Eeeleephant!  Eeleephant! - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

January 26, 2017

Eeeleephant!  Eeleephant!

Eeeleephant! Eeeleephant!

Besides being in a really nice new bungalow on a quiet road with a nice owner who gave us bananas, coffee and cookies in the morning, I’ve wanted to see how developed Chiang Dao Cave and it’s surroundings have become. Therefore, I was pushing for another day spent in Chiang Dao. Andrea didn’t have any objections at all. The area was so incredibly peaceful that it felt like we were getting continuously massaged. Maybe it was mostly a mental massage.

Our brand spanking new and clean bungalow in Chiang Dao, Thailand.
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Buildings are blessed by monks before they are inhabited. The marks above the doorway of our bungalow were made by monks during this blessing.
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Painting buildings colorful and mostly pastel colors is a new phenomenon in Thailand in just the last two or three years. I love all the colors.
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Bungalow porch roof design.
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In the cool morning, on the guest house owner’s porch while having coffee and cookies we met our bungalow neighbors. She was from Spain and he was from Italy, both very nice and fun to talk with. We were so engaged in conversation that the owner, who spoke limited English, quietly escaped inside his house probably relieved that we all spoke the same language. They were touring the north of Thailand on a motorbike and were also going to see the cave as well as some hot springs. Then they were returning to Chiang Mai and flying to Myanmar.

Gorgeous comes to mind to describe the day but, no, it was better than that. Absolutely perfect! We were immersing ourselves in enjoying the lower temperatures and much lower humidity. A good descriptive visual would be this: imagine two people lying flat on their backs but floating in the air over a beautiful landscape. That was us in Chiang Dao. Riding north from Chiang Mai had proven to be a great idea after only one day!

Thailand is full of orchids.
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Banana delivery
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Doi Chang Dao - Third highest peak in Thailand.
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We took the road in front of our guest house west heading towards the beautiful Chiang Dao mountains (third highest peak in Thailand at 7000+ feet). After a mile or two we crossed highway 107 and kept going west. The road went through an absolutely stunningly beautiful forest of tall trees. Some of their trunks were right next to the small road.

I always thought I remembered those trees from the only other time I was at Chiang Dao Cave in 1974. But memory plays tricks like shadows on walls. For many years I have not known if I had dreamt them or if they actually existed. Finally, after such a long time the trees were real and not a figment of my imagination.

The road to Chiang Dao Cave.
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The road to Chiang Dao Cave.
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The road to Chiang Dao Cave.
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Shortly we arrived at the temples and adjacent buildings around the entrance to the cave. Again I was reliving something from my long ago past. Most of the buildings I did not remember because I doubt they existed back then. I remember a very simple temple, some water before the cave entrance and the cave.

I remember most the guide who took my girlfriend and me into the cave. He was a shriveled little old man possibly permanently hunched over his kerosene lantern. There was only one guide and since we didn’t have flashlights with us and we were game to see the inside of the cave we pretty much had to employ him. There was something about going into a deep dark cave with only this one guy in the whole area. He didn’t seem dangerous but there was something about him that didn’t seem completely safe either, not in a deep dark cave anyway. Maybe it was the large rock he picked up as we entered the cave that made me uneasy. He carried it nonchalantly as though we should not be concerned in the least.

We scrambled inside the cave with him. His lantern made wild shadows on the sides of the cave. We saw a few Buddha statues and then a wooden coffin, empty. When we came to a rock formation that resembled something he would hold up the lantern and say in English what it looked like. They were all animals. The one that stuck with me all these years was, “Eeeleephant! Eeeleephant!,” in his high pitched voice. I’m sure the only English words he knew were three or four animals.

But the thing I remember more than anything about Chiang Dao Cave was when our guide came to a hole in the floor of the cave. There were no barriers or fences to protect people from falling in. He raised the lantern over it and we peered down into blackness. He said nothing. We kept our eyes on him when he raised his rock. I thought, ‘This is it. Blunt force to the back of their heads and down the hole. The end of two more farang’. Was this it? He hated foreigners?

He held the rock over the hole. Then he let it drop. Whew! We listened for it to hit. We kept listening. WE NEVER HEARD IT HIT!! For 43 years I have wondered how that was possible. Is there a tremendous rock pile somewhere in China? Oh, no, wait, China is nearby. Is there a rock pile that keeps growing somewhere in Morocco? Unexplained. So, I was hoping to see the black hole again even if it had become a rock pile.

We tied up our bikes and crossed a bridge over a gently flowing pond and went into the cave. There were more Buddha statues than before not far inside. Then in a large room there were at least a dozen guides with kerosene burning lanterns. The exhaust from them made me feel woozy immediately. We didn’t want a guide because we had a super powerful flashlight I had fully charged. And there were so many people inside the cave that there was no way we would stray that far off and be in danger. We ignored the guides and they ignored us. We went in one section looking around for a rock resembling an elephant. We saw something that maybe could have been the one. We went further in looking for the hell hole. Certainly they had fenced that by now. But we couldn’t take the fumes anymore so we turned around. The fumes were horrible. What a disaster to the cave environment. It’s a cave!! There is no ventilation!

Why in the year 2017 wouldn’t the guides be using LED lights? Why wouldn’t the government of Thailand or local government get involved and change this? The guides all must have brain damage by now. Ten minutes of breathing the fumes and we thought we had brain damage. It’s sad to think that such a bad thing exists when there is such a simple solution. It made me angry. Here I was worried about a guide killing me with a rock. I never could have imagined that 43 years later the lanterns would be even more dangerous to more people.

Chiang Dao cave entrance.
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Guardian at the entrance to the cave.
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Guides inside the cave waiting for customers and breathing toxic fumes.
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Not far inside Chiang Dao Cave.
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Not far inside Chiang Dao Cave.
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A shaft to the outside in Chiang Dao Cave.
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That night we exchanged cave experiences with our bungalow neighbors. They had a guide and went in further than we had. I asked them if they saw a pit. The woman said, “No, no pit. All the guide did was point at a rock formation on the wall and say, “Elephant, elephant.”

lovebruce

Roadside banana stand.
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Roadside papaya stand.
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Papayas - two for, wait, what? 40 cents!!
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Even way out in the country we find great food.
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A banner advertising Leo Beer serves as a sun shade at a restaurant. Chiang Dao, Thailand.
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Today's ride: 8 miles (13 km)
Total: 1,678 miles (2,700 km)

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