I Speak Elephant

Oh my goodness, these blogs are going to get the best of me if I'm not careful! I'm still trying to finish up the 2nd half of my Thailand trip but life doesn't stop and the list of adventures to blog keeps on growing {hmm maybe this is a sign that I need to lock myself in my room for a week to work on blogs AND then I will have nothing going on in life to need to blog...I'm liking this lazy idea!}

Last time I left off with Thailand I was on the topic of our trek through the mountains of Chiang Mai and the Karen Tribal Village (click the links to catch up on reading if you're behind!) and I promise I've got just ONE more post to finish up our time in Chiang Mai (...and then onto Bangkok haha).

Friday, February 5th 

Today was the big day! We had hiked a mountain, swam in a waterfall, played with the children in the Karen village, & left  half our knee on the side of the mountain, and now, today....WE RIDE ELEPHANTS!

I'm going to be completely transparent here, I have ridden an elephant before. I was maybe only 8 or 9 though and I went to the circus with a friend for my birthday {oh hey Megan!} and we rode an elephant there. But, we were inside, in a fenced in area, the a box on top of the elephant and seat-belted in...and let's be honest...it's just not the same!

But today was going to be different and the anticipation was real guys...I'm telling you I'm shocked Tina is still friends with me after all the giddy school-girl excitement she had to put up with from me during our trip! We woke up in our lovely bamboo huts and Tina and I went for a walk around and checked out a neighboring tribal village down the road from where we stayed. By the time we got back to our camp breakfast was ready and our clothes were being laid out for the day. After a hearty breakfast we donned our new attractive get-ups (the elephant trainers, also known as mahout, at this particular location all wear the same clothing to help the elephants identify with who is training them and to help them feel comfortable with "new" people around them). Our mahout outfits consisted of a pair of baggy denim pants, a button down denim shirt, and the suggestion of a swimsuit and flipflops to finish off the attractive ensemble!

Once we were suited up we headed to the elephant training center behind our hut and we were introduced to our elephant that we would train with for the morning. After helping her gorge her heart out on bananas and watermelon rinds, it was time to get down and dirty...ok not before playing with the 4 year old baby elephant they brought out {omg so stinkin' adorable and with the ornery streak of any 4 year old human child!} We were each handed a list of typical commands you would want to say to your elephant like walk,  turn left, stop, and make me some popcorn (ok maybe not the last, but a girl can dream!) with the phrases translation into "elephant" next to it. For example, when we wanted to get on the elephant we would say "yok kha" and he would lift his leg for us to climb on and similarly we would say "bhai" and "toy" to go forward and backwards respectively. 

After practicing with each of these words, it was time to put us to the test! To get on the elephant {remember we are riding this guys bareback} we tell them "yok kha" and they lift their leg. We then step onto their leg while trying to get a hold of an ear and some back skin and tell them "sung" and they lift their leg higher until we are able to swing our other leg up and around their neck. Once we were on their neck we scooted forward until we were just about on top of their head and then reward them for letting us on and not trampling us with some bananas! After the circus of mounting the poor guy it's then time to actually DO SOMETHING while you're up there! We had a trainer standing next to us and we had to show them how we could back the elephant up, stop him, walk forward, & turn both left and right...easier said and done when you've had all of 5 minutes to learn elephant!

Once we had each proven ourselves worthy (twice!) we also had to show them (and ourselves lol) that we know how to get off  the elephant as well! Luckily it was a piece of cake!  Just kidding! We had to fling both of our legs in front of us so that they were sticking off the front of the elephants head, tell him "jaa long" to put his head down, and the slide feet first down the front of the elephants head, off of his trunk, and pray you landed on both your feet in front of him...TA DA! Seriously I felt like we were in a circus act haha.

After we knew our way (ish) around the elephant it was time for our ride! By this time several other couples had joined the original 6 of us and we were up to 10 or 12 total people. With 2 people per elephant we needed some extra...bring in the reinforcements! We had a total of a half a dozen elephants before us and they assigned us in pairs to each one. After Tina and I were given our elephant (Sah Wah Dee), Tina made a comment that "of course we have to ride the biggest one!" and a trainer reassured us...no, he's the 2nd biggest...oh much better buddy, much better! Tina got on first and sat behind his shoulder blades & I got on next on top of his head and it was show time!

We rode the elephants around the property for about 30 minutes through several paths, down a stream {easier said than done when your "naughty elephant" decides he needs to scratch his back on EVERY tree we pass!} and through a field before we got to the elephant pond. The plan here was to walk your elephant straight into the pond and then bathe him, but after being told we had a "naughty elephant" they had us park him on the side of the pond and bathe someone a little more under control. Although some people were a little hesitant to jump in a start scrubbing down their elephants, I couldn't have been any more excited. I mean seriously, how many times in  your life do you have the opportunity to bathe an elephant?!?! {Fun Fact! To wash the elephant we took a specific plant that looked like a big bamboo and cut it into manageable sized pieces and then used this mixed with water to create a later for the elephants. And, of course, when you finished scrubbing them...they got to eat the leftovers!}

After bath time comes mud bath time!!! If you thought I was excited for regular bath time, I was 100X more excited for mud bath time {again poor, poor Tina!} 6 of us and our little elephant friend were led to a mud pit at the back of the village and my little elephant buddy jumped right in and I was right there behind him! Only 2 others joined us in the mud while the other 3 decided that a mud bath wasn't in the books for them for the day, but honestly, I'm not sure if I've ever laughed so much! We were instructed to pick up globs of mud and throw them at the elephant. Ok, great, what they didn't say was that elephant was going to try and do the same thing, and miss himself, time and time again, and instead hit us with mud globs. How this 2 ton animal manages to  miss his giant back and instead land repeatedly on my head is beyond me, but he did! After our romp in the mud we clearly needed one more bath for the day (sans elephant) to help clean the mud out from EVERYWHERE before settling down for a late and well deserved lunch!

After lunch, we loaded into the pickup trucks and went on a short ride to a nearby river. Here we were treated to the most relaxing bamboo raft river ride that I have ever had {ok, so maybe it's the only bamboo raft ride I've ever had, but it was still crazy relaxing!} Seeing locals fishing, bathing elephants, and walking to the markets near the river were spectacular views and a terrific way to relax and unwind from the days excitement. Upon finishing our river ride, the trucks were waiting for us once again, but this time to take us each back to our respective hotels. After about an hour and a half trip we arrived to our hotel a little before six and collapsed on our beds and took a much needed nap!

We ventured out after nap time :) in search of food and not only found an amazing pad Thai place, but also a great show that was going on at the local flower festival {more to come on that I promise!} All in all, I'd count the last 2 days as a pretty successful & memorable 48 hours for the books!