Chiang Mai – Thailand – 2

During our visit to the Doi Suthep temple, a thunderstorm rolled over. This place, already powerful with the gilded sights and bell-tolling sounds of a large Buddhist temple, became ethereal. It is now one of my most memorable sonic experiences.

Also at Doi Suthep, our guide vehemently broke out of his explanations to tell a wayward transgressing tourist to remove their shoes. Oh, the sounds of cultural ignorance!

On one adventurous day, we went elephant riding and rafting on a bamboo raft.

The elephants first performed a show where they demonstrated how they used to be used as logging animals, shifting huge logs with their trunks, tusks and feet. Now they are also trained to paint, and can produce a much better picture of a tree than I could ever do with my hands, let alone my nose. Sonically, the act of painting was not audible, but the running commentary from the audience is fun to listen to. Why do tourists always want to describe exactly what they see in front of them?

Elephants are surprisingly quiet animals; they are incredibly graceful and their padded feet barely scuff the ground. Their mahouts, or drivers, sat on their heads nudging them forward when they stopped to eat foliage, and grunted and shouted commands at them. The elephants did tend to blow air from their front and rear ends quite often, but only once did I hear one trumpet, and it was in the distance. The clip below is of the part of the elephant ride when we forded a river and climbed the bank back onto the jungle trail. The one sound the elephants constantly made was the quiet clarking of wooden knockers hung round their neck in case they took off into the jungle, and had to be heard to be found.

The clip below is of our guide, Pom, singing a song about the elephants, or “Chang” and describing what he is singing.

The sound on the raft as it floated on the slow river: bamboo creaking under us and long bamboo poles hitting the sandy river bottom. I am trying to record a whoopwhooping bird, and speak to our raftsman about it in broken Thai.