Tigers and Oxen and Elephants, Oh My!

Elephant Farm
Elephant Farm

Years ago I remember reading a story written by a guy from Hong Kong. He described a ride on an elephant through the jungle as a mystical experience that somehow changed his life. So I booked a trip to an elephant park outside of Chiang Mai on the 19th. The trip included an elephant ride through the jungle.

It was an all day trip and included transportation, a buffet lunch, stops at several other attractions, and several other things to do at the elephant park. It cost 750 baht (about $22.00 USD).

The morning of the 19th Sea and I waited on the patio of the Panda House. A new, air conditioned 14 seat van pulled up a few minutes past 08:00, right on time. After about a two hour ride through the mountains we arrived at the elephant park.

Our guide took us to seats where we watched performing elephants. They did the usual things. They got on their front or hind legs, picked things up, moved their trainers from leg to leg. They carried signs. They sat on their trainers without squashing them. They walked over people laying on the ground. They played soccer and basketball.

The finale was when 5 or 6 talented elephants each painted a picture by holding a paint brush in his trunk. The paintings were offered for sale later. I don’t know for how much or if anyone bought any of them.

After the show the elephants came over to the stands where the audience fed them bananas provided by the staff. A few adventuresome visitors let the elephants lift them up while sitting on their trunks. All of the elephants accepted tips with their trunks and passed them back to the trainers who were on their necks.

After the meet and greet we were were led to a tall wooden platform where we got on the backs of the elephants for our trek through the jungle. Each elephant had a trainer who rode on is neck. The tourists rode in wooden seats strapped to the elephants’ back, neck and tail.

We went down a steep embankment and across a river. It was a little uncomfortable for me. I kept feeling like I was going to fall forward. And a ride on an elephant is never smooth. I lurched backward, forward, and from side to side. Fortunately the

elephants are not fast movers, so the lurching was not severe.

We emerged from the river and started up the steep side of a mountain. Also uncomfortable for me because I felt like I was going to fall out of the seat backward. Every few hundred yards there was a raised stand where the riders could purchase bananas and sugar cane to “thank” their elephants. Sea got a bunch of bananas and fed them to our ride at every possible stop. It was 20 baht (less than $1.00 USD).

After an hour or so the ride came to an end. We climbed off the elephants on to a raised platform, then went down the steps and got on ox carts which took us to the buffet lunch. The ox carts were wooden with wooden wheels, but were very much smoother riding than the elephants.

The buffet lunch was good. I don’t remember what I had, but I remember liking it. We ate with some teachers from America who were setting up some sort of educational conference (junket) in Thailand.

After lunch the group was led to a souvenir area where we could buy pictures of ourselves

taken on the elephants. The pictures were in frames made of elephant dung and cost 250 baht (about $8.00 USD). Somehow, the sales of these pics was supposed to help the elephants, so we bought ours. The picture wasn’t very flattering of me. I looked scared and was holding on way too tight. Sea look like she was having fun. I figured I would get my money’s worth from jokes about the shitty picture and frame.

Then we walked back to the river and got on bamboo rafts for a float down the river. There were 4 people on each raft plus a pilot in the front and back of each one. The river wasn’t deep. They steered with bamboo poles. Everyone was given a conical hat to protect them from the sun.

The pilots were funny. They kept splashing us and saying “Happy New Year” while saying “Look out for crocodile!” or “anaconda!.” The only thing that scared me were the big wads of elephant poop floating everywhere. They let everyone have a turn steering the raft and took pics for us.

There were locals swimming in the river all the way, both children and adults.

So I guess elephant poop isn’t so bad. It’s only bananas and sugar cane.

After an hour we arrived at the pick up point. We disembarked and got back on the van for the ride home.

On the way home we stopped at a tiger farm. For 300 baht per person (about $9.00 USD) you could go into a tiger cage and pet a Bengal tiger. Our guide promised no one had ever been bitten, at least that she knew of. So I took a chance and went in. We were only allowed in the cages 2 at a time. Each visitor was accompanied by a guide. You had a choice of baby tigers, 1 year olds, or full grown. I took the later, after all, no one had ever been eaten.

The cages were outdoors. The were grassy and extremely well maintained. There were 3 tigers in the cage we entered. We petted them, the guide took pics, and we were out. At least I can say I did it.

We spent about an hour at the tiger farm. I addition to the tigers they had fish ponds where you could feed huge gold fish.

They would go into a feeding frenzy when someone tossed them a handful of food.

We returned to the van for the rest of the trip home. About half way there we made a pit stop at an orchid and butterfly farm. This was my favorite place of the day. Unfortunately it was where my camera battery died, so I only got a few pics of the flowers.

We finally arrived back at Chiang Mai shortly after dark. We went back to the Vietnamese restaurant next door for dinner. Then sat on the patio an hour or so looking at brochures for something to do the next day.

 
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About Charles Kirtley

Have been living in SE Asia and China since 2007. I have an opinion on most every subject, and don't mind sharing them. Lover and collector of worthless facts.
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