15.04.2008 - 15.04.2008
Did I mention taking an elephant ride in Chiang Mai a couple of weeks ago? I don’t think I did. We got to Chiang Mai early in the morning and while some of the group went off to a cookery class, Rae and I took a minibus to an elephant reserve outside Chiang Mai. We spent about an hour perched on top of a balding forty-something elephant as it strolled around the nearby landscape.
It’s not a comfortable way to travel, and it was unbelievably hot. We had both pointlessly brought rucksacks with us, as well as cameras. We had bought bunches of bananas too, to feed the elephant. I ended up covered in banana as the bunches disintegrated in my lap. Elephant power consumption must run well into the kilowatts, so they can eat an endless number of bananas. They also get through 40 or 50 kg of feed a day.
Elephants are a bit of a problem in Thailand. They used to carry loads, provide power, and function as tanks in battles; now all that is done mechanically. You see small elephants sometimes in the streets of Bangkok and Chiang Mai. This is, obviously, not their natural environment. Their keepers ask for money for the elephants, but then abandon the elephants when they get too big. Inevitably, these abandoned elephants cause problems. So the advice is not to give to these people.
Quite often our elephant would stop and lift its trunk, demanding bananas. So long as we had any, Rae would oblige. It was a long reach forward.
Occasionally the elephant would stop altogether and trumpet.
There are all sorts of words for elephant in Thai, for immature female, mature female, mature male and so on. The only one I can remember, other than Chang (which is a brand of beer with a picture of an elephant on the front) is Phan, an immature female. This is Phan Dii, an 8-year old female.