Curries and Elephant Painting — Discovering Northern Thailand

If I told you that I’ve seen an elephant paint a beautiful abstract work of art by using a paint brush no less, would you believe me? Years ago, my sister and I saw a 60 Minutes special about such a thing, but when we said we wanted to see this in person, everyone was skeptical. In fact, they flat out didn’t believe us.

A few years ago my dad, sisters, and I decided to go to Thailand. We spent part of the time in Bangkok and part of our visit in Chiang Mai. We went to an elephant reserve just outside Chiang Mai, and got to take an elephant trek through the jungle. And you know what we saw? An elephant painting a work of art. He would take a brush with his trunk, pick a color, then paint a design on a canvas. And the funniest thing was that it was far better than what I could ever paint. With awe we watched this and that’s when we realized how awe inspiring these creatures are.

Next, we got on a bench that was saddled on the elephant, and took a tour through the jungles of Thailand. I felt like an archeologist uncovering a new world, all I needed was my khaki outfit and safari hat. My sister Kate was convinced we were going to fall over (thanks for insinuating I’m fat, Kate) so I contorted the best I could to sit closer to the middle. After an hour roaming through the forest, we arrived at a small town. I was thinking, “finally”…not because I was bored, but rather, my legs had fallen asleep from an hour of sitting in a position like Gumby. I took a step off the elephant and it felt great….then my legs buckled. It had been raining so the dirt hill that was used to get off the elephant had become a mountain of mud. My legs gave out and I fell flat in the mud. I got up and rubbed as much mud off as possible, but then I decided that I’d rather spend my time roaming around the village. Just as I had forgotten about the mud, my dad took a picture of us. You know what he did with that picture? He sent that out as a Christmas card. Thanks dad. Here I was standing next to Lexie and Kate. I’ll admit, Lexie didn’t look like a prize either, but Kate had actually spent time on her appearance that morning. Not only had she brushed her hair that day (Lexie and I preferred to sleep until the very last moment and couldn’t be bothered with such a thing), but she even put on make-up. So here I was, looking like a disheveled mess standing next to Ms. Perfectly Groomed.

We hopped back on the elephants, and strolled to a river. We ate lunch (curry with vegetables and rice) and took wooden rafts up the river. It was great to get a different view of the landscape. The area was untouched by the modern times as we strolled along.

The next day, we took a Thai cooking class. Yum….curry day! This was by far the highlight of my trip. First off, I love to cook and eat, but I especially love curry! First, we made a spiritual blessing to the Buddha. The classroom was in an open air studio. We paired up and were each given a cooking station. Then after learning how to make curry paste from scratch, we made several dishes using various curries. My favorite was a simple red curry noodle soup with chicken. We made five or six curry dishes, and there wasn’t one dish I didn’t absolutely love.

Here is a simple recipe for Chiang Mai Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken…

I could sit here and think of 100 great stories about Thailand, from the markets, to going to a Thai boxing match.  I’d be rambling on for hours though, so maybe I’ll save some for next time.

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3 Responses to Curries and Elephant Painting — Discovering Northern Thailand

  1. chicagolex says:

    I agree, I could talk about Thailand all day! One of my favorite/memorable trips. I have to say my best memory was feeding the baby elephants bananas, they reminded me so much of Lucy! One thing I regret is not taking more pictures, if only we had been more tech advanced and brought a digital camera!

    • theoverworkedamerican says:

      I know, I barely have any proof that we were there at all! I was going to talk about the water buffalo, or maybe the monkey school…..or what a great deal the hotel in Bangkok was ($100/night for a 2 bedroom suite). Hopefully you’ll write something cool too that I didn’t remember.

      • chicagolex says:

        Hahah it could be mentioned the Thai boxing night and the one opponent who’s cup fell off in the middle of the match!

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