I don’t expect much when Jack hands me the key to my room, a hut in the Palace complex.
On the Elephant Nature Park’s Web site, it states the toilets are squat and the showers are Thai (meaning buckets to rinse, no shower heads), so when I walk the few feet to my lodging for the week, I am not getting my hopes up.
The walk from the main area to my room isn’t far. In fact, aside from the staff quarters, my hut is probably the closest. I stroll down the dirt road, paying careful attention to my surroundings. To my right is the gate to the elephant’s habitat. Then, there’s one of the shelters that houses two of the elephant families with babies. Then, some jungle foliage and … the Palace complex.
Yes, it’s called The Palace.
It’s a fairly basic structure, two wooden huts on a platform. I walk up the creaky stairs to my hut. And that’s when I hear it: elephant chirping. I peer around the massive tree on the side of my front porch, and there they are — the elephants.
Key in hand, I unlock the padlock on my door and step inside.
It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.
The room is bare, save for a queen-sized bed flanked in mosquito netting. It’s all very primitive.
There are three sets of windows, a fan and one little light.
I’m not staying here for the accomodation. I’m staying here for the elephants.
I drop my bag down next to my bed and take a pre-cursory sit on it. It’s pretty comfortable. I run my hands over the warm blanket. Soft. I grab a pillow and squeeze it to me. Perfect.
Then, I stand up and go to each of my windows, throwing open the wooden shutters.
Even though rain threatens us, light floods the room. I walk to the set of windows that opens to the elephants.
They are right outside of my window.
Elephants. I am sleeping nearly next to elephants.
A tinge of “holy shit” runs through my veins.
I have a few minutes to unwind before I have to go back to the group to watch a documentary on Asian elephants.
I do a quick investigation, walking down a wooden walkway between my room and the other, to the bathrooms and showers.
I am greeted with a western toilet and a western shower. With hot water. (Apparently, the Palace is the only complex with hot water, so I lucked out, even if it was too hot outside to enjoy hot showers.)
I head back to my room for a few andÂ crawl onto my bed and lay on my side, just staring out at the spectacular scene in front of me.
Outside of my window, there are beautiful trees with glistening leaves. In the distance, emerald green mountains loom, with a fine layer of mist cutting across.
And there, right there, out my window, are elephants.