkables mountain range!

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  7. I love the second image of Jennie on the ATV. She's grinning and having fun. Could also be that she was pointed directly towards you and thinking some evil thoughts. ;)

    Incredible adventures. And don't feel too bad about mudding up that guy. His riding style was not a good one, and put him, you and maybe others in danger. Convincing him to stay back a little was common sense and safety.

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  8. Lori,
    Hahaha. Yep, I think if there hadn't been others in the vicinity, it would have been the perfect time to run me down and collect on the insurance!

    You're probably right and he may well have got the message as he didn't try to drop me with a handy rock at the end of the ride!

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  9. I wonder if he is chalking it up to some old guy that doesn't know how to drive an ATV? ;)

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  10. Lori:
    Hahaha - that would be fine - honour preserved for both parties!

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