Our second day in Chiang Mai was the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE! I feel sorry for my future husband because our wedding day probably won’t hold a candle to this unless we get married on elephants. Oh, and future kids, although I will likely love you eternally and with a force that I can never imagine prior to, the fact that you’re ripping me open will probably NOT make your birthday my best day ever…it will probably still be second to riding and bathing and caring for elephants!
We visited Patara Elephant Camp (http://www.pataraelephantfarm.com) and signed up to be elephant trainers for a day. Patara Elephant Camp is not just an elephant sanctuary, but they are also a breeding facility with the hopes of increasing the elephant population. Their elephants are not chained to a tree or restricted in anyway, really.
|Summer and Emily…happiest day ever!|
When we were introduced to our elephants, we had to greet them by raising our hand and calling out their name, accompanied by ‘cha’. If they flapped their ears at us, we were accepted to be their partners. We then greeted them with a basket of sugar cane and bananas that we were able to feed them by either putting it in their trunk or asking them to open their moths by saying “Bon” and feeding it directly onto their tongues. Honestly, when they lift up their trunks, their mouths look like a giant vagina….its gross and fascinating at the same time.
I had mentioned earlier that they let the elephants roam free and they were not chained to trees….well, while everyone else was feeding their elephant, mine was apparently still hanging out in the jungle. Boon Pat moseyed on down about 15 minutes later. When he pushed through the jungle clearing, my jaw dropped and my eyes went agape. He was enormous and he was the first elephant we had seen with GIANT TUSKS. He was magnificent and I was proud that he was all mine. I loved him instantly and knew we had been paired correctly. He was a little bit flashy and little bit defiant, and super noisy. During our trek he tooted out elephant tunes of defiance that were music to my ears. I loved him and I loved that he like to talk and sing.
|Boon Pat came out of the jungle 15 minutes after everyone else's.|
After we’ve fed them their fruit, it was time to check their health. We inspected: Their skin - to see if they had been rotating while they were sleeping. Elephants only sleep 4 hours per day. They sleep for 40 minutes, then get up and roll over to the other side, and then keep alternating like that until its time to wake up for good. Tail activity – you need to make sure they are wagging their tail and flapping their ears
Eye boogers – Elephants eyes water all the time. If they have eye drainage, it’s all good.
Toenail sweat – Elephants sweat in their toenails, if there is moisture between them, they are healthy; and
Their poo - to make sure they had eaten enough the day prior and that what they were eating was vegetarian based.
They made Liv pick up the poo. And then they made her squeeze it to see if had moisture. And then they made her smell it and break it apart into bits. It was hilarious!
After we had ensured that they were all healthy, we had to dust them off with branches of leaves and then it was time to bathe them in the river.
This was my FAVORITE part! We grabbed a hold of their ear and walked next to them down the hill saying “mai mai.” (come come) and into the water. They splashed and rolled around a bit, then we were handed a bucket and a scrub brush and hopped on top of our elephants and gave them good scrub down. It was hard work. Summer and I had giant elephants and it took nearly 40 minutes to get them all clean.
The trainers then lined all of us up for a photo and the elephants grabbed trunks full of water and soaked us all with a mixture of dirty river water and elephant snot. It was glorious and I would do it every day of my life if I could.
|Girls gone wild…elephant edition|
We rode our elephants bareback for a 40-minute trek up a mountain and through the jungle.
We crossed through another river and arrived at our lunch spot where the guides had set up an amazing lunch of fried chicken, sticky rice, fruit and various rice patties made with coconut, bananas, and other veggies. The food was outstanding and the best part about it was that anything that didn’t get eaten – and was vegetarian – we got to feed to our elephants! So we packed up a bunch of food and went to spoil our new companions.
|Emily and Boon Pat|
|Um, Summer are you going the wrong way?|
|Kelley riding through the jungle|
|Livvie riding bareback|
During lunch, we saw that our elephants took it upon themselves to roll in the mud and then subsequently in the river. They were joined by a 10 month old baby elephant that we were able to play with as well.
|Summer's elephant took a mud bath|
|Boon Pat was nice enough to shower off|
|Family Bath Time!|
We hopped back on our elephants to return them to their ‘other’ trainers, said goodbye, snapped a couple photos and went on our way happy and fulfilled and longing to be a real life elephant caretaker.