Elephants of Thailand

A baby elephant in a viewing corral in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

When vacationing in Thailand the province of Chiang Mai is popular choice for both tourists and Thai alike, all looking for one thing, elephants.  Elephants have long been one of my favorite animals so my stay in Thailand just wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to Chiang Mai.

The baby pictured above is chained to it’s mother in front of the loading area for the elephant rides.  The rides were much more exciting than what you normally see in the US.  Instead of just going around a loop while someone guides the elephant from the ground, a handler rides on the front of the elephants head and guides the elephant around the scenic park.  At one point we even got to ride through a river.

My dad like’s to tell me how Thai children find the English word elephant very amusing because it is so complex.  In Thai the word for elephant is “chang”, a very simple word in Thai and one of the first words babies often learn.  For Thai culture the elephant is more than just a native animal it is a symbol and a deep part of their culture so “chang” is and important word.   (I find it a bit amusing that it is now also the name of a popular beer.)  Recently the first fully computer animated film made in Thailand came out, called Khan Khluay, about a famous war elephant owned by one of Thailand’s great kings.  It had a huge toy market while I was there and I really wanted one of those stuffed animals for myself but for packing purposes had to be content with just bringing a copy of the movie home.

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Writing Art

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Asian forms of writing are so different from the Germanic & Latin based lavished most of us in America are use to that it is easy to see them as purely images of art.  I must admit that’s how I felt when I first saw this scene at Bodha Gaya, India.  I feel a bit guilty because when I see this image I think of a call for peace and harmony, but in since I can’t read Hindi, I have no idea what the sign says.  I always like to wonder what it would be like to view English with out the background of knowledge of meaning.  Do our letters take on the same beauty as Asian characters do?  The seem so plain and boring to me sometimes that I wonder if that would be possible, or is it just my familiarization with them that makes them seems so dull to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love typography and think that it can make beautiful art out of letters, but can the letters become so beautiful that they are art even without meaning?