By Jerry Cook
When I looked ahead at the tour itinerary and saw that my birthday was going to be in Krabi, Thailand I knew it was going to be a good one. I was right!
I woke up in our beautiful hotel, the Anyavee Resort to many messages from friends and family all around the world wishing me a happy birthday. Breakfast was an incredible spread of both Western and Asian dishes (it’s quite common to have both options available on the buffet when travelling through SE Asia), there was also an abundance of fresh, local, tropical fruit, coffee and juices. The view from the balcony where we ate breakfast looking out to the limestone karst Islands dotting the shoreline of our beachfront hotel was spectacular. The pickup for today’s included excursion to Krabi Elephant Sanctuary was at 8am. One can’t help but be sceptical when visiting these so called “sanctuaries” but upon arrival it was quite clear that these elephants were very well taken care of and had a good home while in rehabilitation. They had been purchased as working elephants to bring them to the Sanctuary for a better life. After our introduction and welcome tea and snack we were allowed to feed the elephants. Each elephant eats up to 250kgs of food per day so we all had a big basket of bananas and sugar cane to feed them, handing it to their trunks while taking selfies. They are beautiful creatures.
We headed to the outdoor kitchen, where we helped to prepare rice balls for the elephants which included, rice, banana, vitamins and salt all mashed together in a mortar and pestle. The result being a delicious desert which we hand fed straight into the elephant’s mouths. Next was mud bath time, John and a Canadian girl who was also part of the tour for the day got down and dirty in a mud pool, splashing and rubbing the elephants with mud and cleaning their leather like skin. Mud spa and bathing with elephants is just another way the staff at the sanctuary show the elephants that they truly care about them. Then it was a walk through a big shower, kind of like a car wash and into a nearby freshwater pool for the rinse and again another series of selfies. It was remarkable how photogenic these elephants are and how they know how to pose for the camera as they sprays water into the air right on que with the staff who count one, two three.
A chocolate birthday cake was provided by the staff there which was a lovely surprise and also delicious. Arriving back to my hotel room I found a birthday card from the Compass office in Australia resting against a bath towel folded in the shape of an elephant – A very thoughtful gesture.
Off-bike excursions such as yesterday’s long boat tour to Hong Island and this one to the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary really add to the tour and when they fall on your birthday it makes for something extra special. Turning 47 will be one birthday I won’t forget for a long time!
Back on the bikes we rode a series of back country roads, keeping us off the main highways and allowing us to experience a lot more of rural Thailand and witnessing locals going about their everyday lives.
We visited the beachside towns of Chumphon and Hua Hin and rode the stunning Royal Coast Road, all of this en-route to Kanchanaburi in Central Thailand.
Kanchanaburi is a city known for the Bridge on the River Kwai and where during the second world war thousands of POWs lost their lives while building the Thai / Burma Railway for the Imperial Japanese Army. We had a very moving visit to Hellfire Pass where these POW’s under forced labour cut a railway pass through the canyon wall covered in thick vegetation. Conditions were brutal and it was here at this location many Australians and Allies soldiers lost their lives. The memorial and museum for these soldiers was very well done and it is a must visit for anyone coming to this part of Thailand.
On a lighter note the day also included a short train ride on the Death Railway, a visit to the famous Bridge on the River Kwai and to the majestic Erawan Waterfalls.
While it seems the rest of the world is in a frenzy about the COVID-19 Coronavirus, here in South East Asia it is business as usual. Except that tourism numbers are down which is making for much more relaxed travel we would not know that the Coronavirus even exists. We are all actually hoping that the appropriate government authorities downgrade travel restrictions to China to allow us to complete the trip as planned.
As week two comes to an end, we look forward to entering Myanmar in a couple of days, a destination which is new for us all.
For ore information regarding the Asian Overland Expedition please visit our web page at: http://www.compassexpeditions.com/tours/asian-overland/
We are also accepting bookings on our other major Expeditions for 2021 and 2022, Click below to find out more: