Thailand – Ties and Elephants

It was interesting watching a documentary on the Knowledge Channel about the illegal dealings and sale of elephant tusks. I was reminded of my experience in an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. The documentary was filmed in Africa. I got the shivers when I saw the burning of hundreds of tusks, representing millions of dollars (yes, millions!) when the population is starving and hundreds of elephants were killed for the precious ivory. I visited China just after 9/11 and couldn’t help but admire the art of ivory carving, the intricate patterns and the ‘balls within balls’, each one carved with incredible designs. How did they do it? Those carvers are true artists. I knew it was ‘verboten’ to take any ivory out of the country and the producers of the ivory were on the endangered species list: The elephants. One is not allowed to hunt them and kill them. So how do the artists get the ivory to do their craft, sell the items for hundreds of dollars to the specialty shops and these, in turn, offer them for thousands of dollars to an, apparently, international market? Very large specimens are priced at million dollars or more.

I am shaken to learn of the still ongoing killings. The tusks have become smaller since the elephants don’t live long enough to develop those earlier magnificent tusks. They are hunted, to this very day by illegal means. The hunters take the chance to get caught but the hope to get rich is stronger. The number of elephants worldwide is going down. If they were not protected in large areas and parks they would probably be a lost species already. And forever is forever.

Elephants playing soccer

Elephants playing soccer

My first personal encounter with elephants was in a ‘Sanctuary’ in Thailand. I watched them play soccer and cheered with the rest of the visitors when one got the ball across the field and it was kicked back by another. The elephants looked so very happy, ran back and forth like humans do and seemed to be smiling. I tried to snap photos and I think you’ll like this one.


image0-001Another incredible encounter was in the ‘Art Class’. Elephants were drawing pictures using their trunks. They looked at their teacher and chose colours as if they really knew what was needed. Did they, do they know? The combination of colours and designs were comparable to some of the modern human artists, some maybe even better. The paintings were about 30 by 40 inches and were sold for twenty US dollars and went like hot cakes. I was tempted to buy one too but figured it would be crushed in my luggage.

The most fun was when the elephants were told “it’s bathing time”. Boy, did they ever hurry and plunge into the stream running through the sanctuary! They helped each other with splashing and rinsing, they looked after the young just like human mothers after their kids.

There was also a lecture for us, the visitors. Sitting on crudely made rows of benches we learned that each animal drinks about 300 litres of water a day and needs tons of food. We learned that their memory is incomparable and life-long. No dementia. Once, not too long ago, the sanctuary had hired a new care giver. One of the elephants looked at him, recognized him as his previous owner, rushed towards him and before anyone could stop him, he trampled him to death. The elephant had been abused and mistreated by this man. Elephants never forget! And no, the elephant was not ‘put image0down’. He was part of the soccer team. At the end of the lecture the speaker asked for a volunteer to sit on the entwined trunks of two elephants. Nobody dared – I did! I felt a bit apprehensive – but looking into the elephants eyes, it seemed they ‘invited’ me to do it. They were behind a flimsy fence, trunks over towards me. One lifted me up and deposited me on their by then entwined trunks. Most of the other visitors snapped pictures, one also with my own camera.

The fitting end of our visit was a ten minute ride on a huge elephant through the jungle, down a hill side and then along the stream back to camp. Unforgettable!

When thinking of Thailand I think of food. I could live on their food. The spicy aroma is in the air. Another experience was an original ‘Thai Massage’. Would I have one again? No. It hurts. The fingers go deep – the therapists also ‘walk’ on you. Some men in our group liked it. Masochists! But then, the massage therapist was a light, beautiful young Thai girl.

One of the last evenings was spent wandering through a night market. I bought silk pyjamas for myself and an interesting tie for my son. The front of the tie was ‘let’s call it a traditional design’ but if the wearer moved it could happen that the tie moved as well and showed the backside, a beautiful nude girl, tastefully done. My son was required to wear a tie daily for his work. One of his co-workers saw the tie ‘move’ and asked “where the h… did you get that tie?” The true answer was “My mother bought it for me in Thailand.”

His friend was surprised but exclaimed, “I know that shop, it is right behind Sears in the Town Shopping Centre. But I have never seen a tie like that in ‘Tie Land’.

A Beautiful Rose for a Beautiful Lady #Greece #Rose #Wine

Holiday in Greece

Holiday in Greece

It was just a small airport somewhere along the Greek coast. A bus was waiting to deliver all the guests to their respective hotels. Looking towards the back of the bus I noticed that everybody seemed to come in “twos”: couples, two women or even two men. One glimpse and I was surprised to see the second row wasn’t taken. I sat down by the window. I was used to traveling by myself in Europe after the conclusion of some business I had in Germany. Greece had always intrigued me and the year before I had enjoyed a “Classic Greek Tour.” This time I wanted a sunny holiday.

As more people entered the bus I wondered what kind of neighbor I would get. Could it be “the one”? Tall, dark and handsome? You never know, right? More twosomes pushed by and finally a middle aged woman asked “Is this seat taken?”

Unique driveway

Unique driveway

“Now it is” I smiled at her, pointing to the seat. She had an easy laugh and sat down. It didn’t take long and I knew her life story. She wanted to know at which hotel along the strip I had booked. It happened to be the very last one, two stops after she had to get out. Her hotel looked pretty nice; it had a beautiful driveway up to the main entrance through a gorgeous garden. Small rocks apparently laid by hand formed intricate designs. I was impressed and just hoped my hotel would be this nice. Marianne disembarked with “Bye, I’ll visit you soon.”

Well, my hotel was just as nice as the picture had been in the travel catalogue. The receptionist was incredibly friendly. I loved my room overlooking the Mediterranean. It actually was a five star hotel while Marianne’s had only three stars. The beach was a bit disappointing, – no sand, just millions of pebbles and little rocks washed smooth by the rolling waves. I had to buy a pair of plastic sandals to wear to walk across when I wanted to go swimming. I had been placed at a table with an elderly couple from Hamburg. We were chatting over an afternoon drink (actually coffee and cake) when Marianne turned up. She found us, just took a seat and exclaimed: “This is heaven! I don’t have access to the sea. I think I’ll visit you every day!” Open and outspoken as she was it did not take long and the Hamburgers knew that she was from Kiel in Holstein and was looking for an apartment in Hamburg since she was going to start a new job there after her holiday. It turned out that my Hamburger friends knew of an apartment in their building and after a phone call to the manager Marianne had rented it. Wow! Talk about coincidences and luck!

Pebbly beach

Pebbly beach

After a small lull in our conversation with Marianne being the main contributor she told us about her arrival in her hotel. All had gone well, she had a nice room on the main floor with a double bed and she joked about a recent stay in a clinic to get some help after a really lousy painful divorce. The double bed had reminded her and she fled the room and took a walk through the gardens. She noticed lots of roses in one area. “I went closer to smell the roses”, she told us, “and I was a bit shocked when a deep voice from behind a huge specimen said hello”. A tanned, nice looking man was dead-heading the roses and she took him to be the gardener. “You won’t believe it”, she told us with by now really rosy cheeks, “after finding my voice again I complimented him on the beautiful garden and I told him that I love roses. He took a branch with a gorgeous rose on it, clipped it off and handed it to me with the words

“A beautiful rose for a beautiful lady”.

We were impressed, laughed and talked about the charm of the Greeks. She came back the next day for a swim and we again had our nice little table in the shady corner.

“You won’t believe what I have to tell you today!” She exclaimed. ”Last night after dinner I was writing in my diary when there was a knock on the door. I went to open it and there was a waiter carrying a tray with a bottle of wine in an ice bucket, two glasses and a rose on it. I told him that he must be at the wrong door because I did not order anything. He had a note and was adamant that mine was the right room. He pushed his way in, set down the tray on my small table in front of the window. He left and closed the door behind him. I did not know what to make of it and was afraid to go to bed. I would have loved to drink a glass of wine, I had the suspicion that this was from the gardener but since there were two glasses I didn’t dare to start the bottle. I got tired of waiting as it was close to midnight, got myself ready for bed but still sat there in the dark expecting a knock on the door at any time. But it didn’t happen. Finally I slipped down under the blanket and drifted off to sleep.

“Can you believe this? What would you have done? I never was so unsure, anxious and even a bit afraid in my whole life. I am not sure what I would have done had he turned up. At breakfast I saw a well-dressed man walk through the room, greeting every guest at every table and finally he came to mine. Can you imagine my shock? It was the gardener! He was the manager. I was totally flabbergasted. He asked me if I enjoyed the wine. I told him that I had thought it wasn’t for me and since there were two glasses I didn’t dare drink it but that I had realized it must be from him and I had thought of him all night.

“That was the idea, my lady” he said, “he gave me the biggest smile and bowed moving on to the next table.”

Wow! What an idea! Who else but a charming Greek man can come up with such an idea?

A beautiful rose for a ....

A beautiful rose for a ….