Our ride is preggers

Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End Apr 14, 2011

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, August 14, 2010

On day 2 in Pattaya, we woke up early to get our reservation for the elephant park. We had wanted to go to a place where you can learn to bathe and feed the elephants like the mahouts do, but it was really difficult to figure out how to get to that place, so we settled for a place where we could ride elephants.

On the way down to breakfast, we realized our breakfast vouchers for the hotel had us listed as part of the "Blue House Tour".  We have no idea why.  Tara wondered how they knew where we used to live in West Virginia.  Also at breakfast, a woman came up to me and spoke German for a really long time until I finally told her, “I don't understand” (my bewildered expression wasn’t doing it).  I guess I just have one of those faces that makes people think I’ll overcome language barriers to understand what they’re saying.

We got our tour booked and the people from Pattaya Elephant Village came to pick us up in a van.  As usual, we had an interesting ride to get to the park.  Our driver had no patience for traffic and we had to drive in circles to get the other two people going on the tour.

When we got there, we all got up on our elephant, Buramong.  Yen was our mahout.  He was very friendly and helped me with the little Thai I know.  Part way through the ride he told me that Buramong was pregnant.  I asked if we should be riding her in her condition, but he told me not to worry, it was ok.  He also pointed out the papa elephant to us.  At one point, the papa elephant got pretty upset for no apparent reason and gave us all a bit of a scare.  Everything worked out fine, but I was happy to not be too close to him for the rest of the trip.

Tara and I had to ride barefoot.  We went through a river at one point, and Yen turned to take our shoes off our feet for us and tie them to the elephant.  It was nice to know we weren’t going to lose a shoe somewhere in the middle of our trek, but a little odd to have my bare feet rubbing against an elephant’s back.

We had bought bunches of bananas to give to Buramong on the trip, but she ate them all within the first 10 minutes of our ride.  When we walked by the other elephants, they would raise their trunks up and sniff our arms trying to find more bananas.  There’s no easy way to explain to an elephant that you have nothing for it and to please get its trunk out of your face.

I wish we had more bananas to give Buramong, she was starving the entire walk.  Yen told us she eats about 200 kilos a day.  She kept stopping to munch on some grass or bamboo while we rode.

At one point, we rode off into the middle of the jungle, way off the path.  Yen didn’t seem at all concerned.  We had to pass a big bull that was grazing in a field, and it was terrified of Buramong.  She didn’t pay him much attention at all, but he took off running to get out of her way.  I was really glad he was afraid so we didn’t have to have a bullfight while on a pregnant elephant.

When we wandered into the jungle, Buramong tore down a tree with her trunk.  We can’t really figure out why other than she didn’t want it there, but we were still impressed.  Most everything else she just barreled through without a thought. 

Once we got into the jungle, Yen let me climb down off the bench and onto Buramong’s back.  He took our pictures and then let Tara have a turn.  The elephant stood pretty much still for all of this, and we offered Caroline a turn, she decided she liked the bench just fine.  Yen climbed back up and we continued back toward the path.

Something Buramong ate didn’t agree with her too well and she had some very loud gas while we were walking.  We couldn’t figure out what the sound was at first, I thought Buramong was just complaining about hefting us around when she had a baby to worry about.  Then Tara and I realized and started cracking up.  We had to explain what happened to Caroline who was pretty disgusted by the whole thing. 

A little later on, Buramong stepped on a coconut, which made another loud and scary noise we couldn’t identify until Yen explained.  I was happy to know it wasn’t our bench breaking off the elephant’s back.

When we were almost back to camp, Yen let me get back on Buramong’s back and drive for a while.  Not that this really requires a lot of skill, Buramong pretty much just did her thing, but it was really cool nonetheless.  Yen told me not to mention it to his boss; apparently it’s against the rules for people to ride off the bench.  This is probably why Yen was pretty shameless about asking me for a tip when we got back.

When we got back to the hotel, we got some sandwich stuff from 7-Eleven and had a picnic in our room before hitting the pool for the afternoon.  We had more sandwiches for dinner and watched another round of competitive diving.  We were all pretty beat, so we turned in early again so we could make an early start back to Chonburi in the morning.

All in all, I think it was a great elephant experience for all of us.  Except maybe Buramong, the pregnant elephant.
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caiter on

I would like to add that Pattaya Elephant Village is a rescue center for former working elephants. They take really good care of the elephants there, though some of them show the scars from their former lives. If you're looking for a place to enjoy the elephants in Thailand, I would recommend them for their exceptional care of the animals.

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