The Elephant Ride

August 6th, 2012
Place: Portland, OR
Time: 7:17 pm

So, I went to Thailand and haven’t written a word about it.  I’ve been home for five fruitless weeks now and have had more than enough time to do something to remedy that.  

As far as vacations go, Thailand was uneventful.  No unlawful trespassing and escorts by police to speak of.  There was an awful lot of traffic, sitting in cars, boat rides, and global buffets. Still, time spent with friends and beautiful weather is nothing to sneeze at.  

I can also proudly say that I’ve ridden an elephant.  Or maybe I shouldn’t necessarily use the word proud . . .
The day started out way before our usual wake-up; a good 5 or 6 hours before.  We met our driver at a hotel down the street from John’s apartment. Our day was spent at a cemetery (twice), a “museum” devoted to chronicling the POWs who worked on the death railroad in Thailand, a boat ride along the River Kwai, the infamous bridge over that water, a global buffet and finally (!) the long awaited elephant ride!  Complete with playing with the elephant and splashing about in the water!


Instead, I may have partaken in some form of animal cruelty.  Sorry, PETA. 

We arrived at the elephant farm ?  - sure, I’m going to go with farm – to the delightful smell of dung.  They ushered the 3 people who had opted for this tour down to a platform overlooking the elephants.  The poor sad beasts.  Saddled with iron chairs and chained to the ground, it was enough to make Greenpeace cry.

Our mahout (that’s elephant rider to you laymen, or kwan-chang in Thai) was called away from his volleyball game and he clamored atop the elephant, sitting astride its neck.  My friend Pat was ushered on and told to scoot over to accommodate me.  I told them I wanted my own elephant but no dice.  Good bye picture opportunities, unless, of course, we wanted to pay the operation some money for using our own camera to snap a photo.  How accommodating.

So, there we were on this metal chair contraption thing with an elephant that did not want to be there and a mahout that did not want to be there.  Every time we came to a hill the elephant balked.  This interrupted the guide’s telephone conversation.  That’s right – little dude was on his cell phone the entire time.  So, we’d get to an incline or a decline and the elephant would stop.  The mahout would yell at it and jab him with his knees.  Meantime, I’m trying to figure out where I can put my feet because they won’t both fit on his  neck without doing one of those side twisty things and if I left one hanging the elephants ears kept flapping at it or he tried to slap me with his slimy trunk.   

So, I’m dangling and twisting and trying to avoid having the iron bar slam into my back with each jouncing plod of the elephant and the mahout is talking on his phone and digging his ankus into the elephant’s ear or mouth.  I looked up that word.  An ankus is sharp hook and kind-of reminds me of a sickle.  Not really the kind of thing you’d want in your mouth. 

The first time he dug that sucker in he glanced back at us, as though giving me a chance to protest. Uuuh. . . 


Our tour ended with a boat ride down the river where we passed a group of tourists laying across the backs of elephants, straddling their necks, and splashing about in the water while their smiling guides happily snapped picture after picture.

It made my elephant experience That. Much. Better.

I suppose PETA would say it was all my own dang fault. 

I would probably have to agree – should have picked a better tour.

The Floating Market
Island Hopping
The River Kwai


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