• Tara B. Vasi

Day 9: Crabby in Krabi, Krabi Elephant Sanctuary, Lady Date

My nose was completely stuffed up. My throat was raw and my lunges constricted. The sinuses in my head weighed more then even a light kettle bell at the gym. We offered Sunday sunrise yoga on the beach in Krabi, Thailand, so as much as my body wanted to stay in bed, I dragged myself out and without even splashing water on my face, met the group at reception to take the shuttle down to the beach. How was I supposed to let my breath guide me during asana under these conditions?

During Nim’s opening of class, I did my best to look around and absorb all the beauty around me, be present in the moment, but was too distracted by the snot coming down my nose.

We moved through a shortened version of Ashtanga and passerby were take photos of us like we were a zoo exhibit. Ferrangs ran by our yoga class wearing head phones and Nikes and there were a few others doing a form of Tai Chi over by the wooden swings. We took group photos and lifted Nim in the air over our heads like she was body surfing at a concert.

I planned to hit the pharmacy for antibiotics after yoga and before the Elephant Sanctuary but it was closed when I stopped by.

We all met for breakfast, and Bill and Kathy presented me with antibiotics and cough suppressant. After yoga, they walked back to the resort from the beach and found a pharmacy that was along the way. Bill totally “dad-ed” me again and I immediately felt better just holding the box of amoxicillin in my hands. I was so grateful that they went above and beyond to help me feel better and even take care of me. I think my parents will Really appreciate that. And my grandma.

Maddy also told me about this cough syrup with opium in it. Drugs! Laurie got me some to try. Regardless of the poop brown color, as an addict feeling ill, you’d think I’d hesitate, but no I absolutely loved it and it made me feel better.

I am grateful to have tried so many medicines in south east Asia, so if you need any tips, let me know.

The group gathered at reception and we traveled 45 minutes to the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary. The Krabi Elephant Sanctuary is actually a sanctuary. There are no chains. There are no enclosures. The elephants are completely free, but choose to come back to the certain areas where they meet people because those people have food. The three elephants that hang around the Sanctuary are 70 year old retired ladies. Yeah, ladies travel and always come back for food, ok. One was in the circus and the others were forced to take tourists on rides in the Thai heat for years and years until they got too old to handle the work. I felt so bad for wanting to ride an African elephant for so many years before.

I was naive to how riding an elephant broke the elephants spirit.

We arrived at the entrance, which was a pretty much a structure that was four poles and a roof, but had a bathroom around back and a few tables to sit at. There was a small house near by and I could see a woman and a child outside.

There were three puppies, a black one a brown one and a white/beige one and when they saw us unloading from the van they went right up to us for some love, all goofy and puppy like. They loved playing with my flowing pants. They were itchy boys.


We got into the bed of the truck, loaded up a bucket of bananas and home made elephant treats in the shape of balls, and headed into the jungle. There was green all around us. It felt like we were driving towards the entrance of Jurassic park but instead of dinosaurs we saw cows, that Nicole seriously and mistakenly pointed out as baby elephants.

The road was muddy and we took the hills very slow but the voyage felt like a rickety and bumpy old school rollercoaster ride. There were palm branches hanging low in the middle of the road and because we were exposed to the elements, we would get snapped in the face by leaves if we weren’t paying attention.

We saw our first elephant and everyone celebrated, like the ball had just dropped in Times Square and we were starting a new year. Her name was Oi and they had her walk to an area where we could be face to face with her instead of at her knee caps. Actually, I don’t think elephants have knee caps.

(You might not be able to tell much but I have a little Budda belly going on. It’s because I have three days of poop in there)

We grabbed handfuls of mud and massaged it into her skin to help cool her off and she rocked back and forth in happiness, just like a dog would wag his tail. She tried to play with our phones with her trunk and when we fed her bananas I am certain she didnt chew before reaching for the next. She was gently and friendly and loved our human touch.

We left Oi to take a break, thanked her so much for her time and for letting us play with her, and traveled down the jungle to visit with the other two elephants who were knee deep in a stream. Each elephant had a handler, dudes we referred to as Elephant Whisperers, and the handler asked the elephant to lay down in the water, and the elephants happily crouched down so they were almost entirely submerged in water.

We were given bowls and brushed and crowded around the elephants to scrub them down and bath them with the cool water from the stream. They loved it.

They sucked water up into their trunk and spat it up and out on their backs also showering all of us with cool water. They were like big friendly dogs that loved the attention of being pet and loved. The two elephants were so different, too. One was more calm and docile and the other was more playful and animated. We fed them bananas and food balls directly into their mouths and because they didnt have front teeth there mouths looked like what I would imagine a grandmother would look like without her dentures in.

We all took turns having one on one time with the elephants. I looked into her massive eyes and was blown away with emotion.

It was like our spirits actually connected for a moment and we understood and appreciated each other. I repeated to her, You are so beautiful. Thank so much for letting me touch you. I was so happy she was free. She was so huge and I was so small and being around my favorite animals filled me with so much joy, it was overwhelming. It was like, how is this happening? The world seemed so enormous. There are so many important things I want to see and experience In my lifetime. And, the cool part is, I’m slowly making my way down the list.

I had interacted with elephants before when I volunteered on the private game reserve in South Africa, but not to the extent that I was able to interact and hug and kiss the elephants at the Krabi Elephant Sanctuary. The experience was transformative and I highly recommend that you look into the eye of an animal of that size and truly truly connect, at least at one point in your life.

I think they really appreciated my little gypsy queen outfit and I hope they were impacted by my presence, even just a fraction of how much I was impacting by theirs.

We arrived back to the resort and gushed to everyone about how amazing our experience with the elephants was. We had our closing ceremony at the restaurant where everyone spoke for a few minutes about how the retreat has impacted their lives and what were their favorite parts. Many people talked about the closeness of the group being their favorite aspect of the retreat and I couldn’t agree more. The chaos of ordinary life can be so isolating, so to take a break from that and find the closeness and support of a group of people that you didnt know in the slightest when you arrived was so special. I spoke of my life transition back east, quitting my boyfriend, quitting alcohol and quitting my job, and the journey towards rediscovering myself without all those labels.

Maddy and I opted to get a massage and went back to the place where I had gone a few days before, The Best Massage. See the sign says it.

The whole place was just one room, but they didnt close the curtain between us and I think they though we were together for a couples massage, so we obviously ran with the joke. I asked my lady to give me more pressure and then when she asked if it was ok, I said harder. I am bony and muscular and looooove a deep tissue massage with firm firm pressure. That back and forth went on for a little while and all of the sudden the ladies stood on the beds and switched, so I now had Maddy’s lady and she had mine. It was all very confusing. At one point the titanic song played in just piano and it was quite romantic. I heard a baby cry and a cat meow, and, did it start to rain?? It was all very confusing. The women were so kind. Both Maddy and I were stuffed up in our sinuses, and mid massage they gave us tissues and offered us peppermint essential oils. At the end they offered us a cup of tea before we headed out the door. the parlor should be named the most confusing massage. The lady date continued and we went to dinner at a restaurant that had live music. The two Thai singers covered Lady Gaga, Coldplay, etc in perfect English. We got spring rolls (which I decided we needed mid massage) and they were presented like a cute little fried gift of crunchy goodness. 😎

We had Pad Thai, and chicken with cashews. There cashews, even the ones I bought from the 711 are much more sweet and creamy then the ones I’ve had before. maddy and I continued to get to know each other and talked about how we could succeed in our careers, while blending our passions, her videography, me yoga (retreats), while traveling the world. She is an incredible smart and professional woman, and I can and have already learned so much from her.

Our conversation never went stale and before we knew it, it was 10pm, so we payed our bill and headed back to the resort. We popped into a few shops here and there looking for a duffel bag style to carry all of our souvineurs and gifts, but with a haggling escapade gone wrong, we left the downtown area empty handed.

I rushed to get to my room and ready for bed. I was sweating, dripping wet from the rain, and wheezing. My mind was spinning, like I had just had four cups of coffee in ten minutes. From all the medicine, my sickness, and the conversation. But my body was loose. Hurry up and relax, Tara.

(Its something we all do, just a little too often In the United States).

Tomorrow was the last day of the retreat and the first day of my thirty day backpacking journey around South East Asia. I went to bed like a giddy child on Christmas Eve, knowing she was going to get the exact gift she asked for.


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