ELEPHANTS!!!!!!!March 23 in Thailand
I’ve been blogging with Find Penguins since we started our sabbatical, and it has one major downside. . . You can only attach 10 photos to each posting. This has been a problem from the start, and I’ve often had to break up one day into two postings, just so I could include more photos. But, today the problem is insurmountable . . .
When we were planning our trip to Thailand, Maya had one request — she wanted to play with the elephants. Ok, that sounded like fun to me. Of course, you can’t play with elephants in Bangkok, or on any of the islands. So, in order to play with elephants, you have to go to Chiang Mai. Ok, that was on my list of places to visit anyway . . . . Being me, I spent quite a bit of time researching various elephants sanctuaries, which are places that treat the elephants humanely, do not allow any riding on the elephants (which is horrible for them), and allow people to feed, bathe and play with the elephants. We decided on the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, which seemed to be deep in the jungle and was reputed to have lots of elephants. (Elephant Jungle Sanctuary actually owns 82 elephants, which are located in 11 different camps throughout Thailand.)
We were picked up at our hotel at 8:00 am in a Thai “taxi.” For some inexplicable reason, we had to change taxis three times, as the drivers re-arranged the people on the tour into different configurations. By 8:40, we were finally on our way.
We spent almost 90 minutes in the taxi, driving through the city, into the countryside, and finally up a long road into the jungle. The drive was slow, hot and bumpy. But, as we arrived, I looked out and saw 6 elephants — 3 adults and 3 babies — in a small valley below us. (Little did I know, during the course of the day we would get to interact with 12 different elephants within this particular family.). I felt a sense of delight as I saw these beautiful creatures and was just thrilled that I’d get to spend a whole day with them.
After leaving the vehicles, we hiked down a hill, and up to a small structure on the far hill. The staff told us about our schedule for the day — changing into traditional tops, feeding the elephants, feeding them some more, having lunch, making medicine balls for the elephants, feeding them the medicine balls, playing in the mud with the elephants, bathing them, feeding them some more, and going home. Sounded good to me. We were also given some rules for being with the elephants — don’t touch their tail or stand behind them, because they might kick you; they like to be scratched behind their ears and rubbed on their trunks; if you hold food out to them, they will take it from your hand with their trunks; you can put food directly into their mouth; and, don’t run, as it will scare them and they will chase you.
After hearing the rules, we changed, washed our hands, and were then given enough sugar cane and bananas to fill the pockets on our tops to overflowing. We walked down to the field. The elephants were on one side, and we were at the far end, about a football field away. We were told to shout “bon bon,” and that the elephants were come running. We yelled. They lopped over. It was thrilling. Elephants, being smart creatures, know that “bon bon” means that they will be fed, and they also know that bananas and sugar cane are inside the pockets of the shirts that people wear. So, they came to us, trunks out and searching for food — in your hand, and in your pocket. Feeding them was incredibly fun. And, I immediately fell in love with the two baby elephants. The mom, and the grandma were great, don’t get me wrong. But the babies were totally adorable. I could not stop feeding them, petting them and generally standing as close to them as possible.
We then went up the hill to get corn stalks to feed to them. Watching them eat the corn was fascinating. First, they picked up the stalks with their trunks. Then, they stepped on an end of the stalk to break it into “bite-size” pieces. Next, many of the elephants stripped the leaves and brown husk off the tender stalks. Then, they popped the green, tasty stalks into their mouths. (I noticed that some of the elephants were a bit less picky, and would eat some leaves and husks, while others were quite careful to strip off anything that was not very green and fresh.). Some of the stalks had pieces of corn left of them. Again, the elephants carefully peeled the husk off the corn before eating it, using their trunks, teeth and feet, in various combinations. So cool to watch.
After lunch we fed the elephants some more, and then went to the mud pit with them. According to the elephant minders, the elephants like to have mud on their skins, as it helps them cool down. I’m not 100% sure that this is true, but one of the elephants did sit down in the mud and roll around a bit, and the rest of the elephants stood patiently while we rubbed mud over them. Giving the elephants a mud bath was also fun, especially as it gave me an excuse to massage these beautiful creatures without looking like a fool.
Next stop, the river and waterfalls, to wash the elephants (and ourselves). Spending time in the water was obviously something that the elephants liked, as we got to see them frolicking around, and pushing each other so that they could stand in the waterfall. It was also a pleasure for us, as it was quite hot and the water was really refreshing.
We ended the day by feeding the elephants again, and just hanging out with them. As I lavishly pet the elephants, I noticed that their hides were much softer after their time in the mud and water. Around 3 pm, we were told that we needed to change back into our clothes and get ready to return. Maya and Arie teased me that I would have to leave the baby elephant behind. I was genuinely sad to go. What a fantastic experience.Read more