Apr 2, 2015

Krabi - the guilt after elephant riding experience...

The next leg of the journey in Krabi continued with activities away from the sea. It involved a jaunt to the night market, a short swim in a natural pool, with a soak in spectacular Hot Spring, and ended with an elephant ride that begs an ethical question...

First stop after we got off from our boats and cleaned ourselves, was heading off for food hunting at a night market near Nopharat Thara beach, which was a short tuk tuk ride away.

People watching whilst awaiting for our tuk tuk ride

Sell Alohol All Day

The night market in Klong Haeng is not the one that sells the most elaborate objects of curiosity, but a good place to start if you're unfamiliar with the Asian night market culture. Roughly there's a food section (most of the delicacies have similarities to what I have seen in Malaysia), and other things like apparel, toys and footwear.

Gigantic Crocs knock off on display

Photogenic girl not shy for a photo. My mum thinks she'll be a model one day haha.

Interesting clothing for cheap abound at markets like these in Thailand. This one in particular was grabbed by my sister at a very good bargain.

Pearly sleeves, mesh, and kitten - what more would you want in a shirt?

I don't get the joke on this one though

Glittery Miu Miu-esque strappy sandals anyone?

My food for the night - hot pad thai on the go

Rode a tuk tuk home (stopped for a proper dinner on the way)

Neon lights inside a tuk tuk

This stall - selling halal Thai fried goodness , cheap tropical fruit smoothies and roti canai-like crepes - seems very popular with tourists. There was literally a queue bee-lining for mango shakes during my visit.  

Our next day was filled with water-related activity and a bit of jungle trekking - towards the Hot Spring; and a van ride later, to the Sa Morakot (Emerald Pool), and the beautiful blue lagoon.

Hot Spring with waterfalls - best to come early in the morning or late in the evening when it's quieter and less crowded with tourists. As you can see throngs of tourists a shoving each other to get a spot in the hot, calming water.

A trek uphill led us to a beautiful spot...

... called Blue Lagoon (the blue color is definitely natural!)

Blue pristine water, not suitable to swim in due to "deep water" and "sucking mud"

Our final activity of the day was elephant riding at a place a few kilometres away from Ao Nang Beach. When I first arrived at the field, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. How close could we get to the elephants? Could we touch them? Were they dangerous?

I was excited and nervous at the same time - thinking about how the elephants might go berserk and trample everyone on their way (a result of seeing too many weird accident-related news I think). When it was our turn, my cousin and I cautiously stepped on to the giant's back and the trainer called Yoy, began giving directions.

Turns out the name of the elephant was Siploy, a twenty year old Asian elephant. Siploy submissively followed every grunt or scream that Yoy gave - one signals to go straight forward, the other instructs to lift up the trunk. If it doesn't seem to comply, there will be a 'punishment' in a form of a 'light' knock on its head using a bullhook - an act the showed me the truth about the nasty business of elephant entertainment/tourism. 

Throughout our short journey on the hillside and into a pond riding Siploy, my conscience makes me ponder: is riding elephants legal? How much elephant abuse was inflicted in the process of 'training them? Does Siploy have enough rest/water/food? 
Siploy - a 20 year elephant  - evident in her weary look and whitish spots

Siploy with his trainer Yoy, who has been doing elephant training for two years

Damaged seats. Even though its unbelievable given elephants' enormous size, their spines are not really suitable to be rode upon by humans

Towards the end of the ride Yoy offered me to sit near Siploy's head. I was hesitant initially but mustered some courage to move on. It was surreal and honestly I was a bit squeamish on touching such a foreign texture. The elephant skin is incredibly thick and rough (but deceptively sensitive though), with coarse bristles on its head. All the while I was praying not to fall down - nothing was securing me from a 3-meter fall onto the rocky terrain I tells ya!

Giving Siploy a piece of sugar cane as a reward

Look at that beautiful long, stab wound injury-worthy kind of husk!

**Even though I hope this doesn't come across as plain ignorance but there's no way I CANNOT say that I wasn't being oblivious to see how elephant riding involves a cruel training system. I only realised how inhumane the elephant tourism industry in Thailand  (and many other parts of Asia) is, after doing research for this blog entry. I don't deny that there was this gut-wrenching guilt to see how the 'master' knocking Siploy's head with a bullhook, and what more to see old pierced wounds on her ears. But we were rationalising, thinking this could be their culture with elephants and we thought they understand elephants more than us (I know, I know, that doesn't even make sense)...

After realising the truth behind the business, I truly do not condone trying elephant riding/see elephants in circus when you go visit Thailand/ India etc. I hope you can understand the gore and pain inflicted to these creatures by reading this informative post. What seems to be a fun, innocent tourist activity definitely hides something so sinister underneath...

Words and images by Hafidzudin Zainal

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...