The weekend in Surin was a fantastic real start to my travels. Surin is normally off the tourist track, the well worn tourist track in Thailand anyway. It see lots of tourists for just this one weekend a year.
I’m going to starting trying to be more brief with my blog entries… so we will see how it goes.
On Friday the big event was the Elephant parade and jumbo feast. At Joy’s suggestion several of us mounted elephants an rode in the parade. It was an amazing experience to be riding in a parade on elephant back surrounded by scores of elephants all walking shoulder to shoulder. IMHO, there are two times and places it’s worthwhile to take a ride on an elephant. The first is on a the jungle on a trek, which I haven’t done sounds great from the people I’ve talked to. I personally wouldn’t bother riding one around a stadium or “elephant village”. The only time outside a jungle I’d ride one inside a town/city is for a parade, it really just to amazing to put words to. At the end of the parade route is the jumbo feast where the elephants get to eat the tons (literally tons and tons) of food that had been prepared the following day. Each day an average elephant eats several hundred pounds of food. Two fairly good links on the state of elephants in Thailand today are here and here I’ll refrain from writing pages upon pages here on how I feel about it all.
That afternoon was spent “sitting out the front of the hotel” as Joy would say in Aussie English, just watching the spectacle go by. This is why New Hotel was so ideal. The square fronted on one side by the train station and another by New Hotel is the center point of all the non-stadium based elephant activities. So it was an all day show every day.
On Saturday Inga and I went to the stadium to see the big show. It was loads of fun and there are plenty of photos on the Flickr site from the show. The highlights for me was to see the elephants dressed in battle costume, as well as just seeing the spectacle of 300 elephants all together on the same field. I have mixed feelings about all the “tricks” they perform, whether it be painting, bowing, hula hooping, flag waving, dart throwing or anything else I can’t think of at the moment. If you look over the earlier links they explain the reality of these creature lives. That being that they have to do something to feed these giants, and with logging widely banned they are left with domesticated animals that live over 50 years with nothing “productive” to do, so they resort to being a tourist attraction.
Sunday was just a relaxing day to enjoy Surin. Aside from the elephant round-up I really enjoyed Surin as well. It has a pleasant morning market full of produce and food that I loved wandering through each day trying new foods. Surin being well off the tourist track has very few English speakers, especially in the markets, so this was an added impetus to learn some Thai.