Trip Start Jan 09, 2013
129Trip End Jan 22, 2013
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I spent the day riding, feeding, and bathing my own elephant!! I honestly can't find a word to describe this extraordinary experience.
After the horrible experience I had riding elephants as part of my trekking package last week, I was determined to find a reputable company that I would be happy giving my business to. There are hundreds of elephant camps around Chiang Mai alone, and there were packages that were costing as little as 40% of what I paid to Thai Elephant Home today. But I am happy to report that every penny I spent today was worth it.
When we arrived, Joe gave us an overview of the day, their company and their belief not just in caring for the elephants but also to contributing to the environment
Throughout the entire day, the mahouts used verbal commands 90% of the time. When they did use the stick/hook, they only tapped and nudged the elephant. My elephant was Wan, and her mahout was very kind and I hardly saw him use the stick at all. I was very happy about that! We crossed paths with several other elephant tours and I saw one handler whacking the elephant on her head as a couple rode on her back in their wooden carrier! Ugh. It was so sad.
The best part of Thai Elephant Home is that they don't believe in forcing the elephants to carry those heavy wooden boxes on their back to make the ride comfortable for humans (like my previous experience). We got to ride on their bare backs :-). That was so awesome!!! I felt connected to my elephant so much better that way, and I kept patting her all along the ride. They have very hard prickly hairs! It took a bit of time to find a balance on her neck but I quickly adjusted and her neck was quite comfortable
After about an hour of riding through the mountains, we took a break for lunch. I was trying to feed Wan my orange, but she spit it out! A mahout told me I need to peel the skin. When I did that, she was happy to take it.
Oh, well excuse me! Ha.
Then it was mud bath time! During the briefing, Joe had told us that the black mud is not only good for the elephants, but also for humans. The mud apparently has some minerals that is only found in 2 places in Thailand. So you know I had to get my hands on that!
But as we approached the mud, I was like "this is THE mud?!" It just looked like wet dirt on the side of the mountain path. Well the elephants seemed to be quite happy laying all in it, and the mahouts encouraged us to grab some mud and rub it all over the elephant. We were getting dirty anyway, so I was like "what the heck!" I started to rub it all over my face, arms and legs for the spa effect. I can't tell if it made any difference but it felt good anyway at the time and it definitely worked as a great sun screen in the hot sun!
We got back on the elephants for some more riding through the scenic mountains
It was such an incredible experience connecting with these animals. I am so glad I did it.
They even had a photographer during the day who took some amazing pics. I wish I can attach them to this blog but they are on a DVD and I'd have to get a computer to transfer them onto my iPad. I will eventually get to that but in the meantime, here are some pics I took with my own camera.