Trip Start Jan 09, 2013
Trip End Jan 22, 2013

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Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Monday, March 11, 2013

Today was absolutely one of the best days of my trip so far.
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. They also explained that using a stick with a metal hook is a necessity, in order to control an animal of that size. But the mahouts (handlers) do not use the hooks to abuse or harm them, just to control them. I guess it is understandable - it is comparable to how we use collars and leashes to control dogs - some people even use choke chains to control bigger dogs.

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. We then ended up in the river for the best part of the tour! We got to wash down the elephants and rub off the mud that had dried up on their skin. This part allowed us to get so close to the elephants, and it was such an intimate moment, as I splashed and rubbed Wan, hugged her, talked to her, and thanked her for an amazing day. They have these beautiful round brown eyes and I was just in awe of this magnificent animal.
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.
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Janel on

Beautiful, I am glad you paid $150 so I can vicariously live through your experience. I can almost feel her prickly hairs..... You look like a little native ! :D

Oli on

My favorite story so far(after the train story ,of course) :-D

tak on

im just hoping that the tour guides weren't playing a crude joke on you about the mud being good for the skin. lol

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