Friday, March 21, 2014

Elephant "Owners" for a Day

"None lung."
"None LUNG."
"None lung?" 

No matter how I said the command, the elephant, with me on its back, stood still. 
Becoming a mahout, or elephant trainer, is not as simple as hopping on the back of the massive animal.
My attempts at Thai were miserable and I am not sure why I thought elephant commands would instantly become my thing, but I earnestly tried.

Ascending onto the back of an elephant is not as graceful as it looks.
Oh, the elephant was graceful, alright. I, on the other hand, was a mess.
How does one act normally (can you really be "normal" around an elephant?) when you are doing something you have always wanted to do? 

It was an out-of-body experience of sorts. 
Am I really riding an elephant?
Are its ears actually flapping against my legs?
I was literally (yes, literally) pinching myself to make sure that I was present.
After changing into our denim-on-denim outfits for the day, we fed the elephants.

Carrying baskets full of banana bushels and sugar cane, we were introduced to the elephants.
Because what is a better way to say, "hey, let's be friends" than dessert? Amiright?

For those who want to know: Elephants eat a massive amount of food each day- upwards of 440 pounds. If that is how much they eat, imagine the amount of waste. Yep, I went there.
Atop an elephant's head. I now understand those lotion commercials.
My feeble attempts at elephant commands were met with blank stares, so I was grateful for a mahout to guide us throughout the day. Or else I would probably still be stuck on top of the elephant. Sure, we tricked ourselves into thinking that we could actually speak to the elephants, when it all actuality, the mahout was standing nearby quietly saying the commands.

Our elephant had a curious trunk, always hovering over the ground to suck up anything interesting.
Often times she sucked up tiny mud puddles to spray on her back to cool her off.
However, we were on her back, so you can imagine how that went.

We ended the day with a scrub down in the pond. (Word to the wise- keep your moth closed!)
I am not sure how clean she got, but she seemed to like it when we brushed behind her ear. Or so said her mahout.
(Mahouts develop such deep relationships of trust with their elephants that they know when they are happy, sad, mad, etc. The indications for such emotions are not the same for each elephant, so it is amazing to see the bond between the elephant and the mahout. Check out this article about elephants.)

After washing, we bid farewell to our pachyderm friends.
Anytime spent with an elephant is just not enough.

Our wonderful guide and group for the day
Elephant experiences abound in Thailand, many with ethical concerns.
My advice is to be discerning and read a lot of reviews before you book.
We really liked the mission of Baan Chang Elephant Park and did not see anything amiss on our trip.
If you want to debate the ethical issues of animal parks, this blog is not the place.

If You Go:
  • Bring a swimsuit to wear under your outfit.
  • Wear water sandals. Flip flops just won't cut it.
  • Take your camera! But wrap it in a plastic bag during the muddy parts.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting! I try to respond to any comments/questions. Please leave your email along with your comment so that I can!