Thursday 2 October 2014

Thalia in Thailand #7: Elephants & Monkeys

We had a feeling that Koh Samui had more to offer than simply beaches. I say simply beaches - they are beautiful, albeit not the be all and end all of the island. Many companies offer ecotourism excursions, many of which involve elephant trekking, learning how to cook traditional Thai food, waterfall visits and seeing monkeys. And we wanted exactly that. 

We were picked up in a jeep and along with another family of tourists made our way to the Nuamuang Waterfall, stopping at a Thai hut deep in the centre of the island beforehand. Here a family taught a group of us how to cook hot Thai curry, consisting of green chilli, galangal and fish paste. To say it was a little hot would be the understatement of the century, but in terms of the taste I can tell why the Thai love it so much. 
We then made our way to Namuang Waterfall, located in the Na Muang Safari Park. Once we were dropped off, we hopped out of the jeep to a pathway surrounded by tall trees that framed the area beautifully. Market stalls injected some colour into the relatively shaded location and we walked down the path in awe.
It's hard to convey how beautiful the waterfall was the day we visited because it was so bright in some places that the light/shade and contrast simply didn't come out well in many photographs I took. However, these two make it look pretty nice (if I say so myself). The thing about waterfalls with me is that after visiting Iguazรบ Falls in Brazil/Argentina my standards are incredibly high although I do admit, Koh Samui had a good ol' crack at it. At the bottom of the waterfall there were many young Thai school children having the time of their lives swimming in the water and it was so sweet to see so many happy faces.
The rocks next to the waterfall reminded me of Robbers Cave in Dehradun, India. 
Now onto the bit I was most excited for - elephant trekking. My lovely friend Amelia visited Thailand last year and went on and on about how much fun it was and I 100% agree with her - it's such a great experience. You start out in a hut, built onto an elevated bit of land that essentially overhangs so that the elephants can be guided up and stop so you can hop on. It's quite shaky but so much fun and so surreal - I honestly had no clue quite how tall elephants were until I sat on one. As someone that's only 5"2 being that high up was something I'm not used to at all. I don't have many photos from when I was on it as it is seriously shaky so focused and clear photos are out of the picture, if you'll pardon the pun. The guide reaches a point when he takes your camera if you have one and literally jumps off the elephant, fearlessly (and evidently with a lot of practice under his belt). 
At this point the guide told me to get off the chair and actually sit on the elephant. I'm not going to lie - I found this so scary at first. Their hair is quite prickly so that's a little uncomfortable but more than anything I was convinced that I was going to slide right off the animal and well, you can guess how that would pan out. However, as I'm here today documenting my experiences you can probably tell I made it out 100% alive and I can tell you that I 100% loved the experience, too.
After visiting the waterfall we hopped back into the jeeps and went to a coconut plantation where we were shown how the monkeys were trained to run up the tall coconut trees and collect them, dropping them down onto the land below. 
You may have been able to tell from recent posts that I am loving this reflecty vibe at the minute so when I saw this gorgeous picture of one of the monkeys I had to give it some identical twin power. 
You could say that the monkey liked me more than my brother. At one point the monkey started to grab my brother's hair, and it was then that my Mum decided that a photo with the monkey wasn't for her. Back in 2005 we visited Gibraltar Rock and she got attacked by monkeys big time so with that in mind I don't blame her for that decision at all, even though the monkeys were a lot more...polite in Koh Samui.
To finish off the day we got to try some of the coconut water, fresh and recently collected from one of the trees. Now I'm not a massive lover of the coconut smell or taste so I didn't adore this but to me it was important that I got to experience it. I think that really applies to travelling in a greater sense though - even though you may not love something, it's an experience you've had, one that when combined with others makes you as a person and makes you interesting. And that's what's important.


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- Thalia

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