Chiang Mai

Elephant Tour – The Afternoon With The Elephants

Getting close touch with elephants by feeding them in the morning as the first section of the training course was absolutely a great experience, which made us eagerly wonder what more exciting sections were prepared for us for the afternoon. Couldn’t wait!!!

Woody guided us to sit on the bench when he casually sat on the ground. The afternoon started with a whole lot of educational facts about elephants that we had never heard of before. Let’s get started with some crazy numbers.

Do You Know These Numbers?

In average, an adult elephant eats 440 pounds (200 kilograms) of food, drinks 80-100 liters of water, produces up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of poop PER DAY! Holy crap! That’s a lot!

A baby elephant stays in its mother’s womb for 22 months before it’s born. It’s actually longer than any other animals. They usually can live up to 70-80 years old.

OK! Enough of the facts. We are gonna leave everything else to Woody to tell you in person if you ever have a chance to visit the park.

Commands For Riding 

In order to be able to ride elephants in the jungle, we needed to know some of the basic commands in Thai as well as how to get on and get off from elephant’s back. One Mahout showed us how he got on elephants back by standing on the trunk. The elephant quickly but smoothly lifted his trunk over his head and the Mahout made a very stable landing on his back. Pretty cool! Thankfully, we didn’t have to learn that trick.

The commands are -

  • Nolong means to sit – the elephants will bend over when they hear this command so that you can step on one of the front feet and climb onto the back.
  • Bai Bai means to move forward – it sounds like bye bye.
  • Guai means to turn – it requires your feet movement at the same time as you are giving this command. Kicking the elephant’s left ear with your left foot (bear foot) while saying Guai implies turning right. Kicking the right ear with your right foot and saying Guai  is telling the elephant to turn left.
  • How means to stop.

Remember to take off your shoes when you climb onto an elephant’s back.

Two elephants were called up to come join us in the group. We took turns to practice the commands and riding with the two big cuties. They were patiently doing the same movements again and again based on the given commands. We rewarded them two baskets of bananas after practice.

Another important thing to learn is how to relatively keep stable on the back of the elephants. For a big elephant, the sitting part is the neck instead of back. Putting both your palms on the head is how you stay stable. For a small elephant, there is usually a rope around the neck. Holding the rope while sitting on the back close to the neck can make you feel safe up there.

Trying to sit still.

Did I mention elephants’ 3 favorite things? Eating is no doubt ranked No.1. The other 2 are scratching (ass most of the time) and swimming. You will be surprised at how much they love water.

Riding Elephants In The Jungle

Sam is a teenager girl. Her official name is way too long and complicated so that we couldn’t memorize it at the first place. Let’s just keep it simple as Sam. She was assigned to be our intimate friend for the jungle walk in the next 1.5 hours.

Sam was chilling by herself.

With the Mahout’s help, we applied the sitting command. Sam welcomed us by bending over her gigantic legs and sat right in front of us. For sharing one elephant, there should be a driver and a guest. As the driver, I climbed onto Sam’s neck after Han got settled on her back. She quickly stood up and started heading to the jungle. Oh by the way, no shoes are allowed in this section.

Sam was taking us into the jungle.

Sam was being a little too good at the beginning. She was just walking in her own speed whereas other elephants in the same group often stopped for grabbing bamboos with their trunks and scratching their asses with the trees. It’s pretty funny to watch! However, the Mahouts sometimes had to scare them with the sticks in their hands in order to stop them from scratching too hard.

She finally started eating too. Good girl! Eat more!

Sam’s Mahout kindly took these photos of us when we were trying hard to sit still on Sam’s back. Riding elephant was actually harder than we thought especially when going downhill. But Sam’s big enough for us two to completely lean our bodies on her back whenever it’s necessary.

In the jungle with Sam

This little guy is only 7 years old. It’s pretty easy to tell from his behavior that he has a crush on our Sam but he didn’t really know how to do this humping thing properly yet… He has got some practice to do. :-P

Humping practice for a 7 year-old.

Bathing

As soon as the elephants saw the pond, it’s like little girls were about to open their Christmas gifts from the Santa’s stockings. They speed up and almost bounded into the water, then immediately lied down into it without any intent to move or get out anytime soon. They do love water very much! It started raining. Good timing!

Bathing Sam who’s multiple times as big as we are was interestingly easy and fun! Brushes and water buckets were offered. All we did was just to jump onto her back and brushed her. She enjoyed it very much and us too! :-)

Elephants love water!!!

We chilled back in the hall after cleaning up and changing. Woody handed us a notebook with his name as the subject on the blank page asking for written feedback about this entire tour. What else to say? It’s quite awesome! The park does a good job to take care of exploited and abused elephants but it surely is a costly process. To support it, we donated some money into their donation and tips boxes…

The same van was arranged to send all of us back to our hotels. That’s our day with Baanchang Elephant Park. Hope you enjoyed it too! :-) We are going to see you up in the mountain for mountain biking soon!

We spent our first day in Chiang Mai, Thailand with the largest living land animal - elephants in Baanchang Elephant Park. This is how exactly the park looks like. We certainly had a great time with these smart animals as well as our guide and all these elephant caretakers!

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