Horses terrify me. Cows also scare me. But the elephants we visited on a full day tour in Chiang Mai, Thailand were the most gentle creatures on the planet. I wasn’t scared the whole time. The mama especially was so slow and calm; they were wonderful to spend time with!
First, all of us fed them basketfuls of bananas, with the peel and all. We would say “Bon Bon” and hold out the banana, then the elephant would reach out her trunk, curl it around the banana, put it in her mouth and ask for more.
Then we trekked through the jungle with the elephants. They live there for most of the time and in the morning, their trainer will walk for an hour or more to find them and bring them to camp to be fed and pampered by the tourists. We saw a poisonous caterpillar, interesting mushrooms, and a giant orb spider that was half the size of the one Seth and I saw on Ko Phi Phi (look it up if you dare).
I loved how the trainers and tour guides didn’t rush the elephants at all, or us. There were four elephants total — two older mamas and one young male and one young female. The young female didn’t want to walk with us, so they just let her do what she wanted. The older ones were slower, so we took our time walking through the jungle and exploring.
The funniest thing was when the elephants slide down on their behinds when it was too muddy. The baby just full on laid down like, “good night guys, I’ll catch up with you later!” He looked so happy. The young boy also kept trying to get up on the older one and he would often push her with his head because she wasn’t walking fast enough — the little rascal.
Next, we went back to camp for some lunch, which was super delicious! Pad Thai and fresh fruit! Anna took a picture:
Our tour guide was telling us a little bit about her life in the car. She was from a poor family, but even when they didn’t have money to buy rice, they grew avocado and would eat that for breakfast. They also had mangos and papaya, and all the fresh tropical fruit to eat on their property. What I gather from this: if you’re going to be poor, make sure you do it in someplace that has a lot of tropical fruit. Anyways, she was super super friendly and spoke English extremely well.
After lunch was the mud spa. Seth really got into it. We mud wrestled, there were mud fights, there were “accidental” mud balls put on us by the trainers, and then the guys decided to do like the elephants and just sit down in the mud that was probably mixed with elephant you-know-what.
“It’s all organic!” says the Spaniard.
Anna and I stayed pretty clean comparatively. Nobody pummels you unless you put up a fit or react. The poor tour guide did that and she was covered! She was like, “I actually only have one clean guide shirt left!” Don’t know if you can even see her orange tour guide shirt under all the mud. But she was a great sport and enjoyed every minute, too.
It was also fun getting to know the other people on the tour. There were four Spaniards, two Canadians, one other American, and one guy from Whales who we talked to on the way back and he didn’t know the terms “Jello” or “tennis shoes.”
Last was the waterfall to rinse off. It was beautiful! After splashing the elephants clean with little bowls, they went back to camp and promptly scattered dirt on their backs to keep cool — because that is the elephant way. Good thing they get to do it all again tomorrow!
The trainers seemed so patient and took good care of their elephants. And the elephants seemed so happy to just lay in mud, get a mud massage and play in the waterfall — maybe almost as happy as we were.
PHOTO CREDITS: Tour guides Toto and Thoisan. View the full album: http://chiangmaielephantland.com/guest-album/