On the 24th we decided to do something special - it was Christmas after all. So we booked a tour to go visit an elephant camp somewhere in the mountains of the Chiang Mai province. Feeding bananas to the elephants when we were getting to know them, an old childhood memory suddenly popped up in my head: Feeding elephants spaghettis in the zoo in Hamburg. So I went and asked one of the workers of the farm whether spaghettis are appropriate food for elephants, which seemed a little odd now that I had seen them eating bananas, sugar cane and lots of big leaves (an elephant eats 250kg a day, just for those who like random facts). ‘No’, he said, ‘they should not eat pasta. But we sometimes give them rice, for the pre-natal vitamins’. After some curious inquiry I found out that, well, the pasta probably didn’t hurt the elephants in Hagenbecks and, that they feed pregnant elephants (they carry their babies for two freaking years!) with rice because it is easier to infuse with vitamins and other medication.
On Christmas Day itself we went hiking in the Inthanon National Park, seeing loads of banana, mango, coffee and papaya plants, soy bean and rice fields, huge spiders and ants and beautiful but loud waterfalls. Our guide was a rather interesting character who told us with a bit of melancholy in his voice that a lot of opium used to be planted in those secluded mountains. Other than opium, he liked to talk about bamboo, pointing out ‘Young bamboo’ ‘Strong bamboo’, ‘Old bamboo’, ‘can built hut from bamboo’, ‘can cook sticky rice (rice, sugar, coconut milk) in bamboo over fire’, ‘can make shoes from bamboo’. From time to time he would alternate his talk about bamboo with the one line of ‘jingle bells’ he knows. For lunch he provided us with rice, tofu and vegetables that he had carried, wrapped in banana leaves, up to the waterfall where we ate and took a little nap.
So yeah, Christmas wasn’t really Christmas this year. Whereas I don’t regret it for one second to have spent this vacation traveling rather than having gone home, I am already looking forward to next December, which will be the first time in three years me and all my brothers will be at home for Christmas (i hope!).