Today I gave an elephant a bath

Trip Start Dec 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 27, 2008

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, June 21, 2008

Today was fantastic - definitely a highlight of Thailand!  The Patara Elephant Sanctuary is about 30km SW of Chiang Mai.  They are a small independently owned farm that takes in 'retired', unwanted, abused and abandoned Elephants and gives them a safe place to live.  They operate mainly on donations and by us guests who come to spend the day with the Elephants.

The farm in a conservation center and the elephants welfare is paramount.  I say this specifically because there are so many different ways that Elephants are used in Thailand that are entirely not for the elephants benefit.  There are even other elephant zoos in this area that are more like a circus atmosphere where the elephants put on a show painting with paintbrushes in their trunks and speaking for bananas.  I asked around and did some homework on line and found this sanctuary highly recommended and a great way to spend a day with some elephants in their natural habitat.  And man, I bit off a little more than I could chew on this one....

The day started at 7am when the van picked me up at my hotel.  We arrived at the farm at 8:30 and walked about 20 minutes into the jungle.  On they way we passed a vegetable farm that was subsidized by the government.  Our guide told us that many farmers in northern Thailand (as well as Burma and Laos) were making their living growing poppies for heroine. They continued to do so because it wasn't profitable enough to raise any other crops, so the govn't started subsidizing and slowly but surely....

At 8:30 we arrived at the sleeping spot of our elephants.  There are currently 10 elephants at the farm, but two were staying up at the mating spot high on the mountain (they stay there for three months at a time to try to get pregnant).  There were nine of us guests at the farm that day so one of the couples shared the care of an elephant.  This is a conservation center so there are never more than 10 guests per day.

In the morning we got a little education, then fed the elephants, gave them a dry and then wet bath.  Then we starting trekking.  I don't know if you've ever spent any time on a horse, my only reference here, but it sort of hurts your legs after a little bit.  It's always hurts the inside of my knees because I am knock-kneed, the opposite of bow-legged which is ideal for hoarse-riding.  Well, three hours of elephant riding on, ahem uneven terrain, hurts in all kinds of places, my thighs were like rocks the next day.  Luckily I am in Thailand and am only minutes away from a massage at all times.  Thank God.

Three hours of tracking on, ahem, uneven terrain though the jungle.  Another bath in the afternoon before lunch.  Then we had lunch on some rocks under an VERY inaccessible waterfall.  Beautiful, unspoiled, and did I mention it was a little tricky getting there?  Then lunch was over, we gave the elephants the left overs, and were off again.  More trekking, this time through fields, rivers farms and even on some dirt roads through remote villages.  A fantastic way to spend a day, and a nice place to spend your money.  I can't recommend this highly enough.  And don't get scared off by the sore body, the facilitator of the farm says they have baskets to put on the elephants for the less fit, older or disabled people to ride in.  So everyone can participate here.
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