07.16.2016 - 07.16.2016 83 °F
Well today was exactly what the title says...full of good vibes and elephant rides. We started our morning off bright and early, getting up at 6:00 a.m. to prepare for our elephant excursion. We packed up our backpack and waited for a driver from the Baan Chang Elephant Park to pick us up. Baan Chang rescues all of their elephants (more stories about specific elephants later!). We were soon greeted by a nice man named Taz who would take us around for the day. Our drive over to the park took about an hour; Taz napped in the passenger seat the whole way while another man drove the huge passenger van. We drove way out of the city and into the beautiful forest surrounding. Immediately upon pulling into the park, a large herd of elephants with their mahouts (trainers) made their way down the driveway into the watering hole next to the entrance. That was quite a view to start off our adventure.
The adventure continued with us changing into mahout clothes since we'd be getting a little dirty as the day progressed. Once we dressed the part, it was time to take care of some elephants. Then we walked over to 30 or 40 hungry elephants lined up ready to be fed. We carried six 50 pound baskets full of bananas and sugar cane over to the elephants and started feeding them for their snack time. It was just the two of us feeding them the entire time! There weren't any other visitors at this point; It was only us, the mahouts, and the elephants! Feeding the elephants was a little intimidating at first because they're so massive and they get a little grabby when it comes to food (in the most gentle giant way possible). Justin and I split up and made our way through the line, giving everyone healthy portions of treats. All the elephants ranged in size, personality, and age. Some elephants were more confident grabbing food, while smaller ones needed more help getting food in their direction. There were a few younger elephants that couldn't quite reach as far to get the food, so the older and larger ones always reached out further. Justin and I had to navigate through the tangle of trunks to make sure that the young ones got enough to eat as well (they definitely did). All of the elephants were super friendly and grabbed each bite, flinging a little bit of slobber along the way. Once we were all finished with the six buckets (that was a lot of bananas and sugar cane!), one of the workers had us stand next to some of the elephants for a few pictures. They had the elephants give us kisses, which meant they used their trunks and sucked in against our faces and necks and made kissing noises. It was a little sloppy but absolutely adorable.
After all the kisses and snacks it was time to learn a little bit more about the elephants. Taz sat us down and told us a ton of information. For example, he told us that elephants only sweat by their toenails and their eyes (they can't sweat anywhere else, but they all took lots of dips in the water while we were there). Taz also told us some of the differences between Asian and African elephants, including their size and color (we were with Asian elephants). He informed us that all of the rescued elephants had to be bought from their previous situations. The first elephant they rescued was the cheapest at 600,000 baht; she was only the cheapest because she was blind from working in logging and having dust constantly in her eyes. The most expensive was 2,000,000 baht and he cost the most because he was the biggest. As he was teaching us all of this, two different elephants rode up to us with their mahout. One nicknamed "golden boy" was rescued from "begging" where he was forced to do tricks. Taz said he could do every trick in the book, but obviously does not do them anymore. He said that the only trick they can't stop them from doing is kissing because they actually enjoy trying to taste the sweat from people since its salty!
Next it was time to learn some basic mahout commands for riding. Golden Boy was our helper and a great elephant to ride with (not that we have much experience!). We learned how to say lay down (na long), go (bye), stop (how), turn (quay), and good job/thank you (di)...not sure if that's how you spell any of that, but that was how we pronounced it! Justin was the first one to get on Golden Boy. He made a loop around a small lot to make sure he remembered everything; then it was my turn. Getting on Golden Boy was a little unstable at first, but such an incredible feeling. He was so strong and so gentle! And you felt so high off the ground even though he was definitely one of the smaller guys. Justin and I both remembered everything we were supposed to and soon it was time for a longer ride.
Taz told us it'd be better to ride barefoot so that's exactly what we did. As we were getting ready, another elephant almost twice the size of Golden Boy strolled up with his mahout; that was the behemoth we'd be riding for the longer expedition!! Justin and I rode Big Daddy together, taking turns with who got to sit in the front and "drive." We rode around a huge path around the entire complex. It was impressive to see all of the space they had for the elephants and all of the different areas they could roam. Our trek ended with bath time back at the watering hole in the front of the complex. Bath time consisted of us trying to throw buckets of water on our new friend and scrub him with a coarse brush. Taz told us to scrub as hard as we could because they have two inch thick skin and scrubbing is like scratching an itch for them. We got right in the water with Big Daddy and eventually he started pointing with his trunk where he wanted to be scrubbed; such a great personality! He even rolled over completely on his side on his own. I guess we were doing a good job! After the bath it was time to say our goodbyes and thank yous to Big Daddy and everyone else before taking a shower of our own. We were pretty filthy at this point, but luckily they had human showers for us to clean up. Finally, it was time for a delicious lunch consisting of pad thai, fish soup, and pineapple. It was all extremely tasty and put us in a kanak attack for the drive back home. Justin, Taz, and I all passed out on the entire drive back to town!
Once we got back we decided to hit up the pool for an afternoon dip. However, both of us got so into our books that we ended up just reading by the pool instead. I ended up finishing my book and we decided we should pick up a dvd from the entertainment area by the pool; we settled on The Man from UNCLE, so we'll see how it is tonight! After the pool it was time for a real shower since I still felt like we'd just gotten out of an elephant bath (we did). Then it was time for a much deserved nap and rest before heading out for dinner at the long awaited Shabu-Shi (all you can eat shabu shabu and sushi). We went to this restaurant the last time we were in Bangkok and really enjoyed it so, when we saw that it was a few blocks away from us, we had to return!
Justin and I stuffed ourselves to the brim (with a combination of sushi, gyoza, and soup with a small serving of chocolate and strawberry ice cream at the end) and are now back ready to watch UNCLE. We're not totally sure what we're doing tomorrow, but we're thinking of going to a place called "Butter is Better" for breakfast then exploring more of the city on foot. There are tons of shrines and temples to explore and the Sunday night walking market is at the top of our list for tomorrow night! Until then...
Kaela and Justin
Meeting Golden Boy!
Giving the elephants their snack of bananas and sugar cane!
Time for some kisses!
Giving Big Daddy a workout together!
Time for Big Daddy's bath!
A relaxing afternoon at the pool.