<<<As I type this, I’m sitting in the middle of the jungle at sunset in Phuket on the little porch of my guesthouse while a rain shower falls gently around me, bugs sing in the distance, and a frog croaks occasionally to let me know he is there.>>>
We’ve just finished our second day volunteering at the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, and it’s been a magical experience so far. Honestly, I haven’t really thought much about elephants before, but this visit is making me realize that I’m probably going to need to get a pet elephant. Lucy would probably enjoy a friend.
In all seriousness, I’ve been moved by the quiet grace of these majestic creatures as I’ve had the chance to interact with, and observe them, over the past two days. But more about the elephants the next post.
After leaving our hotel in Kata Beach, Michelle and I took a taxi to Central Festival, a mall.
It’s kind of like eating American fast food when you go to some new, exotic locale.
But, but, but Michelle needed to get a new battery for her camera, since it had been removed by Chinese security back in Hangzhou. The mall boasted hundreds of electronic stores (yes, hundreds) so we were hopeful we would find a replacement. We were dropped off at one entrance, and the mall did not look like much, even though it had a Starbucks and a McDonalds parallel from each other in the entrance. We lugged our suitcases up the stairs, where the security guard told us we could actually check in our luggage while we shopped. It turned out that this mall is a huge tourist magnet – not really sure why. We checked our bags in, and enjoyed lunch and some light shopping for a few hours. Michelle found her battery, and I tried not to go too crazy by the grocery store that had a rather good cheese selection (none of which I bought, but it was just the sheer availability that thrilled me). We loaded up on snacks, had a drink at Starbucks, and headed to the guesthouse.
|This is me, trying to figure out what this strange contraption hanging from the walls in the mall is.|
|Also, please note how rather fluffy my hair is.|
At this point, it was raining. Hard. And dark.
We were guided to a taxi, where I spent five minute trying to show him where we were going on Google Maps. After much swiping in and out, he seemed to think he knew where we were going. So, we piled in, and set off for Pa Klok.
It was about a forty-minute drive down a fast two-lane road. When we got to the small town, we seemed to have passed our guesthouse, and so we turned around, and tried again. Michelle spotted the sign, and he pulled in in a very dark space in front a very dark building. A sign hung by the road that declared: “Air. TV. Wifi. Furniture.”
Furniture. Well, that was a good sign. (No pun intended…)
It was still pouring rain, and the building was pitch black. The only sign of life came from the sign, and even that seemed somewhat hesitant. So, I hastily pulled up the elephant sanctuary website, and gave the driver a number to call.
So, we tried a number for the guesthouse found on Google maps.
We were about to call the English number listed for the elephant sanctuary, when the driver’s phone rang – it was someone from the sanctuary, who said they would come very soon – one minute. Or ten minutes.
After waiting about ten minutes, someone knocked on the driver’s door.
A roly-poly boy of about ten stood there in the rain, and told the driver that the Paklok House was full, and that we couldn’t stay there.
We were confused, to say the least.
Was this boy official?
Did he really know things?
He left, and we waited some more. The driver called the man again, who said he was very close.
After about five more minutes, he finally arrived just as I was just starting to look up other hotels nearby. A smiling, very wet man on a scooter pulled up beside us, and a young woman appeared from no where. They both beckoned us towards a dark patch of trees and more darkness – the entrance to the guesthouse. We hurried down the dark driveway, and the taxi driver backed up so that we could grab our luggage – all was well.
|Here is the entrance by day. Not quite as imposing as the pitch black rainy night.|
“Why did you come so late?” The young woman asked (it was only eight o’clock).
After much giggling on the part of our hosts, we were shown to our rooms – very basic, but functional guestrooms, and given the grand tour by Si and Nui, and Nui’s five-year old son. Both work at the elephant sanctuary, and live at the guesthouse, too. The guesthouse has been completely rented out by the sanctuary to accomodate some of their staff, and the volunteer groups. We were told that there was a huge group this week - four people total. We also realized very quickly that Si and Nui were always laughing and teasing.
There wasn’t much to do besides go to bed after this point – the only thing that the guesthouse actually had from the sign was furniture – no TV, air con, or wifi. We both headed to bed to read, and dream of meeting elephants the next day.