Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai (watch out, watch out, there’s an incredibly cute set of elephant pictures about)

I started this post on 25th March 2017, when I got back from the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. Then I fell asleep, hung out in Chiang Mai and Pai for a few days, tootled off to Bangkok and flew back to Heathrow what a mistake so this post has spent the last two-plus years as a list of bullet points. But today is International Elephant Day, apparently, so here are some elephants.

an elephant in Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, eating watermelon

According to my bullet points, elephants consume 10% of their body weight each day. They can have many teeth in their lifetime (sets of teeth, presumably), and their lifespan in the same as humans’.

elephants in nature park behind a fence

I visited the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai as it it was the only one I could find without a single bad review. The elephants who live there are rescued from illegal logging or circuses; there are no fences; the elephants are pretty much allowed to do what they like. Some ‘sanctuaries’ that have rescued elephants from circuses or the like will employ the same methods of control (prodding them with hooks to get them to behave) and allow visitors to ride them, which apparently is bad for their backs.

None of that happens at the Elephant Nature Park. Our guide (whose name I did not record, my bad) explained that they only tempt the elephants with food, and if they aren’t interested then whatever, man, do you want to get trampled by an elephant? I am paraphrasing. Our group had fed an old lady elephant (who refused any food she didn’t like) and we trotted down a trail some distance away from another elephant. Our guide just said, ‘he’s not into people. We’ll leave him,’ and ta daa off we went.

elephant next to trees at Elephant Nature Park Thailand

elephant with leaves in its trunk

Fun fact: African elephants and Asian elephants are completely different species. I dunno which one Dumbo was because I only saw that film once, when I was maybe four, and it made me cry so much I’ve refused to go near it since. I have a feeling the picture book version I had did the same. Interestingly (thanks bullet points), if an elephant is kicking and moving its head back and forth, you’re seeing signs of neurosis, ie it’s gone mad. If you’ve seen an elephant in a circus or ridden one, it’s been broken as a young elephant in a process called ‘crushing’. They are tied with ropes and unable to move at all, prodded with nails or burnt until they can obey basic commands. Some zoos and circuses train the elephant to ‘draw’ with a paintbrush and sell the ‘art’ to tourists.

Gross.

elephant near river at Elephant Nature Park Chiang Mai
I think this is the elephant who doesn’t do people. I WONDER WHY.

As part of the day, visitors get to help wash the elephants! They are well up for a bath, although it’s a bit more like throwing paint at a wall than it is helping someone wash their hair.

girl throwing water over elephant in river

Sometimes the humans missed the elephants and got each other… those knobbly bits on their heads denote age, if I remember correctly. We got the opportunity to pat the elephants too, if they liked people. I was not absolutely convinced it’s a good idea but, reader, it was. They’re all hairy!

girl next to elephant in Chiang Mai

You have to approach them from the front so they can see you.

Also, elephants like scratching posts. They enjoy dirt baths. They are incredibly, ridiculously, cute.

baby elephant with leaves in trunk

elephants playing in dirt mountain, Chiang Mai

I mentioned that the park didn’t really do fences. At one point a herd of water buffalo came wandering through and our guide just said something like, ‘oh, they’ve come in from the other side of the mountain.’ A few of the stray dogs who hang out there barked. The elephants did not take notice.

water buffalo and stray dog in Elephant Nature Park

My final bullet point is that the elephants may have hip or foot problems from logging (don’t we have machines to do that for us now?) so they can add that to their list of problems, which already includes ‘being used in bullshit circuses’ and ‘being killed for their ivory because for some reason it is fashionable to have stuff made from elephant teeth’. They are also facing habitat loss, because who isn’t these days.

On the off chance you ever visit northern Thailand, I highly recommend you visit the Elephant Nature Park. It’s absolutely lovely… and I recall the buffet being very tasty.

Want to help the elephants on this fine International Elephant Day? And on every single other day? Here’s what you can do:

  • Never get on an elephant for a ride
  • Don’t visit a circus that uses animals
  • Don’t buy ivory, even if it’s ‘antique’. I can’t remember the name of the show but I once saw an Attenborough programme in which someone pointed out that although the UK has banned ‘new’ ivory, if it is considered ‘antique’ then it’s fair game to sell… too bad no one really knows if a bit of ivory is antique or not!
  • Buy elephant coffee (no it isn’t made from elephant dung, although elephants are very important ecologically, as they spread seeds through their dung)
  • Sponsor an elephant (it’s my birthday soon hint hint)

I loved visiting South East Asia, but there are relatively few places I would jump at the chance to go back to. The Elephant Nature Park is definitely one of them.

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In which I’ve become an eco-warrior

Does anyone else do this thing about a week before they go on holiday where they look at their pre-holiday to do list and a piece of  their soul melts irreparably? I’m spending five days in Zante from Monday and I’ve never been more pleased with Past Francesca’s holiday-planning judgement, although if I’d known I was going to leave my weekend job sooner than I planned, I would have booked longer than five days. On the plus side, I don’t have to faff about with checked luggage.

Seriously though, I do not know why I thought I could, in the week before I go away, do the following:

  • a week of regular work plus work for the week I’m away because holiday pay is a foreign concept
  • organise my dad and my brother’s birthday presents because they both have big birthdays the week after I’m back and the gifts I’m making are going to be legendary if I actually pull them off except I forgot about an essential supply UNTIL THIS MORNING
  • wear in the fancy shoes I bought for the party they’re having the weekend I’m back
  • put together plans for a blog tour for The Princess and the Dragon
  • do my last ever shift at my weekend job (I was even thinking of asking my colleagues out for a drink woops there went the time)
  • get my nails and toenails done; a leisurely exercise that cannot be rushed and may require me to drive home in flip flops; a potentially strenuous activity given how much trouble I have operating a clutch
  • iron every piece of clothing I might possibly need when I’m home even though I guarantee I will need the same four items I wear every single week
  • epilate my leg hair

Something’s going to give. It’s going to be the leg hair. Not sorry.

I probably shouldn’t be so hard on myself for being knackered. The last time I had more than one consecutive day off was… March? I think it was when Brexit was about to happen then didn’t. Only having one ‘day off’ a week doesn’t bother me much (it’s not like I’m working at a desk 15 hours a time on the other days, I can take afternoons off to relax and stuff) but I have had a lot on my plate between then and now. I’ve taken on another client, one of my best friends died and yesterday a fly sat in my hair for about two hours. I shit you not, I was at my desk and thinking ‘god my curls are really spiky today, I can almost feel them moving’ and then I got up and what fell out of my hair? An insect.

I realised I’d knocked its leg off and felt bad because it was really woozy, so I fed it some leftover hot chocolate because I’ve been paying attention to 30 Days Wild and we need to look after our planet, thank you very much, and left it to sit on my orchid overnight. I didn’t realise that flies have giant schnozzles to hoover up liquid. This morning I put it on a leaf outside. Its wing was a bit damaged too so nature has probably taken its course by now.

Anyway, my point is that if I wasn’t mildly eccentric before I spent 10 minutes spoon-feeding a fly, I probably am now. Which takes me back to my question about melted souls. PLEASE GO AWAY, RESPONSIBILITIES. If you never hear from me again, I hired a boat in Zante and sailed to somewhere with no wifi.

You know, I’ve had that Pirates of the Caribbean gif set on my computer since Johnny Depp made good films. This blog is old, my dudes.

Look, a Goat

Afternoon. I’m going out in a minute but my intrinsic need to post something every single month and/or week to stop my life losing meaning is flaring up, so HERE I AM. I put a dress on earlier but it’s cooler than I thought so I’m also wearing a hoodie and trouser-sized leggings. You scoff but the Kardashians will have a line of dress leggings sooner or later, guarantee it.

I don’t actually have much else to say, which is why my ridiculous desire to post to a schedule needs to fuck off. I’m busy writing dragonnovel to a deadline so I’m probably not going to be online much until it’s finished. I’m trying to motivate myself by sharing little bits and pieces about it on Instagram, so head there for stained glass windows, goats and the occasional actual snippet. My Patreon is here if you want a free copy when it’s finished and/or a character named after your good self, blah etc.

Yeah, wasn’t kidding about the goats. There are also twin characters named Molly and Clarissa, like the Mindless Self Indugence songs, so I’m really hoping someone pledges soon so I can save the names for a novella about two women who bootleg gin and steal cars.

Gotta go and change my leggings now!

The Sneezing Hour

Normally I would not consider turning my phone on when I’ve been in bed three hours, especially since I already have a very questionable relationship with it, but I have a cold. I think it’s been a while since I waxed lyrical about the imperfections of my immune system and it’s too late to start, but can I just say that I hope whoever gave me this cold ends up in hell. 

I’m snotty enough to not be sleeping and the one tablet I took has given me a stomachache, but the book I’m reading is mediocre and one of the dogs has been woofing at nothing (I checked and we weren’t being burgled) so I thought I’d come and say hello. Make something useful at 1am instead of pretending to count backwards from 1000. I’m not sure if this qualifies as useful but it has distracted me from the stomachache, so that’s one-nil in Francesca vs Phone Addiction. Phone Wastage. 

At least I’m not scrolling through the popular page on Instagram, basically.

I might put the world service on the radio. I might reattempt the book. I might even get to sleep before sunrise, which would be nice because my shifts in the shop are getting longer in the run up to Sunday, I have vaccinations tomorrow and I have to go out to dinner sometime. Friday? God, Friday’s tomorrow.

I think foxes are waking the dogs up. I can hear both Donnie and foxes yapping. Unless one of the neighbours’ dogs escaped. Weirder shit has happened on my street. I almost wish my ears were even more bunged up because if they keep it up (Don or the foxes) I will have to get up to observe (foxes) and subdue (Donnie). And I have gotten comfortable in the space of this paragraph. Haven’t even sneezed for five minutes.

I think I will chance the book again. I really do need to get some sleep at some point. As I am on my phone I do not have a fun gif to share to emphasise that, but I guess retro/vintage is in fashion. And I have missed popping in to chat whenever I fancy it, not that anything’s really been stopping me lately. Too bad ‘whenever’ has become ‘the witching hour when I’m sharing a bed with a dozen snot-soaked tissues’. Whatever.

See you when it’s light out.

Moving Image Appreciation Post #10

I hate the name of this series but I can’t think what to rename it, so here we go. (Yes I am on holiday right now. I did some magic. I am on a beach and probably asleep.)

Why isn’t my youth like that. Where are the denim jackets? The masses of people? The bowling alley that isn’t scummy? My local bowling alley is a shithole with way less gays – or it was in 2009, which was the last time I bothered going. I don’t much like denim jackets. Also, is it just me or are half the people in that video too young for tape recorders.

This video summed up my psyche before my psyche was my psyche. I love the word psyche.

I remembered this when I was doing the Indifferent Ignorance Retrospective and I think I should watch it more often. It should be required viewing.

Celebrating Internaut Day With an Indifferent Ignorance Retrospective

Today is 25 years since the start of public access of the world wide web (thank you for my jobs, Tim Berners-Lee) and I wanted to find something to encapsulate why the Internet is so important, but to be honest I think this shit hole of a website does the trick. I can’t find evidence of what it looked like back in 2009 (shout out to anyone who put up with the luminous green type) but here are some other gems from the last six and a half years.

Indifferent Ignorance Internaut Day Retrospective 2011 1

I am still so proud of that tagline. I only got rid of it when I started The Webways and wanted to avoid brand confusion. (October 2011)

Indifferent Ignorance Internaut Day Retrospective 2011 1

Oh god that’s where my graphic designing started. Also, shout out to Sweet Pea! (October 2011)

Internaut Day 2016 Indifferent Ignorance Retrospective

I don’t know what went wrong here, but I do seem to remember archiving it on the Way Back Machine so I could remember it in years to come. High five, 17 year old me. (December 2013)

Internaut Day Indifferent Ignorance Retrospective

This was a total accident. I was playing about with new theme ideas, because the Bueno one (see above and every post for about five years) wasn’t supported by WP any more – I didn’t realise that I had activated a new one, not just previewed it, and couldn’t get the original back. This was as close as I could get to how it was, and I’m still not sure how I feel about those circles. (August 2015)

Internaut Day Indifferent Ignorance retrospective

My Goth phase. (October 2015)

And that concludes this post, because I have to go use the Internet to look at crap people have written on a micro blogging site.

Friday Musings with Sweet Pea the Dog

I hadn’t realised it’s been over a week since I published; I’ve been working on a long-ish post but I’ve been trying to take my time over anything longer than a couple of paragraphs so you can expect it around the same time as the Chilcot report. In the mean time, I think it’s very important that we take a moment to appreciate the t-shirt Frank Iero designed recently.

I cannot really afford to buy more t-shirts, partly because I have both an MOT  and a bill for new glasses approaching, and partly because I own 34564 t-shirts and wear about three of them on a regular basis. But.

But.

Maybe I wouldn’t have to wear it. Maybe I could just hang it up above my bedroom door so it’s the first thing I see every day. A benevolent Sweet Pea dream catcher. When I get my own place I could hang it in the entrance hall as a warning to all who enter.

The real question isn’t ‘should I get a Sweet Pea t-shirt’. It’s ‘where can I make one with my own dogs’ faces’.

This is going to keep me up all weekend.

A Tourist’s Guide to Being a Tourist: Gallery Different, Central London

If I was one of those people who values their worth by the artistic talent and/or success of their friends, I’d probably think quite a lot of myself. I do think quite a lot of myself. I’m not sure how I’ve done it, but most of my friends are into illustration, game design, writing or something similar (no interpretive dancers as of yet). A week or so ago I visited Gallery Different in Percy Street, which is in Fitzrovia. My friend Bernadette is part of an exhibition until 20th September of work by the Society of Women Artists, so we went for a private viewing (different from a public viewing in that they served wine and I got to meet some of the artists themselves).

This is one of Bernadette's paintings.
This is one of Bernadette’s paintings.

Sweet little dude, huh? This is her website, although if you really want to know what her paintings are like then you should pop round mine for a cup of tea since her work is in almost every room in the house excluding bathrooms (so far). In fact, if you want to commission her then drop me a line and I’ll have a word tomorrow morning when we walk the dogs. Incidentally, she did a portrait of Fred a few years ago and he looks very stately and not at all like he’s the sort of dog who nicks your slippers. I do, however, have video evidence of that.

Anyway, back to the art. Lots of women are currently showing their work at Gallery Different; my other favourite artist was probably Rosa Sepple, who knows how to depict a good night out. My nan, who came too, bought one of these pictures. I can’t remember which but I reckon anyone sneaking around her living room is going to get a fright when they turn on the lights and see a giant cartoon of poultry watching them.

Event and Place Gallery Different, Fitzrovia, London

Cost Apart from the train tickets and food we got afterwards, it was free. I’ve never been to a gallery that charges to go through the door, although the art itself isn’t exactly the price you’d pay for a canvas print in B&Q.

Food It was a private viewing so they served wine. I don’t think it’s something they do everyday.

Other people I wore nice shoes so I could pretend I was fancy and regretted it when my toes got squashed walking from the tube to the gallery. Judging by the people who were there, you can wear anything you like since it’s an art gallery and the more eccentric you look, the more people think you’re a Serious Artist. The gallery itself is in quite a nice part of the city so you might get a few art snobs wandering about, which are fun to watch although I can never be sure whether I want to engage them in conversation. 8/10 for people watching, 10/10 for things to look at. Possibly not the best place to visit if you’re uninterested in art.