This is a post by Jenny
Today we rode elephants and it was one of the most incredible experiences we have ever had. We went to an elephant farm to participate in mahout training. (Mahouts are elephant trainers.)
First, we were given traditional mahout clothing to change into:
Then we were given a briefing on how elephants are trained, including the use of a hook for training, which is similar to how we use water to teach cats to behave. Our elephants spoke Thai, so we had to learn commands like lift your leg, higher, go forward, back, stop, etc. We met and fed the elephants, which included an adorable 2 month old baby, who at one point stole David’s sandal.
The elephants got frisky and hugged and kissed us, which was a pretty unique experience. It tickled liked crazy, and they are a little drooly. But, it was adorable.
To get on an elephant, you hold their ear and shoulder/underarm skin, ask them to lift their front leg, step onto it like a ladder, and ask them to go higher, enabling you to swing up onto their back/neck. Here is a video of David demonstrating:
After practicing all of our commands and getting on and off a few times, we had lunch and rest, then went on a jungle trek for about an hour, which inculded walking in a stream and going up and down hills. David and I shared a gigantic elephant named Balloy!. Balloy! was a lot taller than the elephants we practiced on in the morning, so our mounting of her was less graceful and more like a beached whale. I laughed so hard watching David and then getting on myself, I didn’t think I was going to be able to get up because I was laughing too hard.
We used a machete to cut down bamboo to feed the elephants, and our guide started a fire from bamboo, dried elephant pooh, and a machete. David and I took note for next time we go camping in New Hampshire. The sun was pounding down, so it was time for elephant bathing in the stream! Balloy! got down in the water and we scrubbed her. We also got hosed down by the elephants and at one point I started using their trunks as a fire hose to spray other people. The elephants seemed to have as much fun in the water as us!
Bathing progressed into swimming, which involved us and our guide on Balloy! walking into a pond of water. The guide gave a command, and Balloy! would duck under, taking us with her. It was a little unnerving but fun.
Throughout the day, it was evident that the elephants were enjoying themselves as well, playing with us and the guides, splashing in the water. At one point the elephant grabbed our guides hand and tugged on it, as if to say “come play with me”. The guide gently slapped her away and said “not right now, I’m working!” If you ever have the chance to ride and “train” an elephant, be bold and seize the opportunity!
P.S. We have about a million awesome pics of elephant riding, so we are also going to put up a public album up on FB in a few days
P.P.S. In David’s last entry, he talked about our visit to the Buphing Palace. Please note that this is pronounced, the Poo-ping Palace. Hah, get it?
P.P.P.S… Feel free to leave comments on the blog, we love hearing from people (familiar faces or “strangers”)