We were running late. The previous night, we had walked the stretch of Petchburi Road under the rain to get to our hotel and our exhaustion took its toll. When we got down to the hotel lobby, our tour guide was already there. She bowed with her hands clasped as we apologized profusely for being late.
The tour guide introduced herself as Nuch, she tapped on her watch and said we had better leave to avoid Bangkok traffic. Jeshley asked if we could take at least 10 minutes to grab breakfast. She tapped her watch again and said “10 minutes, okay I give you. I will wait.”
I took some napkins and started grabbing croissants and a couple of butter. We sat down as I hurriedly chowed down pasta while the girls did the same with their cereals. After a few minutes we took more bread from the table to eat on the go.
We had a family SUV all to ourselves and a driver who looked like he just came out of the movie, Matrix. We got in and Nuch asked us our names. While chitchatting at the back of the car, Nuch turned to us and first apologized for disturbing our conversation. She asked us to listen as we had many things on our itinerary and were short on time. We could go over our schedule but if we followed her, everything would go on time. Nuch told us that we only had 30 minutes allotted for the floating market and that if we chose to go to the death railway, we’d be running late for the Tiger Temple.
“Cannot assure spot for cub feeding program, you should let me know now so I can reserve and we should not be late!”
We weren’t too interested in seeing the monkeys. “Oh no! You see monkeys, monkeys on the way to elephant bathing. You see monkeys, very cute!
After everything was settled we started eating the croissants. The crumbs fell on our immaculately clean SUV but Nuch assured us it was okay to eat inside the car. Luckily, we all had napkins and wet wipes so we were able to clean up a little .After an hour, the rain started to lash. It was stronger than the rains I’ve ever experienced in the Philippines, droplets the size of grapes.
My friends were all asleep while I looked out the window. The view looked almost the same as rural Philippines except for a few altars every now and then. Throughout our tour, Nuch was our hustler. She gave us tips on prices, haggling, and time-management. We cuddled with tiger cubs, bathed in the river with elephants, fed wild monkeys with bananas and nuts. The cubs were aloof, preferring to play with yarns and plastic tires rather than humans- the only interest they gave us was when we had milk bottles in our hands. Sensing our offering of boiled corn, the elephants chased Nuch as their human guides watched amused – Nuch was not.
Miss Universe and Crescent Moon were gentle even as they sprayed water and threw us off their heads. They were not playful, they were 40 years old -it was probably another day’s work for these elephants. I planted a kiss on Crescent Moon’s trunk, thanked her and wished for her health and happiness.The drive home took 3 hours. The rain started again, this time stronger and longer. We stopped by a gas station, bought iced coffee and barbecue at the convenience store and went on our way.
-written on a trip to Thailand in 2013.