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Patara Elephant Farm

Up close and personal with elephants

Our second full day in Chiang Mai saw us up at the crack of dawn to be ready to leave after a good breakfast for the Patara Elephant Farm, where we partook in the "Elephant owner for a day" program, a series of scheduled events that include feeding, cleaning, bathing an elephant and riding it bareback through the jungle. It is a strenuous program and not for the faint of heart, but if you have any fondness for these great beasts, it is worth the sore thighs and exhaustion at the end of the day. Besides, if the trip up the mountain proves to be too much for you, there is a van that will take you down while the trainer assigned to you (each person has a trainer as well as an elephant for the day) will gladly ride it down, after having had to walk up beside the regally seated falang on the way up. You needn't be shy about it; several people took advantage of the automotive option down. The paths in both directions are rugged and one is left amazed at how sure-footed, indeed dainty, these great animals prove to be picking their way along well worn mountain paths that leave little room for error or waywardness.

Mae Wan Dee was assigned to me after we were introduce and she approved me -- or at least did not reject me. There exists, apparently, an elephant version of "instance dislike", that those who run the program are sensitive to. No one in my group had to be reassigned because of pachyderm preferences, so we were on to the next step, brushing the dirt off our animals before bathing them in the nearby stream. They throw dirt onto their backs, both to get rid of annoying flies and -- this was news to me -- to prevent sunburn. The tough hide of these gentle beasts is apparently more sensitive than one would think. In order to minimize the chances of having to bathe off mud, one takes some of the local vegetation and brushes them down with it.

The program for the day has been described many times on the internet, so I won't repeat it here, but will jump right to the pictures. Once home, I may add to the text of the blog and post more pictures.

The Beauteous Mae Won Dee.

She is 35 years old and occasionally quite willful, as when she decides she is hungry and plows into the nearest tempting vegatation for a mid-journey snack.

Bathing Mae Won Dee in the local stream

Me brushing the dirt of Mae Won Dee

Me riding Mae Won Dee off into the jungle and up the mountain

Me, Charlie, Mike, and Serafin (from left to right) before starting our jungle trek
Photo taken with Mike's camera by a mahout

Climbing up the mountain through the jungle. Note how rugged the track is

Swimming with elephants. And you didn't believe me!
Charlie took this photo with Mike's Canon G11

Baby elephant. She (he??) came with another group that arrived at the falls after we did. A big hit, naturally, and too cute for words.

Posted by aethelraed 02:08

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This is beyond wildest expectations. It's one thing to see something like this on PBS, and another thing altogether to see a dear friend experience such beauty, grace, and joy. Gratitude indeed(!) for such happiness . . . .

by gittwolf

I'm one of your followers at Vinyl Fatigue and decided to take a peek at where you are during your absence.... I am GREEN with envy!! I used to go on expedition tours, much like what you are experiencing... But on ships. Very few of us in a group off to distant lands and places. My ex-husband and I travelled all over the world. But never on something as beautiful and full of love as your gorgeous four-legged friend. I am in awe of this your present adventure! ENJOY! Such a glorious experience! See you soon! Warmest wishes, Maria

by Maria [DanseDePuck]

Hi Maria (Danse de Puck): Thanks for your comments. The day with the elephants was amazing. They seemed to get a lot of enjoyment out of dunking you under and throwing you off while swimming. It was a very special experience, and there will always be a spot in my heart for Mae Won Dee.

by aethelraed

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