September 23, 2013
Today I had a memorable experience at Woody Elephant Training here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have had the elephants on my radar since before I came but was extremely hesitant about the nature of these parks. I found one with bareback riding only, no cage harnesses. Most importantly, you don’t just show up, ride them and leave. You spend the entire day with your elephant. You arrive and learn particular Thai commands such as forward, backward, stop, slow, right, left, etc.. There is a particular command for mounting where the elephant bends their knee and you step on their leg and give another command for “lift” and they bring you atop. After learning the commands you spend time with the elephant feeding it bananas and grass. Next you pick up their poo… They eat and shit all day long.. Not a bad life, it’s like a child! Afterwards, you practice on the elephant each command. After lunch, it’s time to ride. Two per elephant, we began in the thick jungle. Only about 45 minutes to not tire them, we finished at a river. At this point they take a drink and spray water on themselves to cool off. Ours decided to pick up mud and I was covered, heat to toe (mouth included), by the end of the treck. Next the elephants take a bath. At this point, they literally are laying on their side in a ~4 foot pond. They stretch out their legs and wag their ears (sign of content). Afterwards my elephant lifted her trunk in my face and out came loads of water! Was quite a surprise! Ha. Finally, we got back on the elephants and we started walking again. Not knowing what was next, the elephants walk into a different deep pond and start swimming. The elephants swim above and underwater, alternating roughly every 30 seconds. At one point she went so deep, I too, was completely underwater. Point being, it was nice to find a place where the elephants are treated nice, do not use harnesses and have an informative staff. It was also rewarding to spend an entire day with your elephant opposed to just showing up and riding it. If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai, which I do suggest its one of my favorite places this far, message me and I’ll remind you the name of the elephant camp!