Hairy Elephants and Grubby Tigers

Trip Start Oct 02, 2005
Trip End Sep 28, 2006

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, August 21, 2006

Last night our guide comes to me and says that in the morning they bathe the elephants and for 400 baht I can help. Ok, sounds like a larff.

And it certainly was. I rode on the elephants back (his name was Mong q'uan and he was 45 years old) and down into the river Kwai we went.

Elephants are quite hairy which is something I wasn't expecting! Sitting on his neck, he walked down into the river and I gave him a nice scrub behind the ears. Riding an elephant really is an experience. The things are MASSIVE, and with every step I could feel his enormous shoulder blades moving under me. One of the guides kept shouting directions at him, and every so often he would tip his head to one side so I could wash that part, or scoop some water up and spray it over me. The guide told me to stand up on his back for a photo, and when I did, he shouted at Mongy (as I like to affectionately call him) and the elephant dived under the water, knocking me off his back and ending up arse over tit. Oh, the fun you can have as an elephant trainer.

The only thing about this was the water was filthy Our toilets from the camp flowed directly into it, and elephants aren't exactly house trained either. My only consoling thought is the current was incredibly strong, so any waste was carried off down stream very quickly. Well, I like to kid myself anyway. All I have to remember was not what I was swimming in, but rather what I was swimming with.

After a short elephant trek before lunch, we then moved on to the thing I've been waiting all year for. The Tiger temple. It was the one thing in Asia I wanted to do, and I wasn't disappointed.

It started off with a wee tiger cub that was found injured in the jungle. No one in the local village would take it in (for some reason) so the local Buddhist monk said "Sure give him to me, and I'll take care of the wee nipper." Or words to that effect. So long story short, he's now got about a dozen of the big buggers knocking around his house. Tourists who are brave enough can pay to go over and stroke them and have their photograph taken.

As we paid to go into the temple, there's a sign up saying that bright colours, eg Red, Yellow, Orange can't be worn in the temple or the tigers will more than likely attack you. I look down at my red Addias shirt. "Ok, don't panic" I think. "I've still got 3 other tops with me."

They are:
1) My bright Orange Amsterdam T-shirt
2) My red Barcelona T-shirt
3) My bright yellow Brazil top

Ok, plan B. "Has anyone got a shirt they can lend me?!"

Tigers are BIG. One paw is about the size of my face. I can't help but notice this as the one I'm stroking turns and growls at me in a "And what exactly are you doing little man?" kind of way. The size and power of these amazing animals are something that I only really appreciated when I got up close to them. Rubbing a tiger behind the ears isn't something that everyone can say they done. There's another thing ticked off the list.....
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