We arrived at our hostel in Chiang Mai late in the day. We flew from Phuket. We went out for dinner and then hit the sack. The next day we’d be riding elephants and we wanted to get a good night’s sleep beforehand.
We met Eddy the Elephant Man at our hostel the next morning. This little guy is hilarious. He was crackin jokes the entire day.. Shmacy, Shmooke, and I were eating his jokes up. In his words, ‘I’m small, but I’m spicy.. like a little red chili pepper.’
It took us about an hour and a half to get to the elephants, but the van was very comfortable. Once we got there he told us to change into their uniforms. Long blue track pants and short sleeve blue shirts with their logo on them. This was good because later we’d be bathing the elephants and getting wet.
We sat and listened to Eddy give a little lecture about the elephants and how they train them. Then he taught us some commands in Thai that the elephants understand:
‘songstung’ this will get the elephant to raise its leg so you can climb up …well that was the idea anyway. Didn’t quite work like that…
‘huh huh’ this tells the elephant to go foreward
”quay quay’ shouting this and shaking your leg behind the elephants ear with tell it to turn. You shake the opposite leg from the direction you want the elephant to turn.
‘hao’ a good shouting of this word will tell the elephant to stop.
We practiced these words and then headed up to the training course. They had 4 elephants that our group switched off practicing on. When it was my turn I was so stoked to give this a try, but I had a hard time imagining myself just throwing my leg up over this large animal to get on it. It’s not like a horse where you can just put your foot in the stirrup to climb up.. You’re putting your foot on its leg, grabbing its extra skin, holding on behind the ear and launching yourself upwards.
Ok, here we go.. ‘songstung!’
Alright, say it with confidence. ‘songtsung!!!!’ she lifted her leg.. moment of truth.. I threw my flipflops and decided to barefoot it. They assured us that this doesn’t hurt the animal, but I didn’t know for sure. I wanted to be as gentle as possible. I grabbed behind the ear and threw my left leg and left arm up. With the help of one of the guides (pushing my butt up) I was able to get on her.
Wow!!! This is awesome! I was sitting on her neck, my legs wrapped around the sides of her neck, no shoes, holding onto the tops of her ears. Just me up there.. So cool. I imagined myself bonding with this elephant, going out in the jungle (or safari.. either would be acceptable) and exploring for a few weeks… Into The Wild style.
We walked around in a circle for a few rounds an then it was time to get off. Getting off was a lot easier then getting on. I just dropped my torso down, parallel with the elephant, swung my left leg back over and ‘climbed’ down. That was AWESOME! …and that was only the training. It only got better from there.
We went back to camp to have lunch. It was a delicious authentic Thai meal. Yellow curry, rice, steamed veggies, fried egg, etc. Yum! I got fueled up, and was ready to give this another go!
We picked up some bananas, snapped some photos with the baby elephant, and headed out to get on em again. This time Shmacy I shared one elephant. This was cool because we got to experience and freak out about all of this together. It was only 3 months ago when we had the ‘Let’s ride some elephants in Thailand’ talk. Now it was reality.
We did it instead of not doing it. And it was amazing.
I got on the elephant first, cause I would be on the midsection. They tied a rope on the midsection so I’d have something to hold on to. Elephants are a lot thicker than horses, much bigger bellies.. So it was quite the straddle on this animal. I needed to just make sure that my legs stayed out of the area where her shoulders moved.
Then Shmacy got on the neck. The guide kept telling her to ‘put your hand on it’s head’. However, with his accent Shmacy thought he said ‘put your hand on your hip’ so Lacy confusingly put her hand on her hip and struck a pose thinkin they wanted a picture. I lost it.. So did the guide. We were laughing historically as we and our elephant took off.
Then we went on a ride through the jungle with the elephants. Our elephant kept throwing its trunk back for us to feed it bananas. Luckily we had a lot of bananas. We’d feed it a banana, then it’d shoot that shiz right back at us through its trunk. Bleh. Half way through we were soaked with an elephant mucus, water, and banana mixture. Thank goodness we’d be getting in the water soon. They say the elephant does that if it likes you. I’ve got my suspicions about that theory, but I’m gonna go with it. Our elephant must have reallllly loved us.
The scariest part was the decent into the river. This was a super steep decline. I looked at it, and said frantically, ‘We’re going down there?!’ The guide said ‘yea’. Shmacy and I nervously laughed and exclaimed ‘oh no, oh no!!!’ as our elephant worked its way down. When we got in the river I let out a huge sigh. Whew! We made it.
Now how am I going to get off of this thing? Just as I contemplated the best method she lowered her booty and sat down in the river. I slid off gracefully, followed by Shmacy. Khob kun ka, elephant! Thank you for being so gentle. Eddy handed me a brush and I began washing our elephant. We bonded.
All of the sudden I felt a huge wave of water hit me in the back of the head. I turned around to see another elephant sitting there, and then look to my left to see one of the guides I had been talking to earlier suspiciously walking away. We’ve got a funny guy over here. …that resulted in me being soaked in elephant poop water. Funny guy-1, Anna-0.
We took a bunch of pictures with the elephants and took turns getting sprayed by the elephants through their trunks. Man this must be so much fun for the guides… watching how people interact with the elephants. I think that would be a fun job.
wait, who gave this guy the trunk?
she got me back…
This tour was awesome; I highly suggest it. If elephant riding is on your bucket list and you want to do it in Chiang Mai, I suggest Eddy’s tours.
The next day we decided to do some zip lining. I’ve gone zip lining in Hawaii before, and that was awesome, so why not try it again? We signed up for a package that included zip lining, abseiling, and shaky bridge crossing. I was excited to get some adrenaline pumping.
When we got to our destination we got all suited up. We had so much going on.. So many straps, ropes, and carabiners. I was getting excited. Put it all on me.. let’s go crawl around in the jungle! Tarzan style. I wanna swing on vines and stuff.
Well it turned put o be a lot less exciting than I wanted. It sounds weird to put it this way.. but it was too ‘safe’ for me. I was always hooked up to something… and whenever we zip lined, we were hooked up to two lines so we couldn’t really spin around or go upside down or anything. The zip lines were pretty low to the ground, not as high as I would have liked them to be. It’s a really good option for those who are super concerned about safety, though. Not that I’m not concerned about safety.. I guess I just wanted more danger.. or scare.
They did get me on two separate occasions, though. I volunteered to go first in the group cause I wanted to take advantage of the element of surprise. After a few zip lines we got to one platform that just had one rope hanging from a branch. The guides didn’t speak a lot of English, so once he hooked me up to 10 different things he said ‘sit’. I responded with, ‘Okay, where am I going?’ He just looked at me with that same ‘sit’ face… So I sat. Well… sitting meant falling. I dropped 15 feet when I thought I’d be taking a seat on the platform. When I got to the bottom we all laughed and I let him know he got me.
On the second occasion we were ziplining and were instructed to use our break to slow down. Many people forgot the break and ended up hitting the platform and then falling back or slamming into the guide. It was my turn and I did it so smoothly. Pulled out my break, lifted my feet, and greeted the guide with a smooth landing. He greeted me with a ‘you’re a professional’ …then I let go of my rope to soon, lost balance, and fell backwards. Perfect timing…ha! We all cracked up as the other guide helped me back to the platform.
It was definitely a fun experience, but not as active, or dangerous as I would have liked. However, the scenery was beautiful.