Monthly Archives: April 2015

Chaing Mai – The Elephants

We spent 5 days in Chaing Mai, Thailand and had a couple of encounters/activities with animals.  Our time spent with the elephants was by far our favorite of the trip and quite possibly the best thing we’ve done since we arrived in Asia.  It was definitely up there with our hike of the Great Wall and the river boat cruise in Borneo.

Now, I know this post might make some of you animal rights activists cringe, so I will start off by saying that the elephants at Thai Elephant Home are rescued elephants.  Most of them have been rescued from logging companies in Myanmar that used them to haul timber.  So, they are domesticated elephants, not ones taken directly from the wild.  From what I observed, the elephants are treated very well and the workers there seem to really care about them.

Before we started our ride, we picked up loads of bananas to give to the elephants as part of our introduction to them.  Our guide told us “no bananas, no riding.”

Banana Group

 The elephants lined up and munched down.

Webley BananaJPGTala BananaAaron Banana

Then we were introduced to our elephant and taught how to climb onto them.

Webley Practice 2 Webley 1st Ride

Aaron Getting On Aaron 1st Ride

Benjy Practice

Tala 1st Ride

My elephant had been rescued quite some time ago and she new the drill well.  Benjy’s, on the other hand, was just recently rescued and didn’t know the proper way to allow a human to mount him.  His would get the crouch down part right, but then wouldn’t give Benjy enough time to climb on.  This left Benjy practically hanging off of his elephant as it lumbered forward.

You’re supposed to sit on the back of the elephants head and bend your knees behind the elephants head.  I was having a difficult time with it and my elephant kept skooching me with her ears trying to position me in the right place.  Her name was Wan and she was very sweet and smart.

Wan could smell that I had bananas stuffed in my pockets and in my bag.  She spent the entire day doing this with her trunk, asking me to give her a banana.  She seemed to know when I would start rummaging around in my bag or pockets because immediately her trunk would pop up waiting for me to place the banana in it.

Tala Mud Riding

We road the elephants across the road.

Caution: Elephant and bull crossing…

Elephant Crossing

I learned that elephants keep themselves cool by continually blowing on themselves with their trunks.  The result is essentially elephant snot rockets being launched onto you every 5 minutes or so.  The first few times I cringed and protested.  After about the 8th time, I gave up and accepted the fact that I would be slimed as long as I was on the back of this beast.  We road them for about an hour down a steep hillside.

Webley Riding Tala Riding 2 Dad no hands Aaron Waving

and then came to their favorite place…the mud bath!

Mud 2

Mud 5

They loved the mud bath!  While the elephants relaxed in the mud, we ate lunch.  Then one elephant was brought over to give us some smooches.  We each got our turn.

Benjy Kiss 2 Aaron Kiss

Tala Kiss 2 Webley Kiss 2

With an elephant “lipstick” print and hicky left behind on our faces.

Tala Lipstick Web Mud Face

We were then “invited” to partake in the mud bath ourselves.  I tried to forget the fact that I witnessed the elephants relieving themselves in the mud just moments before.  And why not add elephant pee and poop to the layers of elephant snot we were already covered in?

Aaron Mudface

Group Mud Face Silly Family Mud Face

Then one lucky pachyderm was chosen from the group to experience his own personal mud bath compliments of all of us.  We rubbed him down with mud all over his body and behind his ears.  He was clearly enjoying it as he curled his trunk up and sighed contentedly over and over.

Group Washing Aaron Washing

Group Washing 2 Benjy & Tala Spray

After the mud bath, we mounted up and headed for the river.

Kids Riding

When we got to the river, we all took a plunge into the cool water and rinsed the mud off the elephants…

Tala River

and ourselves

Webley Spray

Kids Trunk River 2

It was an awesome day!!

Webley WEt

Tala Countryside

Family Behind

Cambodia, Part 2– the Arachnids

Yes, this is a bit delayed, but I decided to write about this portion of our trip to Cambodia separately, so it will be a rather abbreviated post.

On our last night in Phnom Penh we went to a restaurant that served extraordinary table fare.  One of their specialties is fried tarantulas.  Webley and Aaron have awarded me with the moniker “The Cupbearer” because, unlike anyone else in my immediate family, I’m usually game to taste just about anything once.  Since moving to Hong Kong, I’ve only become bolder because I figure:  someone enjoys eating it or it wouldn’t be on a menu, right?

I have to admit, however, when I first heard of the opportunity to eat fried tarantulas, I didn’t immediately jump at the idea.  That might be pushing the envelope a little too far, even for me.  But, I reasoned, most things seem to taste good if it’s battered and thrown into a deep fryer, so I figured I’d just give it a go.

Once your order is placed, you are welcome to meet your future appetizer.  Aaron and I were obliged to make their acquaintance.

CB spider aaron CB spider CB spider me

They were actually quite cute and furry and calm.  Poor things.  It is a bit morbid, I know.  I should also add that they were defanged right after they were caught.

Similar to the trained pigs that sniff out truffles, dogs are trained to sniff out tarantula nests buried in the forest floor.  I wonder how the spiders are then defanged after they are caught?  How does one hold down a tarantula without squishing him as you are pulling out his fangs?  He’s not just going to hold still for you to do that!  Are these really defanged?  Hmmmm…Things you don’t want to spend too much time dwelling on when you’re holding said tarantula in the palm of your hand and its eight beady little eyes are boring holes into your face.

So after a few minutes of up close and personal time, we bid adieu and the arachnids were whisked away.

Moments later….viola!  Fried buggers on a plate complete with a special dipping sauce made from the juice squeezed out of tarantula egg sacks (just kidding about the egg sacks, it was some sort of spicy/sweet vinegar thing).

CB spider fried

And the verdict is…they taste like chicken….just kidding again.

Actually, they are quite like fried soft shell crab and I have to say not bad, not bad at all.    One of the high schoolers on our team who had been to Cambodia previously said she preferred the pregnant spiders because they are “much meatier.”  I’ll keep that in mind for the next time.

In the spirit of “giving it a go,” this time, both Benjy and Webley went for it too.  They agreed it was pretty good.  Aaron, on the other hand, opted out.