In the morning we set out to visit Mae Taman Elephant camp.
The elephants are trained to put on a performance where they danced and played ball and even painted.
The performance ended when they elephants came right over expecting a tip for a good performance. And if we wanted we could be lifted up on their trunk.
We then took an elephant trek through the forest for about an hour. The ride is quite exciting as you go up and down hills and through rivers.
Afterwards through an interpreter we had a conversation with a trainer on how the elephants are cared for and the bond of affection that develops between the elephant and his trainer.
They even recycle elephant dung at this camp to make paper!
After lunch we took an afternoon cruise on the river on a small bamboo raft.
This was a day to enjoy learning about how elephants are used today as a vital part of the tourist industry. And also to enjoy the beauty of the forests in northern Thailand.
This morning [December 19] we left Mainz and drove to Rudeschein where we boarded a boat for a cruise on the Rhine river that the Germans regard as their river. The cruise gives a wonderful view of the many castles and towns that line the river.
The Lorelei rock has a legend that tells of a beautiful blonde woman who would lure sailors to their death. The fact is that this is the most difficult part of the river to navigate so in truth many boats shipwrecked because of strong winds.
Die Lorelei by Heinrich Heine (in German)
More about the Lorelei song, which has been set to music many times
More about the Lorelei cliff itself
There are many ruins of castles on the river and there is one castle named Pfalzgrafenstein, which was constructed in the middle of the river as a place where customs were collected. Although it dates back to 1325 its present look is due to the Baroque renovations of the 17th and 18th century.
We finished our cruise of several hours and then took the bus back to Rudeschein. Once again the Christmas markets were much fun because of the festivity that surrounds it all. And the streets of Rudeschein were very medieval and highly decorated.
Towards late evening we had a wine tasting since the hillsides of this part of the Rhine are covered with vineyards. Then, back to Mainz in the late evening.
The tourist brochures speak of this cruise on the Rhine as a cruise of stunning vistas of hilltop castles, terraced vineyards, and villages of timbered framed houses. This is no exaggeration: the vistas are beautiful, with hilltop castles.