A 12 seater mini bus drove us out of Bangkok, arriving in Amphawa two hours later. We had no map and every large scale map on the street with exclusively in Thai with no apparent 'you are here' indication. With no idea of which was was north and which was south, we wandered the local area in search of accommodation options. As we walked down the boardwalk next to a river (its name unknown) I just about fell into an elephant. I gasped as a young man handed me a small bag of food offering me the opportunity to feed it; the young elephant lifting its trunk, pointing to its mouth. Having never been so close to an elephant I seized the opportunity, the elephants trunk searching my outstretched had eagerly accepting my offerings. His head stood about level with mine as I ran my hand across its thick skin. I looked into his eyes and felt my soul touch his for a brief moment.
We explored the shops; merchandise here far more appealing than the tacky knock offs of Bangkok. The atmosphere was alive with local culture and finally I was getting a taste of authentic Thailand. Its places like this I long to explore. A place we never would have known about if it wasn't for Couch Surfing.
Julian found his Thai fisherman pants and chose a pair in hunter green (That would be British racing green of course - ed). Whist making the transaction the man operating a tiny food stall opposite offered a wrapped package to our vendor, who in turn handed it to us. This elderly Thai man wanting to share the local culinary delights with us, accepting no offer of money in return. We sat and peeled back the thick green banana leaf browned by the heat of a fire revealing a tightly packed gift of sticky rice. Biting into it we found sweet dehydrated fruit surrounding a mild sausage. Julians eye lit up as he devoured this treat stating it was the best thing he had eaten in weeks and eagerly purchased another two packages to be kept for breakfast. We explored a small museum behind the man selling the fisherman's pants and the vendor approached us again with another unknown gift wrapped in banana leaf. "Local food, fish, you try free." He insisted with a smile.
Leaving our bags behind for the day we strolled around the markets seeing much the same stuff as the previous evening. More elephants were being paraded down the street, one with a bleeding ear from the hooks their tamers use. As I watch them I begin to see past the romanticism and feel sad for these wild creatures which should be wandering free in the jungles rather than lead down the street with hooks for the amusement of the tourists.