When we finally arrived in Pai I woke up from my deep medicine-induced slumber and gazed in awe at the world around me. It was small and lively- full of markets and so many coffee shops each adorned with their own logos and colors. The streets were vibrant, full of people from all around the world who were biking and walking around. It honestly looked like a fairy tale southeast-asian style.
The van stopped and we all got out. My new friends walked to their hostel and I took my bags and sat at the side of the road for someone who was supposedly picking me up from Conserve Natural Forests. I didn’t have a second to worry though because as soon as the van pulled away, a big white truck bearing the logo of CNF pulled up. A lively young Thai was driving. I hopped in and he introduced himself as Bok. We spoke a bit of broken english and he seemed remiss that he couldn’t communicate better. I tried my hand at my poor thai and his eyes lit up. “Koon poot pasa Thai?” (You speak Thai?) “Nit Noy!” I replied, explaining that I speak only a little. After that we had a ball driving down the winding country roads leading away from Pai as we talked back and forth in our broken languages.
Soon enough we arrived at the homestead. It was a bit different than I had imagined with it being separate from the conservation. A patch of land right off the main road hosted a large bungalow with covered porch where we eat our meals. The porch faced a pond and three little bungalows that lined the dirt road near the water. I was shown to my new home, the last in line. I have a lovely little front porch and inside is one room with a mattress on the floor, a little shelf, a fan (BEST part of the room) and a single lightbulb. The bathroom has a squatty potty (no flushing ladies and gents) which is odd but I’ve accepted it haha. The accommodations are meager but wonderful. It is so easy to get wrapped up in a world full of conveniences. Coming here has made me realize how little we actually need.
I had just dropped my bags off in my room when Bok asked if I wanted to go to the conservation. I was exhausted but I did not want to sleep, so I jumped in the truck and off we went. Ten minutes down the road we pulled off near another CNF sign. There was a group of young people around a thai man learning how to plant trees. There I met my two fellow interns, also photographers. Soon, the elephants were called over and I could see them walking from a distance and then crossing the muddy river to the edge of the hill we were on. Some of the visitors started feeding the elephants pieces of fruit. The other interns encouraged me to do the same. I picked up a large piece of fruit and the elephants reached their large trunks my way. Maemoon reached the delicious treat first, her course skin brushing up against mine as she lightly tugged the fruit free and brought it to her mouth.
Elephants are amazing. Their eyes were so bright and you could tell they were so incredibly happy. Mother and daughter, the two elephants were rescued from an elephant-riding tourist camp which is a miserable way for the majestic creatures to live. Now they are free to roam and are taken care of by loving people. I’m falling asleep writing this and will post it in the morning, but I think that I will love it here.
Peace out from Pai.