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.”
The elephants lined up and munched down.
Then we were introduced to our elephant and taught how to climb onto them.
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.
We road the elephants across the road.
Caution: Elephant and bull 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.
and then came to their favorite place…the mud bath!
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.
With an elephant “lipstick” print and hicky left behind on our faces.
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?
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.
After the mud bath, we mounted up and headed for the river.
When we got to the river, we all took a plunge into the cool water and rinsed the mud off the elephants…
It was an awesome day!!