Last Days in Hua Hin, Visiting the Beach and Saying Goodbye

This has been a bit long in the making, I’ve had a few personal issues which led to me sort of shutting down and panicking for a brief moment.. Now I’m back on form, thought I’d write about my trip on a bike down to Sam Roi Yot beach.

The day after arriving to Peter and Dtor’s and realising that it’s quite far out from the centre of Hua Hin, decided to hire a bike for the next two days. Peter recommended a good rental place, and once again I was free to go where I pleased.

The first day all I really did was get to know the surroundings – especially my way back and forth from Peter and Dtor’s, and catching up on blogging at ‘The Shed‘ guest house with a plethora of shakes. For those following my Facebook, this was the first time I also got stopped by the traffic cops for my non-Thai appearance and asked for my licence:

Loud whistling
“License”
“Oh, I didn’t think I needed a licence to drive this”
“License at home?”
“No license”
“Over there please” “What happen to nose?”
“Oh this? It was sunburn”

Two more traffic cops sat behind a desk, both of whom didn’t speak English asked for my passport via the English speaking traffic cop.

“Where you go”
Told them Peter’s village name
“When you leave?”
“A few days I think”
“You from England?”
“Yes, London”
“Ah Chelsea!”
“Yes but I’m an Arsenal fan”
“Not the same since Robin Van Persie left”
“Ha!” “So you support Chelsea?”
“No, Man Utd”

Whereupon I was issued a 200 Baht fine, they were remarkably pleasant I must add, given a slip of paper, and asked politely to go on my way.

“But I still don’t have a license, can I drive the bike?”
“Yes, 24 hours with ticket”
“Thank you, I’m so very sorry I really didn’t know you need a license”
“It okay, okay, you like Thai girls?”
“Yeah but that’s not why I’m here”
“Oh you like men?”
“Ha, no”
Laughter from all the cops
“Okay, good luck, happy new year, bye”

Straight to ‘The Shed’ again to Google license necessity for Thailand! Turns out they were right, so I guess I was just unlucky to get stopped, you do need a license but no-one ever asks for it when you hire a bike – oh, and as a side note, you should never hand your passport out – take a photocopy and give it to the rental place – if they don’t accept it then go to another.. If you’re stopped and you don’t have a passport then you could get in big trouble.

And, as Dtor said when I told her, it’s cheaper than a taxi fare! Ha, so true.. I guess at the end of the day it’s gonna happen, and worse will befall you if you get angry about it or with them, so smile, say sorry, go about your day.

After finishing up the blogs it was around time to head home before it got dark. Driving around is dodgy enough in the day, I’m a bit like my mum when it comes to driving in the dark, forget it! If you add my virgin driving skills together with insane drivers on Thai roads, and the only protection a styrofoam helmet, I’d rather not risk it.

Peter suggested that we go back into town, that he was going to drive us in, he’d switch the car for the bike, and drive home on it, then I could see the night market and check out Boots the chemist! Ha, 5,400 miles away from home and there’s a bloody Boots here! Then I could head over to the shop for about 10 to 10 and get a lift back with Dtor after she closed the shop. Peter also suggested that I could stay another night, which I gladly accepted, and we headed into Hua Hin.

I didn’t go to the night market, I was set on doing the last blog I’d photographed for, all about the Family Tree and its beautiful products. So, after visiting Boots, getting some Tylenol, Ibruprofen and some back ache pads – headed back to ‘The Shed’ and sat and blogged (and got bitten by mozzies all to hell).

Finally finished it at 9:30, so sat and enjoyed life passing by, and a very generous glass of Merlot from the Mancunian owner, then headed back to the shop just 5 minutes away.

When I got there, supposed to be closing at 10, a pair of Chinese girls were racking up the total by buying lots of the beautiful soaps and lotions from the Bangkok women’s group. However, they were after a huge discount – and getting quite stressy when they weren’t offered it – fair enough haggling is bound to happen, but these girls were asking for more than it was profitable for the shop to let them go at.. You have to make more than you buy the item for and I saw for a moment, just how calm and balanced Dtor is! I’d have straight kicked them out of the shop.. and I dare them to try that to an Arabian merchant haha! They’d get laughed out of the shop.

But, then a really nice pair of ladies walked in, one from Sweden, one from Denmark, they’d become very good friends in the last day just by being neighbours in their hotel.. Such warmth and smiles in direct comparison to the two Chinese girls previous. After they’d bought some beautiful jewellery and been given a small gift FoC from Dtor, they left beaming and we could shut the shop up.

After telling Dtor how amazing I thought she handled the rude Chinese girls, we had a great chat about Buddhism and the principles.. now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a religious man, neither am I some hippy, but Buddhism and it’s way of life suddenly seemed really appealing.. For one it’s nothing like Christianity, Catholicism, or any of the main organised religions.. You study and learn, and – at after a certain point you can choose to become a buddhist if you wish, or not, or whatever you like.. Instead of having to become a Christian/etc.. and then learning more about it – I find buddhism fascinating, positive, rewarding and maybe I’ll read some more about it.

We said goodnight, and I slept, as usual, to Blackadder playing on my laptop!

Beach day!

The previous day Peter had mentioned Sam Roi Yot beach as a long, but well worth it ride.. we were both up around 8:00, and after coffee and a cigarette he suggested leaving early to make the most of it, and it’s around an hour and a half’s drive away.

Hopped on the scooter, and drove – I still can’t get over what an amazing experience this is! Within 20 minutes I was outside Hua Hin and the roads were less busy.. Peter had given me some awesome directions which I saved as a pic to my iPhone, as I knew I may not be within wifi range out in the sticks. It took slightly longer than 2 hours, mostly because I went one turning too far and drove for 10 minutes before realising my mistake, asking a local for the Tesco Lotus which is a key landmark for the route, and heading on my way.

Water mirages on one of the many long stretches of road en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot

Water mirages on one of the many long stretches of road en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot

Stunning scenery.. peaceful, quiet, no cars on the road, to the left and right were mountains, farms and – okay, at one point – some nasty swamp that I’d hate to be living near to!

One of the swamps en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot beach

One of the swamps en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot beach

Stunning roadside scenery en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot

Stunning roadside scenery en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot

One of the many cattle farms en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot, a cow pictured

One of the many cattle farms en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot, a cow pictured

Is this a Heron...? I'm not sure, but there's loads of them in Thailand

Is this a Heron…? I’m not sure, but there’s loads of them in Thailand

The real beauty was, after turning off at Tesco Lotus it was nigh on a straight road all the way there! I eventually arrived to Sam Roi Yot beach, running low on fuel so I needed to refill – found a road side local shop with a petrol pump and decided the 50 Baht per litre was a bit expensive, and only got one litre, then sat in a beachside bar having a well deserved mango and passion fruit shake! (The best shake I’ve had so far). Possibly the only down side was that it’s a place for high end tourists, and people that can afford a beach-side condo.. At the bar I had eyes on me for my tattoos, and travelly appearance. Mostly by a German family who clearly had money.. I had my ‘dude it’s a free country’ hat on, and ignored, enjoying the sun and shake.

This beach is damn long.. like at least two miles, I drove up and down it once before heading to the far end, parking up the bike, changing into shorts and t-shirt, taking off the flip flops and walked a mile up the beach half in and half out of the water.

This gave me a lot of time to think, and photograph of course!

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

Wise from the last motorcycle outing, I’d covered my arms and neck with sun cream… but, stupidly not my legs (the last 4 days have been very painful, and would be more so if it wasn’t for the Aloe Vera from Dtor – thank you so much!!) I’d walked as far as I could so I turned back, stopped halfway for a shake and a meal, the owner of the place had a real nice bike, a Honda Steed:

Honda Steed belonging to the owner of the Monkey Beach Bar, Sam Roi Yot Beach, Thailand

Honda Steed belonging to the owner of the Monkey Beach Bar, Sam Roi Yot Beach, Thailand

One thing I’ve noticed in Thailand, heat haze! Jeez, makes it near impossible for a photographer to get some good shots of anything more than 500 metres away.. There were islands just offshore, but thanks to the haze they haven’t come out well in the photos.

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

I finally reached my bike, thankful it was still there, after about 2 hours walking (and burning my legs).. so I changed back to long sleeve and bottoms, and set off back home. I could have felt sad for leaving such a beautiful vista behind, except put me on a motorbike and watch me smile!

I arrived back in Hua Hin in just under the time it took me to get to Sam Roi Yot – near the San Paulo hospital though were traffic cops, they eyed me – waved their implements in their hands and whistled whilst pointing me to park up.. bar-stewards!! Knowing I had the ticket from yesterday, and although it was out of time (by around 2 hours) the traffic cop pulled me over.

“License”
“Ah, no I don’t have a license”
“400 Baht”
“400? Oh, but I have this from yesterday” and pulled out the slip
“Ah, 200 Baht”
“Really? But..” oh stuff it, act nice, say sorry, hand over the cash

Then, the guy looks around and pockets the 200 Baht.. sneakily.. little sneaky so and so!

“Do I get a ticket? Like this??”
“No, now go, bye”

Well, cheaper than a taxi fare, and 200 Baht cheaper than he originally wanted. But sensed this was going to be a regular occurence in Hua Hin, so I was glad my bike was going back in the morning.. maybe if you’re going to rent a bike, try and think of it costing 350 Baht per day, rather than the hire of 150.. that way if you get lucky you’re saving money if you don’t get stopped by the traffic cops!

Back to Dtor and Peter’s place to help with the online marketing of The Family Tree, before going to sleep..

The next day I was heading back to Bangkok, never outstay your welcome of course! And before heading to the minivan, Peter and Dtor offered to buy me breakfast and I went with them whilst they went to the local school that Louie would like to go to in May, I stayed in the car whilst they made their best effort to come across as nice people (not very hard) and to try and beat the insane competition to secure a place for Louie. Now I know what dogs feel like when they’re locked in a car! Wow.. sweat dripping off me, I eventually fell asleep – feeling lucky that I’d brought some water with me.

They came back and we headed to nearr the shop, me and Dtor went for a shake in the awesome place next door to the shop, but I soon finished and waved goodbye to Dtor and Peter, the kids and the awesome and unique place that’s Hua Hin, destined for bustly Bangkok!

 

The Family Tree, the Most Unique, Interesting, and Beautiful Shop in the Whole of Thailand

The Family Tree in Hua Hin, Thailand

The Family Tree in Hua Hin, Thailand

The Family Tree is a family owned and run business backing onto the beach in Hua Hin, Thailand. This place is beyond words.. Really.. The second you step in you’re greeted by a super-warm smile from Dtor the owner, “sawasdee ka” (hello) and as you wander around looking at all of the amazing, handcrafted and unique products, you’re given a detailed story about the history of the item, information on the groups that have crafted it, and any questions you may have are answered in near perfect English.

You should also watch this video that explains a lot about the shop and its principles, and the story behind the products beautifully made by professional documentary maker, Laco Gaspar, based in Bangkok:

As Hua Hin is generally a place that well-to-do families or people come to have a two week break, the shop is situated perfectly to cater for those looking for a one-of-a-kind item, or present for their friends and family.

I really can’t sing the praises of this beautiful, serene, calm island in a storm enough.. If you visit Thailand, make one of your stops Hua Hin, okay not only for this shop it’s a nice place to visit with beautiful beaches and a good, broad selection of restaurants, hotels and resorts run by local Thais and long-term expats… If you need your creature comforts then this is a fine place to land and gather your senses.

Here’s just some of the amazing pieces on sale, followed by the story behind them..

First of all the silk, the mainstay of the shop, this is naturally dyed using traditional techniques. This silk and colouring has been given multiple awards by the Queen of Thailand. The colours are all natural and found in bark, leaves and berries. The master craftsman responsible for the colouring is Ajarn (teacher) Kor from Surin and he learned this skill from his mother in law. Some of the scarves are all hand dyed and woven by a women’s group – 30 ethnic Soay women from the Prangkeu district in Sri Sakat, North East Thailand – which provides extra income during the quiet times after rice planting and harvesting.

Silks dyed by Ajarn Kor and crafted by ethnic women from Prangkeu district in Sri Sakat

Silks crafted by ethnic women from Prangkeu district in Sri Sakat

Silks dyed by Ajarn Kor and crafted by ethnic women from Prangkeu district in Sri Sakat

Silks crafted by ethnic women from Prangkeu district in Sri Sakat

Silks dyed by Ajarn Kor and crafted by ethnic women from Prangkeu district in Sri Sakat

Silks crafted by ethnic women from Prangkeu district in Sri Sakat

The bags and scarves are made by ethnic Kuy people only once per year. Ebony dyed silk is so special and rare because of the timing and weather during each season. Ebony fruits only flower in the rainy season, if there’s no rain then there’s no fruit to dye the silk.

It’s made by pounding the fruit using a pestle and mortar, and then massaging the dye into the silk, which is then hung out to dry in the sun.

The silk only turns black in the brightest of sunlight so the villagers are dependant on a mix of a perfect sunny season, preceded by a wet and rainy season. The bags are then cut and stitched by another women’s group in Surin. The Tae Moh Hai group (in Dtor’s village) make some of this cloth, and other cloth is sourced from nearby community groups in the area.

Silk scarves and bags dyed ebony by ethnic Kuy people and stitched and cut by women in Surin

Silk scarves and bags dyed ebony by ethnic Kuy people and stitched and cut by women in Surin

There are some stunning examples of fine silverwork that I know girls would love! Again, these are one-of-a-kind items that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Made in Ban Kwao in Surin province. The people are of Khmer descent (Surin is next to Cambodia) and are traditional silversmiths. We buy from a local family in the village, who are keeping the silversmithing traditions alive.

Beautiful silver from Ban Kwao in Surin province

Beautiful silver from Ban Kwao in Surin province

Beautiful silver from Ban Kwao in Surin province

Beautiful silver from Ban Kwao in Surin province

Beautiful silver from Ban Kwao in Surin province

Beautiful silver from Ban Kwao in Surin province

And on to the hats and bags made from Sisal, which grows around 2 metres tall. Each leaf contains around a thousand fibres which can be woven into twine and made into natural products that are beautiful and hard wearing.

Sisal is grown chemical-free at Hup Kapong Royal Project Learning Centre which is just outside Hua Hin in Petchburi. Again the products are made by over 30 housewives in a group and they separate the fibres by hand! before weaving, dying and cutting the Sisal into a variety of unique and eye-catching products. The project itself is initiated by the King of Thailand, and is a good example of best practice in Thai community development. I didn’t get any photos sadly, but when you go you should check them out.

Instead I photographed these bags which are made by a community crafts group in Buriram.

Bags made by a community crafts group in Buriram

Bags made by a community crafts group in Buriram

Bags made by a community crafts group in Buriram

Bags made by a community crafts group in Buriram

The stuff I think my mum, and Aunt Pam would love is the pottery.. Koy and Oh’s pottery is crafted piece by piece from local earth. They explore the synergy between earth, people, nature and art and the pottery shares the transience and uniqueness of each moment. And especially the wonder of rediscovering ordinary objects which are laying around us all the time, going unnoticed!

Koy and Oh both sculpt in the fields, rivers, forests and mountains in the Chiang Mai province. They carefully observe fallen leaves, twigs and stones which are then etched into a single piece: a single moment in art and nature. To protect the environment their work is on a very small scale.

Koy and Oh's beautiful handcrafted pottery from near Chiang Mai

Koy and Oh’s beautiful handcrafted pottery from near Chiang Mai

Koy and Oh's beautiful handcrafted pottery from near Chiang Mai

Koy and Oh’s beautiful handcrafted pottery from near Chiang Mai

Koy and Oh's beautiful handcrafted pottery from near Chiang Mai

Koy and Oh’s beautiful handcrafted pottery from near Chiang Mai

Koy and Oh's beautiful handcrafted pottery from near Chiang Mai

Koy and Oh’s beautiful handcrafted pottery from near Chiang Mai

Recycled products are also a massive part of The Family Tree’s stock, necklaces and jewellery that’s essentially waste paper which gives income to unemployed women in Bangkok. In 1997 after the Asian economic meltdown, training programmes took place in Bangkok to teach alternative occupations to those now looking for work.

Unemployed women from low-income city communities were taught to create products from waste paper and then evolved their teaching to include many different types of discarded paper.

The sales provide fairly-paid home employment to women, many of whom are single parents that work just isn’t possible for.

Jewellery made from recycled paper by Bangkok women's groups

Jewellery made from recycled paper by Bangkok women’s groups

Jewellery made from recycled paper by Bangkok women's groups

Jewellery made from recycled paper by Bangkok women’s groups

There’s also necklaces and purses which are made from recycled food packaging by caretakers in marginalised communities. The purses and necklaces enable vulnerable caretakers and children to become skilled, functional and independent members of their communities.

Necklaces and purses made from recycled plastic waste

Necklaces and purses made from recycled plastic waste

Necklaces and purses made from recycled plastic waste

Necklaces and purses made from recycled plastic waste

The product that hit me the most and made me empathise completely are the recycled coconut jewellery items. The Christian Leprosy foundation was established in 1963, and until 2007 its rehabilitation department built and enhanced the skills of Thais suffering from leprosy, HIV and AIDS and disabilities to help them develop skills, earn extra income and become self sufficient.

Sadly, in 2007 the department closed, but 17 men and women decided to establish the ‘Manorom Group’ to continue the good work. By working together these craftsmen and women support each other to stay positive and earn a wage.

Jewellery made from recycled coconut shells by HIV/AIDS/Leprosy and disability sufferers

Jewellery made from recycled coconut shells by HIV/AIDS/Leprosy and disability sufferers

Jewellery made from recycled coconut shells by HIV/AIDS/Leprosy and disability sufferers

Jewellery made from recycled coconut shells by HIV/AIDS/Leprosy and disability sufferers

Here’s something that London women would go mental for.. Natural hand-made and inspiring soaps created by a women’s cooperative.

After fire destroyed their community in 2004, the Yon Jai Spa women’s cooperative in a slum area of Bangkok, after 4 years waiting to be re-housed, were determinded to embrace a new vision, and took to creating these beautiful cosmetics and soaps to help improve their lives, it provided a vital income.

The women manage the production of their inspiring soaps which are all hand-milled and cut using only fresh and natural ingredients.

Natural hand-made soaps and lotions by a Bangkok women's community after fire devastated their homes

Natural hand-made soaps and lotions by a Bangkok women’s community after fire devastated their homes

Natural hand-made soaps and lotions by a Bangkok women's community after fire devastated their homes

Natural hand-made soaps and lotions by a Bangkok women’s community after fire devastated their homes

Natural hand-made soaps and lotions by a Bangkok women's community after fire devastated their homes

Natural hand-made soaps and lotions by a Bangkok women’s community after fire devastated their homes

Natural hand-made soaps and lotions by a Bangkok women's community after fire devastated their homes

Natural hand-made soaps and lotions by a Bangkok women’s community after fire devastated their homes

Natural hand-made soaps and lotions by a Bangkok women's community after fire devastated their homes

Natural hand-made soaps and lotions by a Bangkok women’s community after fire devastated their homes

This stuff has to be seen and heard to be believed, I urge you next time you visit Thailand to take the short 2.5 hours, 180 Baht trip by minivan to Hua Hin from Bangkok, stay there, absorb, and definitely visit The Family Tree.

On New Year’s Day I Met Wild Elephants and had A BBQ!

After the short and quick minivan ride to Hua Hin from Bangkok, I arrived in Hua Hin and set straight for Dtor and Peter’s shop, The Family Tree (this place is so amazing it deserves it’s own blog! Next!!). The only problem was I didn’t know exactly where it was, so it gave me a chance to sit in ‘The Shed‘ guest house bar and order another shake, and check out the directions on my iPhone.

It was on a parrallel road, I’d just gone one road up, so I knew where to go and texted Peter that I’d arrived in town. I had the wrong number of course, didn’t add the +66 in front, so some poor so and so has got a text saying “The driver reckons we’ll be there for 2:30” ha!

Hua Hin is a beautiful place, full of ex-pats and English speakers, it’s the type of place – near the beach – that people come for a two week holiday, not really a stop on their travels. A bit more up-market than most of the other cities in Thailand.

Finishing my shake and heading over to the shop I was greeted by a huge smiling Dtor, Peter’s wife. We had a quick chat about my travels so far and she suggested a good place to wait for Peter, next door, with a nice shake.

There’s loads of gastro, Italian, English and Spanish restaurants, owned by ex-pats so the food is authentic, not like the fakes you see in most other places. Peter walked past and I hailed him, as usual he beamed his huge smile and went quickly to chat to Dtor, then joined me for a coffee.

Talking with Peter is an extraordinary affair, full of good vibes, and positivity, a dreamer and head in the clouds much as me. We talked about my travels, and about his – whereupon he said we should grab some cold beers and sit and talk about how he came to be 12 years in Thailand.

We had to get back to his kids, as he said he’d be out for 5 minutes at 11am, and it was now 3:30, so we headed back to his via a local and super friendly fish seller for Peter’s dinner. When we arrived at his – rather beautiful, secluded and pretty idyllic – home, his kids were at the window greeting me with “Hello Uncle Matt!” Rosie is 3 and Louie is 6, they’d all been ill recently, but very smiley faces greeted me all the way.

I settled for a moment, grabbed a shower, and we all went out to the local park in Cha Am for some kickaround and to have a walk and a play.. Peter is a father with a very subtle but effective discipline, always showing his kids what’s what and where’s where.. Louie being the oldest can speak more English, but both can speak great Thai.

After the park we headed to a local pizza place because Louie was after pizza (even though when it arrived he hardly touched it.. kids!) and Rosie will eat or try just about anything.. Finishing up we headed home, it was New Year’s Eve so we stopped for some beers, some snacks and then got back.

The kids had long since fallen asleep in the car so they were straight to bed, and me and Peter watched Hanna and before we knew it Dtor had arrived back home and we could plan what we were all going to do to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Jenga!

THE best game you can play with multiple people, you win some, you lose some, the beer had been finished so me and Peter went to the shop again for a small bottle of Jack and a bottle of wine, plus more snacks.. We sat and chatted for a while until around 11:30 when the 7/11 was nearly stopping selling alcohol, the Jack had been finished as had the wine, so we went to get some more.

Jenga tower falling

Jenga tower falling!!

When I say small, it’s not the half size like you get in the UK, it’s the half again size, maybe 20cl so it only went round 5 people once.. I have to say this was the least alcohol I’ve drunk on a New Year’s Eve since I found out about alcohol.. But the company was great, the Jenga was ongoing, and we saw in the New Year with good company, hot weather, and Chinese lanterns floating up in the air!

New Year good luck flower

New Year good luck flower

We’d discussed what we’d do the next day, go and try and see elephants at Kui Buri national park. Peter was raving about what a massive experience it was when he went and saw 20 elephants, so I was very excited about the prospect.

Breakfast was typical full-English! Followed by a long period of sitting on the couch groaning that we’d all eaten too much! Around 2:00 Peter called the Kui Buri national park warden and he was told it’s likely the elephants would be around and visible at 3:30.. so he called Dtor back home and we readied the kids, then set off when she arrived on the wild elephant journey!

The family playing Jenga

The family playing Jenga

I fell asleep most of the way there thanks to breakfast, but we came close and I perked up and readied my camera. We reached the national park station and paid the 200 Baht each to go and see the elephants. I moved into the back seat so the warden could take up the front seat and we set off across dusty rocky roads to the viewing point.

En-route to Kui Buri National Park

En-route to Kui Buri National Park

Along the way we saw an elephant’s bum, but we didn’t stop long enough to wait for him to turn around.. we carried on in anticipation. The warden explained that they’d set up artificial watering holes and feeding spots to keep the elephants in the park and away from the town, to stop them bothering farmers..

We finally arrived to the viewing spot.. this place is so breathtaking, a massive, vast area of space both forested and plains that is home not just to elephants, but birds and mammals of all kinds.

Beautiful white bird in Kui Buri national park

Beautiful white bird in Kui Buri national park

Amazing!

We got out and reached the crest of the hill.. so, so beautiful.. there were binoculars already set up to watch out for elephants in the distance, and we waited, and waited, and waited… All of a sudden there was a cry from someone to the left that there was a chang (elephant) in the distance.. Thank god I brought my 70-300 because my 35, or 50mm wouldn’t have got anywhere near to seeing it.. sadly it was pretty shaky at far zoom, so as you can see the photo isn’t amazing.

The beautiful vista at Kui Buri national park

The beautiful vista at Kui Buri national park

Elephant at Kui Buri National Park

Elephant at Kui Buri National Park

Me holding Rosie so she can look through and see the elephant

Me holding Rosie so she can look through and see the elephant

Peter's family in Kui Buri National Park

Peter’s family in Kui Buri National Park

Me and Peter at Kui Buri National Park

Me and Peter at Kui Buri National Park

Then another cropped up to the right, which was a bit closer and I was able to get a shot which was a bit less shaky. I was in awe.. wild elephants, not 80km from civilisation, and I’ve seen 3 so far! My heart sang to see such a beautiful, natural sight. The one on the right soon moved away but the other was still there, showing her bum to the camera and binoculars..

Elephant at Kui Buri National Park

Elephant at Kui Buri National Park

After a couple of hours we decided to get back into the 4×4 to return home.. we’d seen 3 elephants, mission accomplished. A shame not to see them closer up but hey – this is nature we’re working with, not some zoo enclosure!

On the way back we went past the intermediate ranger spot, and asked if there were any nearby.. they said no, and we headed home.

Fantastic!

Not far from there is a deer enclosure with some cute baby and adult deers, which I snapped while the kids were trying to feed them some grass.. The ranger nearby was explaining what they did when an elephant charged.. climb a tree! He pointed to a nearby tree which – and lets be fair – only the most skilled would be able to climb at short notice.. it was vertical with no branches and a smooth trunk!

Baby Deer at Kui Buri National Park

Baby Deer at Kui Buri National Park

Deer at Kui Buri National Park

Deer at Kui Buri National Park

The brief chat was over so we headed back to the main ranger station.. about 50 metres down the road we were told by the ranger to stop, there were elephants there in the trees! OMFG.. three, hidden to my camera sadly, but very visible on and off – I was just very unlucky not to shoot any. Peter’s request to get back in the car was very adamantly adhered to incase we were charged by the elephants, so we set off again. And then another 20 metres and there were two more!!

This was the closest I’d ever been to a wild elephant in my life, and here were two, just grazing and going about their business.. this time they were on my side of the car so I managed to get some shots.

Elephant at Kui Buri National Park

Elephant at Kui Buri National Park

Elephant at Kui Buri National Park

Elephant at Kui Buri National Park

Finally satisfied that I’d seen a wild elephant up close we left, enlightened, uplifted and happy – seeing an elephant on New Year’s day is very good luck.. the only thing that could have made it luckier is if they were the extremely rare white elephant.

Driving past the artificial watering hole and once again!! A baby elephant drinking water from the hole. We stopped long enough for me to get around 20-30 good photos of him! So cute, and apparently happy!

Elephant at Kui Buri National Park

Elephant at Kui Buri National Park

After getting out, and dropping the ranger off and giving him a tip to express our gratitude, we headed home for a BBQ – The oddest, and most satisfying New Year’s Day I’ve had ever..

After pigging out on BBQ I fell asleep very happy, to be given this opportunity, to spend it with such amazing and welcoming people.. definitely the highlight of my trip so far, not sure it can be beaten, but I’ll give it a go!