- I walked the two kilometers to the beach. I was disappointed in "the beach." It wasn't really any kind of beach you could walk on (and the tide was high). But, I enjoyed my walk down a local Thai road, and the little peeks into daily life that I got to see - the dog laying in the middle of the road, as one does, the old men riding around topless on their scooters, as one does), the little convenience stores, breakfast stands, shrines, and colorful homes.
|Doesn't this look like a Car Rapide?|
- Went to 7-Eleven for iced coffees and Thai teas.
- I sampled street food being sold outside the 7-Eleven - fried dough balls and barbecue meat of some kind. (I finally got the fouru-fouru-ni's I craved allllllllll Christmas break).
- We were back to the elephant sanctuary by 9:00 - breakfast, rice & pellet balls, more shoveling sand, more cleaning up the pens, lunch (ah-mha-zing).
|View from the back of the truck. Photo credit: Tate|
|Such a lovely drive each day. Photo credit: Tate|
|Conquering our last pile of sand. Photo credit: Tate|
- After lunch, while we waited to be given a job, we played Nertz again (Tate won, again, but whatever). Lynn tried to teach us how to play Yuker, but it was complicated, and they called us over to feed the elephants their afternoon rice & pellet balls before we got the hang of it.
- Our last job was planting grass along the stream bed and river with the workers at the sanctuary, including most of the mahouts. The men created little shelves for the grass, and then we placed thousands - almost 20,000, to be exact - stalks of grass on the little shelves and covered them with the dirt.
|Photo credit: Tate|
|Photo credit: Tate|
|Photo credit: Tate|
|Photo Credit: Nong|
After a hard day's work, Si and Niu took us to a waterfall at a Gibbon sanctuary, in the national park next door to the animal sanctuary. None of us brought our suits with us to the waterfall (except for Lynn), so we jumped in the pool in our dirty work clothes - which was one way to clean them up.
|Photo credit: Tate|
|Some local kids joined in the photo. Photo credit: Tate|
We had dinner at the same local restaurant, and talked late together about Myer's Brigg's personality traits (Michelle's favorite topic - I was much more interested in which fictional character matched up with our personality) while enjoying the free wifi and connection to the outside world. We became Facebook friends with each other and shared pictures of the week so far.
- The last day for Michelle and I - so bittersweet. No really - so bittersweet. The elephants are wonderful, and the new human friends we made even more wonderful. You know me - I'm not sentimental, so they had to be pretty special for all this gushing. Geez. Get it together, Bowers.
|Photo Credit: Si (the one hamming it up in the middle)|
- Street food and iced coffees again for breakfast.
- Made rice and pellet balls again (are you sensing a theme?).
- We all wore our Phuket Elephant Sanctuary shirts today, which meant the Day Trippers paid attention to us - one young woman asked us a lot of questions about the elephants, and we all answered them like we were the experts. Obviously, we were official as we sat around mashing bananas into pellets!
|Blessed with an awesome volunteer group.|
- We had a good chat with Louise, the director of the sanctuary, about her vision and her story of working with elephants. She shared about their hope to help educate the local people, and the difficulties of doing something so counter-cultural. They have to be very careful of their own safety, and are quite conscious of how the local elephant camps - of which there are more than twenty on the island, with around 240 elephants total - see them as a threat. They are hoping to gradually change the mindset towards the elephant entertainment industry on the island, but it's a careful and slow process.
- She also shared that Leonardo DiCaprio had just recently visited the sanctuary.
- I was extremely disappointed that I missed my chance to meet Leonardo DiCaprio.*
|My heart will go on and on.|
- Louise told us that a private group was coming in this afternoon - and that they often host, for a premium, private parties who want a chance to observe the elephants without the other
touristsday trippers around.
- Before lunch, we cut fruit up for the first time - Michelle and Lynn cut watermelons and pineapples for days, Tate and I scrubbed pinapples and cut up payayas.
- Ate another ah-mah-zing lunch. Okay, I'll stop raving about the lunches, mostly because it was the last lunch (for Michelle and I). It was pouring rain during lunch - a lovely, warm, tropical rain - the kind of warm, tropical rain I used to run around in when I was a
childadult living in Mali and Senegal.
- After lunch, we cleaned up the elephant pens, and loaded them up with fresh pineapple tops.
- We headed back to the central pavilion, and noticed that the private group was there. We sat at the other end, and chatted quietly while Louise and Russell went over their information about the sanctuary. We watched the group - about fifteen people or so, head over to another part of the land to watch the elephants. I wondered how rich you had to be to arrange a private tour. I also wondered "How funny it would be if they were famous." We also took a lot of selfies. And by we, I mostly mean Si.
Before leaving, we wanted a team photo with one of the elephants, and we were able to take a few shots with Gaew Ta (the blind elephant). Sadly, we weren't able to say a final goodbye to the other three, as they were off hanging out with the private fancy-pants rich tourists.
Because it was Michelle and my last night, Si, Nui, and Nong took us to a different local restaurant up the road. We enjoyed a scrumptious last meal together, and then it was time for Michelle and I to leave *insert sobbing emoji here!* - we were going to a hotel for our last day in Phuket just to get a little beach and vacay time before heading back to reality *insert another sobbing emoji here.*
We arrived at our very swanky hotel - which is not too shabby for a somewhat last minute booking, and enjoyed the air-conditioning, furniture, and wifi.
As I was scrolling through Facebook, a post from the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary caught my eye, and I nearly - I mean this quite literally - fell out of my seat. I think Michelle probably thought someone had died.
The fancy-pant super-duper-rich tourists touring the sanctuary?
Like, the band, Coldplay - was touring the Elephant Sanctuary.
I'm not a huge Coldplay fan, and I wouldn't have recognized them if I met them - which I didn't because they didn't want to see us (no really - they didn't want to see other people around - especially not smelly, sweaty volunteers with extremely frizzy hair), but still - pretty cool, eh? I mean, come-on - how often do you get to say you were ten meters away from Coldplay (other than really good tickets at a concert)?
Not as cool as Benedict Cumberbatch.
|He's just so dreamy. *insert heart eyes emoji x3*|
Oh, how did he slip in here? It's because he's always close to my heart.
More later on our swanky hotel and travels home (which hasn't happened yet).
*I'm not that big of a Leo fan, although he was my peer-pressure-everyone's-doing-it adolescent crush when Titanic came out. And he wasn't just a bad Jay Gatsby, either, if you go for fast cars and fancy parties, although I don't really want to date a guy who's hung up on a Daisy Buchanan. I would have been fangirling much more over Benedick Cumberbatch. I know, I know - he's taken. But a girl can still dream a little.