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The heart of an elephant 2017

Making a local connection

Erinda Shehu-Martin

Thailand

This is a story about my experience with the natural beauty of Thailand, Thai culture and people. But mainly this is a story about a beautiful creature named LD, a baby elephant I met while traveling in Thailand. She was just 32 days old when I met her, but held lifetimes of love and joy in her heart.
It was the end of November and I had been in Thailand for just under a week. Among other experiences, the week had been filled with a very long overseas flight, loud traffic in the streets of Bangkok, sketchy hostel stays and awkward attempts to properly request cheap vegetarian meals from street food vendors. I had been reading about all the beautiful temples and breathtaking natural sites in northern Thailand for weeks and weeks prior to my trip. I had been looking at the all gorgeous beach photos shared all over the internet lusting to be there. I had even attempted to learn a few phrases in Thai, but the locals would just stare at me with a half smirk and what I first thought to be full on judgement while I'd end up finishing my statements in English. It had only been a few days, but I had experienced so much! And I was tired, so tired. I had not slept a full 8 hours length since I left home, that place that seemed so distant on the other side of the world.
I had made flexible plans to head up north from Bangkok, eventually making my way up to Chiang Mai. I had read so much about this place, supposedly being the hip spot in northern Thailand. And once I got there I found that it was, sort of. After an overnight train ride I made it the bright and early, with no set plans of where I was going to stay. Upon arrival I felt overwhelmed and a little lost among all other backpackers, mostly from northern Europe. Secretly I wanted to blend in and pretend I was local, but I sure did not. Deep down, all I wanted was to learn the culture, to better understand it and experience it.
After wandering the streets of Chiang Mai for 2 days, I decided it was time to make it up to the hill tribes, the place where the true locals were. And the place where the elephants were. After a lot of research I found a place that really cares about the elephants, and the native people there. My visit was a frozen day in time that I will never forget. I got to spend all day with the sweetest group of elephants caring for them, bathing them and feeding them. Words cannot describe how much love and happiness those creatures emit.
That was one day I will never forget. That was one day that when I felt most at home, away from home!


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