Walking with Elephants
Trip Start Aug 28, 2012
110Trip End Aug 09, 2013
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Where I stayed
Elephant Nature Park
The day started by playing loopty loop, circling Chiang Mai centre numerous times to pick up people. We were then taken to the office where we met some of our group, got a free t shirt, bottle and holder and hung around for a while. On the journey to the park we were shown a video that had most of the van almost in tears then after about 2 hours we arrived...
We were given a short intro then were plumited straight into it by being given bananas and feeding a 72 year old elephant! AMAZING! So graceful, big! unbelievable, sooooo good! Then it was lunch time. After lunch we met again at 2 and carried on the overload of amazement for our first day by going to see the baby; a 1 month old still with its mum in a cornered section of the path
And the fun simply continued. We then went down to the river at 4 for bathing time. There were 5 elephants in the river at the time with us lot throwing buckets over them...and each other. The boys, of course, got stuck right in and within seconds were even wetter than the elephants. The funny thing is as soon as we had washed the elephants they get out and cover themselves in dirt. A lot of the elephants most of the time have a mini garden growing on their backs!
Before dinner I had a bit of time to think about where I was...The backdrop for the entire park is something else; it is set in the middle of loads of lush, green hills and mountains with a river running around the edge. The accommodation is also so much better than I had expected: the rooms are tiled with proper walls and a fan with plug sockets (this has become a luxury whilst travelling!). Laura and I ended up sharing a room with Lauren who conveniently we had been talking to the most of the trip to the park
The food here is also so much better than I expected. We get a full on buffet for every meal, with lunch being the best because of all the day trippers. All in all an unbelievable first day: feeding elephants within the first few minutes, bathing them, playing with the baby, amazing food and amazing people. I went to bed to ready for the rest of the week in this amazing place :)
For the rest of the week we were given chores and then between them we had free time to do whatever we wanted really; most of the time this just involved hanging out and chatting!
AM: poo scooping, made interesting by thinking of songs to do with it, like "pooper scooper, flies are gona find me..." Abba
PM: stone picking, or more or less watching the elephants bath whilst putting a few stones in a bucket!
AM: we were sorting the food for the elephants which involved cleaning and chopping millions of pumpkins before moving onto peeling fermenting bananas. After the peeling we moved onto mushing them with vitamins and randomly tamarin! The whole task was made more interesting by the fact we just played game upon game: name the movie/song, my vagina is (give an emotion), 21s, I went to the market etc.
PM: Chores were very scattered this arvo with us collecting stones, moving pumpkins, unloading bananas and moving water barrels. The whole experience was made a lot more entertaining with attempts to sing Disney songs (I know a surprising amount!)
AM: we had to clear up from the night before which was pretty quick and easy
PM: again we were stone picking which translates to chatting and watching the elephants bathe. Then we went on a walk around the park seeing Hope, another boystrous male and having to run away from the family as they made their way to the river for a swim. Toby (one of the guys looking after us) seemed a bit worried at points which was concerning...exercise for the day: running from elephants!
Today we were warned by the others is hard... and we didn't do it! The roads were too wet so we were unable to get to the grass cutting site. So instead we were in the ele kitchen again with the girls. I literally swam in pineapples when trying to unload the truck!
PM: we picked and stripped more bamboo. The most "happening" part to this was when I sliced my knee open on a nail sticking out of the wall: ouch
AM: it was food or poo choice again so I did food again with the girls. Cleaning pumpkins and pineapples.
PM: no chores! Just as we'd organised a group photo and walk the heavens opened. Typical!
Mud bath: Our job was to make the mud bath wet again so the elephants could easy bathe in it. We interpreted this as mud fight and dunk so within 5 mins the majority of the group was covered head to toe in mud (which of course consisted largely of elephant poo and wee). Sooo much fun, made more "entertaining" (debatable) by the fact that after a slight wash in the river the showers weren't working...!!
Thai lessons: there are 44 letters,32 vowels and 3-5 tones in the Thai language: nice and simple?! There is 1 symbol that with 3 tones meant tiger, mat, t-shirt! There was another with 5 tones that meant chicken, far, close, tour guide and gun trigger. So you could hear 'there is a mat far from you' when they're actually saying 'there is a tiger close to you'! Then we all sang and danced to a song about bananas. A very interesting and funny evening activity!!!
Festival of Lanterns: whilst we were on the park there was a festival which involves giving offerings to the water and air
The school: one afternoon we went to a school that on site had a primary and secondary school and took pupils from all around the mountains. They sort of put on a little show for us really; bracelet making, dancing, drink making, etc but I spose its a good way of making money for the school (though Layla did find a load of ants at the bottom of her iced coffee!) I made a bracelet to add to the collection (the one from each country seems to have turned into one from each place!), got an iced coffee minus ants and played with the youngest for a bit. Was nice to get off site for a bit and see the community :)
Documentary video: more of a lowlight than high light as it was about how show elephants are trained. The elephant at the age of 3ish is put into a cage that utter can't move in then stabbed and tormented til it loses any of its sense of freedom and independence and just obeys. It is sooo sad and something I didn't happened. I will never ride an elephant again!
Dog jumping: whilst we were watching the documentary video and there was a dog on the screen, the black dog who hung out in the conference room would jump at the screen. In the middle of the sad dvd this had us all in stitches. Oops!
Card games: our little crew of 9 turned to 10 with the addition of Elle from Holland, and we all pretty much made card games a compulsory part of our evenings! Shithead became the prime game with everyone attempting to become experts for the threatening drinking games on our last evening! Ash took it upon herself to be the blond one of the group, continuously forgetting what meant what. Tar was brilliant at the game apart from at any point an 8 was involved she would completely forget every rule. Matt would need a constant nudge everytime it was his go and apart from everyone laughing everytime someone continued to play when fish had finished, Tar had an infectious laugh that sounded sort of like a gibbon that kept us going the rest of the time!
Singing: a lot of singing has happened this week from Disney to ballads to repetitive group songs. But one evening beats it all when we sat in through sky deck at night and simply sang along to a guitar! Bliss!
Tubing: a bit different to the normal Laos tubing as it didn't involve alcohol or bars along the river. What it did involve is going down a river on rubber rings with my friends through the rainforest. Amazing, as simple as that!
The video: the whole time we have been on the park there has been a photographer. Watching the video was hilarious as a lot of the time we didn't even know she was there. A definite buy for a fraction of the price of my dive video; just £4!
The final night: the epic game of shithead didn't happen but the whisky did. We just sat around talking a lot, drinking and listening to music. Then we moved to the sky place and the guitar came out and we all had a good sing. Was a funny evening with the VCs (our coordinators) being very very drunk!
Matty and Fraser: at 12:30 all of a sudden there was someone shouting mine and Laura's names outside our room. Matty and Fraser were on the war path! They were drunk, bored and trying to find people. After their amazement of realising we had a tiled floor we locked them out. All of a sudden we heard "they have holes in their roof" and after a few seconds Matty's head appeared above the wall by my bed
George: replacement Leo-an amazing ginger cat that when you picked him up turned around to snuggle into you!
I have thoroughly enjoyed myself at the park. The staff are amazing, our group was amazing and the park is outstanding. I have learnt so much about elephants and their place in Thai culture whilst here and why the work that Lek is doing on the park is so important for their survival. I will not be riding anymore elephants ever again and will never forget the images that show the way in which they are trained to allow people to do this. Whilst elephants are still not as good as big cats, they are amazing, docile, majestic creatures that have given me an amazing week experience I won't forget!