When Elephants Pash (Me)

Trip Start Sep 24, 2008
Trip End Oct 25, 2008

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Flew to Chang Rai for a brief stopover in the Golden Triangle - the Nexus of Thailand Burma and Laos. We picked a resort right at the tip of Thailand with a view down to the Mekong River, Burma and Laos. I don't think there are many places in the world where you can stand and survey three countries at once.

On the way to the hotel our driver pointed out a large car park down by the river full of cars and motorbikes which was really out of place amongst the lush green jungle and simple villages. Turns out that gambling is illegal in Thailand, but the Thais love to gamble so to get around the law a Thai gent has built a huge casino that would not out of place in Vegas just across the river in Burma and then ferries people across in speed boats from the car park. Entrepreneurial spirit at its best!

  The Anantara was a marvel. The golden circle is a bit of a backpacker haven (I suppose cos you can tick off three countries at once and feel like a very accomplished traveller) and as such most of the places to stay reflect this. Not Anantara . It sits in a prime location up on a hill looking down on the Golden Triangle and you can see all three countries from all of the rooms. I could go on about the place for a while but I think the photos do it better. What a great place!
One of the features of the resort is the Elephant Camp which is a Sanctuary for elephants and their mahouts left jobless after the banning of logging in Thailand. As you can guess it is pretty expensive to feed an elephant so mahouts were forced to take them to towns and beg for money and food. This sanctuary operates differently from most in that rather than just buying the elephants off of the mahouts (which gives them enough money to go and buy a couple more elephants to beg with), they offer them a good deal to come with their elephant to the camp to live.

It was quite weird to one minute be walking along a manicured and shady lawn and the next struggling along a heavily rutted mud track with HUGE footprints embedded therein. It was positively surreal to come around a bend in the track and face to face with  the maker of said footprints - a HUGE bull elephant - shading under a tree quietly munching on a load of greens.

Further along, the main camp housed something like 20 elephants. Mostly cows, their calves and a few juveniles. We really lucked in and arrived just as they were starting on cleaning the babies (one was only two months old and another five months ). The calves are really awkward but already are pretty cheeky, annoying their mothers for a drink, trying to run off with the hose and squealing like kids in a water fight. You could watch the little clowns for hours.

We then toured the camp to look at the rest of the elephants. One of the mahouts bought out an older calf (with surprisingly wiry hairs all over it) for us to take a look at and them showed off how clever it was by making it bow down on one front knee and trumpet a greeting and then lay down and play dead. It was inquisitive, a glutton for attention and playful - basically an overgrown puppy (but one with a trunk it likes to kiss and wipe slobber all over your chops with!) . I think I might have to get one as a pet. Anyone want to go halves?
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