Sunday, June 10, 2012

Thailand Tales 6

After a busy week we decided to take a touristy expedition as a family on Saturday and go see The Elephants.

Paul has been really busy with teaching, even though it's only an hour a day, since he left most of the preparation to do here.  I'm taking one class and trying to do the homework, plus keeping Steven and Jenny busy, tidying up the four floors of our apartment, doing laundry, and running up or down a flight of stairs if I want a drink of water.

Paul borrowed a car from the campus pastor for the day.  I was nervous about this, as they drive on the left side, but all his Kenyan driving skills seemed to come back to him.  It helps that Thai people are just about the politest drivers in the world, and there are very few pedestrians or pedal bikes to dodge.

We drove through the city and then out into the countryside and up into the mountains, on well-maintained paved roads all the way.

The MaeSa Elephant Camp was like that one children's story book I used to read to the children, kind of a "Where's Waldo?" where the more you examined the pictures, the more elephants you saw peeping out from behind trees and buildings.

You can probably see some here if you look close enough.

These are Asian elephants, of course, which are smaller and much more teachable than African elephants.  They didn't exactly roam free, but they didn't seem very tied up either.  And everywhere you looked, you'd soon see an elephant back behind the tree or building.

Each elephant has a mahout, a limber young man who climbs up and down the elephant and sits on his head like he grew there and directs the elephant with subtle gestures.

First off, we took a ride, Steven and Jenny on one beast and Paul and I on another.  It felt like we were up very high, and at times, going up or down these muddy mountain slopes, it felt pretty perilous.  But just a fun, amazing experience, lurching along, step by slow ponderous elephant step.
The next picture might show you why it felt kind of dangerous going up that steep slippery slope.

Steven and Jenny had the cameras with them, so the only shot of them we can offer you is this one of their feet on that leathery back.

Toward the end of the half-hour ride, someone fed our elephant a big bundle of grass, and it seemed he wanted to stop and eat instead of climb up that last steep slope, and the mahout urged him on by nudging his knees into the back of his ears, step by step.

I had a sudden flashback to our old horse, Fern, trying to pull the buggy up Bears' Hill in Ohio.

 The elephant finally made it up, unlike Fern, without all of us piling out of the buggy.

We got to get up close and cozy with several elephants who hugged and kissed us.  And set a hat on each of our heads and took it off again.

I was less thrilled about that elephant kiss than some of the others.  It was like a huge, rubbery, sandy vacuum cleaner hose up against your face, with the vacuum very much "on."

They took all the elephants down to the river for a bath.  A few of them used the river as a latrine, and a woman who did not at all look grossed out by her job stood downstream with two baskets and scooped up the elephant poo as it floated downriver.  I was told it is then rinsed off and the undigested plant material is made into paper.  Which you can buy in the gift shop, made into nice picture frames and bookmarks.

 Then we watched an elephant show.  It was unbelievable, the level of discipline and training.

 They even painted pictures.

Elephant art, which sells for $70-$100 each.


See the harmonica in his trunk?  They all played harmonicas and danced.

 An elephant can kick an oversized soccer ball a lot farther than you can.

And we also fed bananas and sugar cane to the elephants, and saw some of the babies.

Steven says, "The elephant looks better than me in this picture."

And then we went home, and Steven and Jenny had a big argument about which would be the better pet--a monkey or an elephant.
"An elephant eats a lot but a monkey, you just feed them two bananas and you're good!"
"A monkey can get me stuff."
"So can my elephant!"
"It looks better to have a monkey on your shoulder than an elephant."
"An elephant has a noble brow!"
"Whatever.  It also gives loud kisses."
"Mom, that should be the title of your next book: In the Backyard the Elephants are Roaming."

Paul the Practical told them they can't have either one.


  1. Once,while I was riding an elephant in the river, my flip flop fell off into the water! The mahout gave a signal to the elephant. It reached out its truck and grabbed my flip flop, hoisted it up to me and I got it! Last fall when Abby H was with us, one grabbed her veiling off when it took the hat thing off her head~Edith

  2. When my sister was on a mission trip with GTO, they went to this same place!

  3. The poo gets recycled into paper products?! Now thats green.
    Looks like fun times!

  4. Dorcas Byler6/10/2012 3:33 PM

    I think I would have chosen the elephant excursion over the fabric excursion past the writhing snakes. Looks like fun!

  5. NNNNNeat-Ohhh!!! :)
    Raymond and the kiddies rode an elephant years ago at a little petting zoo, but I never have. -PC in VA

    PS- I like your purple. :) It's one of my favorite colors.

  6. on my WORD, this is so exotic! I enjoyed this post so much!