Patara Elephant Farm, Chiang Mai
Last day in Chiang Mai was “own an elephant for the day” day. Or better known as: the coolest day ever!!! It was UN-BEEE-LIEVABLE!! As there are several options available, we carefully chose where to spend a day with our very own Dumbo. We decided on Patara Elephant Farm because it’s not a place where you see elephant’s paint, play soccer and do all kinds of tricks to please tourists. No. This is the real deal. This is a farm where you go to take care of an elephant while he’s just.. well.. being an elephant.. The goal of Patara is to breed and adopt elephants to ultimately increase the population of the Asian elephant.
We first had to dress with provided clothing and then were each matched with our companion for the day. Ploi and Plau were the names of our elephants. Armed each with a big basket full of bananas and sugar cane, we were accompanied by the mahout (caretaker) and off we went to feed our 4-ton friends. Ok.. lets be honest here, they are quite impressive. How fast could an elephant crush you if he’s having a bad day huh? Or squash your whole hand while you put a mini banana in that gigantic mouth of theirs. The first minute was a little scary but Patara’s elephants are so docile and happy, it took no time at all to be very comfortable around them.
Next thing on the list was to confirm the healthiness of the elephant. Step 1: Assess his mood. Ears flapping, tail wagging = happy elephant. Check! Step 2: Make sure he slept good by looking for dirt spots on his side and face. Check! Step 3: A healthy hydrated elephant perspires only in one place on that enormous body…confirm sweat around his toes. Check! *Note to self, bring Doctor Scholl’s for stinky elephant feet on next trekking day* Step 4: A healthy elephant has healthy turds. Examine poo.. Umm.. I’m sorry mahout, you want me to do WHAT with the poo?? Oh yes ladies and gentleman. I not only looked and smelled the poo.. I had to pick it up BARE-HANDED! That’s not even the best part.. I had to squeeze it to make sure it was well hydrated and dripping poo juice. So….. : Check! Truth is, it’s not as disgusting as it sounds. Since they eat bananas, plants and sugar cane only, it doesn’t smell too bad and feels like finely chopped grass, very fibery.
Now that we knew they were fed and healthy, it was time to bathe them… and them to bathe us in return.
Finally it was time to get on the elephant and trek to a larger river. You think elephant, you think big and tall. Once you’re on top though it‘s even higher. The elephant is very high but you forget to account for half your body height as well. So you’re wayyyy up there. In spite of that, riding an elephant feels very secure and quite serene. They are very sure footed.
We trekked an hour into the juggle and ate lunch by the river while the elephants re-hydrated, compliments of the waterfall and river. Then came the best part of the day: swimming with the elephants. This was the ultimate elephant experience!!! Scary to be with 3 beasts like that rolling around in the water but sooo mucchh fuuun!!!
Finally we trekked back and half way through, they allowed the couples to ride in tandem on the elephants. I got to ride right on Plau’s head while using my hubby’s arm’s as a seatbelt.
What a incredible day!!