Why I didn’t ride an elephant during my time in Asia (and you shouldn’t either)

I could have, trust me. They are available to ride in a lot of places. But even before I went on my trip, I had already researched a few places and found one of which it was clear they treated the animals well and that means, there would be no riding.
At first I thought I wouldn’t get to go here, because it was in the north of Thailand, and I wasn’t planning on going there. But plans change because there is something to be said for spontaneity and so I ended up going to the Elephant Nature Park after all.

The morning started with a pick up in Chiang Mai, and during the bus ride there we were shown a video where we learned some basic rules for interacting with the elephants, but we also saw some of the horrors they go through. A lot of elephants are still used for logging (dragging huge tree logs), but there are many elephants that are being used as touristic attractions as well, not to mention the circus shows that feature elephants, because they are insanely smart and can do tricks.

The thing is, no elephant in its right mind wants to do these things. It is unnatural for them and in order to get an elephant to do these things, their spirit has to be broken. Which basically means that they are being tied up very tightly and beaten until they will comply. Until their soul leaves them and there is just a shell of an animal left.

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All elephants have an owner, and as long as the elephant still does what they have to for them, they will be of use. But as soon as they get older, or the abuse has been so bad that the elephant shows wounds or isn’t able to work in any other capacity anymore. That is the point where the elephant rescue center shows up to offer them money to take the animal, because they won’t sell them earlier, which means that all the animals in the center are pretty damaged – except for the baby elephants that are born there.

Nevertheless, their new life in the park allows them to heal, and the high prices charged to visit the elephants in this park and to hear their stories, allows the park to continue this work.

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The day consists of feeding the animals, walking around to pet them, to take some pictures (of course), but mostly to watch them in their natural habitat, which has been recreated in this park. They mostly eat. Sometimes they play a little, or throw some mud on their backs to keep the sun off their skin. We also go to do something that was advertised as ‘river bathing with the elephants’. This basically meant you could throw buckets of water on them, so that wasn’t really what we had envisioned.

One of the highlights was the vegetarian (but basically vegan) lunch. I could eat everything that was being served and the buffet was huge. Needless to say, I was stuffed after lunchtime and almost felt like walking at the same pace as the huge elephants.

 

 

And after reading this story, what if I told you that here in Asia, they have slaughter houses where they kill elephants, in order to be able to eat their flesh. Maybe they sell elephant flesh in every restaurant*.

You would be horrified.

And I feel the need (I’m sorry) to point out the hypocrisy in that**. Because this is exactly what happens to so many cows, pigs, sheep and chickens every day. Each year there are 9.000.000.000 (LOOK at all those zeros!) animals killed for factory farming, in just the US.
By spending your money on meat, you are encouraging this industry to keep doing what they are doing. And if you’re all about death and despair, then, by all means, keep doing that.

But if you feel bad for abused elephants, or dogs, or cats, or kangaroos for that matter, please just ask yourself why them.

Tell me, what is the difference between these precious elephants, and a ‘regular’ farm animal? Because to me, they are all the same.

*The elephants are not killed to eat, this was hypothetical.
**If you eat meat.

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Why I could never travel without Google Maps

I know that people used to travel with just a map and a compass. And if I had to, sure, I could do that, probably. But I use Google Maps for so many things, it’s not even funny anymore.

Not only do I use it for the obvious reasons, such as finding out where my hostels are located and how to get there, I also use it to navigate my way when I am on a bus or train. The train stations are not always clearly mentioned or visible when a train stops and in the bus it’s all just one big adventure. Asking where you are or when/where you will arrive will get you a nod and a smile, which is not very helpful. But with this amazing app you can locate the little blue dot and see where you currently are. So when I see myself going towards the correct train station or see that the busstop where we stop is near to my destination, I know I have to get off.

Thus, using it to see where you are, to see where you have to go… Makes sense so far, right?

I also use it to track where I have been, as you can see here.

And, when I arrive in a new destination and I am looking for something, such as a market, a vegan restaurant for guilt-free dining or a supermarket.

So yeah, I never claimed I used it in other ways than most other people do. I just said it’s really, really useful. And I would be lost without it!

The north of Thailand

So, my initial plan was to just visit Bangkok and the south of Thailand. But everyone I met along my travels, and I do mean everyone, told me to go to Chiang Mai and Pai, because these were supposedly the best places in the country. So, flexible me booked a few plane tickets and I decided to visit these towns. Coincidentally, I had been eyeing this elephant park that is really close to there, so it gave me the opportunity to go there as well. But I will post about that later.

The pictures you see here were taken in the town of Chiang Mai, and when I was in Pai I rented a motorbike and went around there, so the nature pictures are all from the area near Pai.

I will save you the story of how I ended up throwing up in the mini van, because that mountain road that takes you to Pai is really as bad as they say. It wasn’t pretty, but I guess it was worth it?

I know I haven’t been very verbal lately, in my posts. Lack of time and lack of inspiration are the causes, but at least the pictures are very beautiful :)

Oh, and all the roads depicted here… Yeah we rode on those, with our motorbikes. And let me tell you… That is the best feeling in the world.

 

 

Explaining the name

I thought of Traveling Sunny a while ago, but I had several reasons for choosing this particular name.

So, as most/some of you may know, my name is Sanne, not Sunny.
When I was in Sicily with one of my best friends, we talked about how my name was so hard to pronounce in languages other than Dutch. When I go abroad, often there is a point where there is some confusion over how to pronounce my name. I decided to make it easier this time and now I tell everyone they can call me Sann-e (so, you can pronounce it like Sunny). We had a lot of jokes about this during that trip and the entire day we said out loud what we were doing, and added: With Sunny (e.g. drinking a glass of water – with Sunny. Swimming in the sea – with Sunny).
I think most people will agree when I say I have a happy personality. I always look on the bright side of things, I am a very positive person and I also choose to travel this way. If things go wrong, I just go with them and see what will happen.
Also, the places that I will travel to will mostly be sunny, so it’s appropriate on that front as well :)

Plus, it just sounds damn cute when people call me Sunny (for the Dutchies: they basically say Sannie).

I feel like the ‘traveling’ part doesn’t need an explanation, and if you think it does, I suggest you start reading the content of this blog.

So. Basically it’s my name, a description of my personality, a description of my style of traveling and even a description of the locations I’m traveling to. How could I have chosen any other name?

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Why I am postponing my second internship

For those of you who have memorized my itinerary, you know that I was supposed to start my second internship in Paris in the beginning of April. I’m not going to do that anymore. And even though I didn’t like having to put it off, or cancel it all together, I now think it is for the best and I made peace with the decision.

I hired an agency to find the internship for me. I told them what I wanted, which was an HR internship in Paris. They searched for me and I kept searching myself, but because I don’t speak French fluently yet, it was very hard to find an internship in this specific department. Makes sense though.

At first I thought maybe I could let go of my wish to do an internship in an HR department, because then at least I could live in Paris for a few months, but I decided that doing an internship in this department is what I really want to do. I want to see if I can combine my two studies (business and psychology) in this field and in order to figure that out, I need experience.

So after considering different countries and cities, my stress level rose because I still hadn’t found an internship and I was already traveling at this point. I needed to make a decision, mostly to get rid of the stress of not knowing what was coming next and of having to arrange everything last-minute. It just wasn’t going to work out, at this point.

Also, there was the financial aspect. I’m not saying I’m broke, I am not. And I actually didn’t spend more money than I was supposed to. But I had put my Paris money in some stocks that seemed like a sure thing at the time, until their value decreased immensely. So I lost some money on that and now I would really have to cut back a lot if I still wanted to pay for doing an internship in this year.

I can hear you asking, what is the plan now? You wouldn’t stop this plan without having an alternative. Well, I would, but I wouldn’t write about it on my blog without an alternative ;)

Starting the end of April, I’m going to work on a campsite in the south of France. I’m hoping to improve my French here, as well as experiencing daily life in France. The plan so far is still to do an internship in Paris, but I will do it after the summer. And possibly (although I don’t think so) after a summer in France, I decide that France is not for me, and I won’t want to go to Paris. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. This plan does mean that I have to pay an extra year of college tuition, which sucks, but it’s a loss I’ll take.

So now I’m up for five months of adventure in the south of France, where I will work hard and save a lot of money, all the while trying to figure out where my final (student-) adventure will take place.

I very much believe that everything happens for a reason, and I’m guessing this too will have its reasons. Maybe I would have died in another attack if I had gone to Paris this spring, or maybe something extraordinary will happen to me while I’m in the south of France, which is why I had to end up there. Whatever it is, it’s going to be great, because I will make it great.

 

The temples of Siem Reap

When visiting Siem Reap, it is basically a crime not to visit the temples there. Angkor Wat is the biggest religious monument in the world. There are so many temples on these sites, you can spend weeks there. But, for those of us who don’t want to look at temples for weeks on end, you can do a one-day trip as well. And even then, you can choose the short circuit of the big one.

I ended up doing the short one and even though  I would have wanted to see more, the price for a second day was too much for me, plus, the first day was so exhausting, that after that I was kind of done for a while. Maybe it would be best to go back again a few weeks later, but who has the time…?

The entrance fee is 20 dollar for one day, 40 dollar for 3 days and I think 60 dollar for a week. You get a personalized ticket, so they take your picture at the booth. My 20 dollar bill was actually rejected because it was not new and pretty enough, so I had to give them another. Ridiculous. It is unbelievable how much money a place like this must make. There are so many people and they all pay these high prices. It’s bizarre.

The best way to see the sights is to hire a tuktuk driver for the day. For the short circuit this shouldn’t cost more than 15 dollars, so find three other people to fill the tuktuk and it’s pretty cheap. You can also rent a bicycle, but I get the feeling that every single person who does that seriously underestimates the heat. You are fully in the sun, almost the whole day. It is insanely hot. For real.

So, the thing you all have been waiting for… The pictures.

Enjoy.