Friday was our second day in Thailand and what better way to shift gears from one country to the next than to dive into the adventurously tasty local night market? Early in the day we met a group of French travelers who were also in town for the Surin Elephant Round Up. After “aperitifs” on the roof, all seven of us headed to the night market. We sampled larva with peppers, crickets (again), some sort of fried insect that looked like an overgrown cockroach, sweet boiled chicken eggs (very tasty), and I can’t remember the rest, but we continued snacking until dinner was not necessary. The only food that I (nor anyone else in the group) could dare to try was the egg with a baby duck inside. Stories we heard of the sudden “crunch” made us think we made the right choice.
The first day of the Elephant Round Up festivities in the town of Surin was brilliant. The main event was the Elephant Breakfast. Hundreds of meters down a long curved road, were tables full of pineapples, cucumbers, tomatoes, sugarcane, and bananas for the 280 elephants to feast on. While we waited for the elephants to come marching into the center, we watched traditional song and dance and were introduced to the winner of the annual beauty pageant. Then the elephants arrived, and they just kept on coming. Nate and I took an elephant ride on what we think was the largest elephant with long ivory tusks. In the midst of the event, hundreds of people and elephants were together walking, feeding, and dodging each other. It was a beautiful chaos.
As this festival attracts foreigners and locals alike, it made sense that they included us “farangs” in the games. Most of our group, joined in on what we thought was a short timed race of carrying a heavy rice bag. The event was indeed a race, but a bit different than we imagined… First they tie a long (phallic) vegetable around your waist for you to swing and hit a lime towards a bag of rice. Once the lime hits your bag, you pick it up and run to a table where you must blow a pile of powder, eat a piece of fruit and chug a Pepsi. Then you run again, likely with Pepsi in hand and still holding the bag of rice, zig-zagging through orange cones to the finish line. Hm… interesting. Nate kept winning and had to do it THREE times. He finished in second place, winning a bag of rice and 1000 baht (about $33). WHOA. One of our new friends and I also won rice (woo!). The prizes were beyond generous, and shortly after walking off stage with our prizes (seriously) we found some people to give the rice and headed straight to a bar to put the prize money right back into Surin’s economy.
The final day of the event was the Elephant Roundup. We traveled just outside of town to a crowded stadium lined with booths and vendors before entering the crowded arena. The program began with a war reenact, then an elephant circus including throwing darts and handstands, and concluded with a true football match. One of my favorite events was a tug-of-war between one massive mammoth and 80 men. The elephant won no problem.