I’ve fallen in love.
Ok I’ll admit I’ve been obsessed with elephants ever since the line in the Australian movie ‘The Castle’, “Cos it was Friday I told Trace I’d take Wayne’s present to him. It was an elephant. Cause elephants bring good luck, especially if their trunks are up. And this trunk was up.” If you haven’t seen it, trust me, just watch it.
I love elephants so much I’ve now spent two full days with them, firstly in Luang Prabang in Laos and secondly, in Chang Mai in Thailand.
The first elephant I encountered was huge but incredibly graceful, even if she did have a bad case of the squirts which caused her stomach to bloat up like she was pregnant.
I was pretty nervous about getting on her and not for that reason alone. You see in Laos the elephants don’t kneel for you. Instead you have to hold their ear, put one leg on its knee, hoist yourself over with the other leg, and try land on its neck in such a way you don’t make a dick of yourself in front of 10 other people. Epic fail.
My first thought when I finally got on the damn thing was: I’m glad I wore pants. Sitting on an elephant is like sitting on a half warn scrubbing brush (and as one of my friends who wore shorts later discovered, elephant chaffing rash is not much fun).
Hands down the best thing about both day trips was bath time.
Little did I know but the first elephant I bathed, a beautifully mallow 31-year-old female called May, knew how to dunk. So while everyone else on the tour was pleasantly washing their elephants with little scrubbing brushes mine would just dunk me, over and over.
Although, I feared better than the girl next to me whose elephant spent the entire time loading its trunk with water, and like a locator beacon lining it up with her face before firing at her gallon upon gallon of water.
I have to admit I was incredibly nervous about my second elephant encounter in Chang Mai. You see, not all elephant villages are created equal and unfortunately I know a number of people who have had a terrible experience with predominately angry old mahouts hitting their elephants with elephant hooks.
But this day turned out better than the last, mainly because I got to meet baby elephants, one six months old, the other just a week. The babies are so hairy and incredibly wrinkly. Clearly they’ve got a lot of growing into their skin to do.
Again we bath them, this time it’s a full on water fight with the mahouts. I swear the baby has a death wish. It’s running around the legs of the older ones who are throwing themselves sideways into the water. There’s a few narrow misses.
The water’s too shallow to dunk but one of the elephants has been taught how to kiss which feels like putting a wet vacuum cleaner pipe on you face, and turning it on turbo.
Not to skite but if you happen to be in Chang Mai and see a brochure for Rantong Elephant Training, that’s probably me. No biggie. The centre’s manager has decided to update their brochure and clearly a group of six young females, three from New Zealand, three from America, had more selling power than the current poster couple, an old, grey, slightly balding man and his wife.