A Place That Inspires Me to Write... Coffee With Elephants



Coffee With Elephants


I am sitting on the open-air deck at the Doi Chiang Coffee Shop in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  It is February the beginning of hot season. Leaves cover the ground reminding me of the fall in Seattle, Washington where I grew up.   The air is cool this morning offering a reprieve from the hot Northern Thailand sun.   The blue sky is everywhere framing rolling hills filled with lush tropical jungle.  Fuchsia and white Bougainvillea trees line the hillside.  Lavender flowered trees and bright orange tube flowers drape over fences.    The sun peaks over the mountains.  The rays reach out and gently touch my face.  A flowerpot filled with lily pads and a purple lotus flower blooms up facing the morning sun.    The little frog in the pot lets his voice be heard.  The Lotus is my favorite flower because I know its story.  The Lotus seed is planted and it has to travel through mud and silt to grow.  It breaks through the surface reaching toward the light and blooms it’s beautiful purple flower showing its strength and beauty.  A journey many of us know well.


 In the middle of the coffee shop a chubby monk stands chanting his morning prayer.  He has wrinkled brown skin around his neck and carries a golden offering bowl.   The Monk is barefoot, he has thick skin on his feet from walking with no shoes and his robe is bright orange.  Three slender Thai men kneel in prayer in front of the monk.  The workers at the Doi Chiang are quickly preparing food and a café latte for the monk.   He blesses the coffee shop this morning and I realize I have entered into a room of transcending tranquility. 

The entire space is filled with teak wood furniture and carved wooden lanterns.  Orchids take root in the middle of the large trees their fuchsia and white speckled flowers twist upward.  A German tourist sits across the shop enjoying a 9:00 am beer.  A motorcycle with a squeaky wheel and a homemade sidecar passes by the shop. 


The elephant sanctuary sits below the coffee shop.  I watch the elephants swing their trunks back and forth. An elephant lifts his trunk up high, blows from his belly as he is calling to his friends across the park.  The elephant across the park answers his call, puts his trunk up and blows back.      

The birds sing, some low, some high, tweets & whistles.


 Swadeeka”, the waitress greets me with her million-dollar smile.  Her teeth white, she places her hands together in prayer position, bows her head with a wai.  A wai is Thailand’s way of greeting each other.   I smile back over my hot pink covered MacBook, my blonde hair is pulled back in a short pony tail.  I copy her, put my hands together and wai back mimicking her contagious Thai smile that comes from my toes.  I point to the basil chicken and Thai Coffee.  A strange thing to have for breakfast, I think to myself, but when I am here on this mountain I am all Thai.  Thai people, Thai language, Thai music, Thai sunshine, Thai Buddhist monk, Thai bikers, Thai golden temples, Thai stray dogs, Thai flowers, Thai elephants, and Thai coffee. 

Thai coffee is made with coffee beans from Northern Thailand.  I take a sip of the iced coffee with sweet condensed milk and my taste buds sing at the flavor.   Every cup they give me is topped with a cream-colored orchid with hue of yellow and pink.   

I look around and notice temple in the corner where oranges and coffee are placed as an offering to the gods.  On most days instrumental Thai music plays at the shop, but on this day a song I recognize pours through the speakers.    The words ring through my head,” A whole new world, a new dazzling place I never knew. But when I’m way up here it’s crystal clear I’m in a whole new world with you.” Written by Alan Menken, Linda Ronstadt.    

Tears start to fall down my face as I remember this song was played at my mother’s funeral. As I listen to the music and think of my mother, an elephant calling below echo’s across valley and fills the air.  I see a momma elephant caressing her baby.  The baby reaches up taking in her mothers love with her tiny trunk.  It is as if time stands still. 

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