To babysit pandas in China.. to swim with the dolphins in Dubai.. and to be an elephant owner for a day in Thailand.. these are just part of my hundreds of to-do-list being a wanderlust. And during my recent trip in Thailand, I didn’t miss a chance to do one of them even it will take some bucks out of my already-bankrupt pocket. ;D
There are many elephant farms to choose from in Chiang Mai. The city is home for my favorite gentle giants thus, it’s up to your preference on how you’ll want to enjoy your encounter with them. While searching for the best one, Patara Elephant Farm came into the list of a well-written blog I’ve read during the hunt. Though it took me a while to finally e-mail them to make my reservation, I gave it a shot and just took a deep breath after I paid it via paypal. The “Elephant Owner For A Day” is really expensive!!! Indeed, it is. It costs 5,800 Baht per person (Php9,100 or Jpy19,500). Yet, as you go along with my story on how I’d spent my day with one of my favorite animals, I can assure you that it’s worth it.
The day started with a pick-up from our guesthouse in the city around 7:30AM. I forgot his name but I think he’s one of the big bosses in the office. He drove us to their city office to let us join the others who booked for that day. We were just 10 persons all-in-all. The Farm doesn’t allow too many people to have encounters with their elephants all at once. Being an elephant owner for a day means you have ONE elephant by yourself all throughout the day. You will experience what mahouts do to their huge babies on a daily basis.
The Farm is located too far from the city. We traveled around 1 hour & 30 mins just to reach the farm. This made me feel at ease that Patara’s care for their ellies is not just for show but for real. They wanted to give them the best natural home – vast forest with clean rivers and streams.
Upon arrival, there were 3 ellies already prepared for us – one baby, his mother and grandmother. They were eating sugarcane and bananas. Kao, the overall in-charge explained that he let us be near the ellies so he could match our different personalities with the elephants they have. With that reason, I feel special since Mekka, my elly’s name, is assigned to me and she’s one of the 2 special elephants there. Mekka is 10 months old pregnant with her baby, left with 14 months to go before delivery. (I can’t wait for the news after a year and a half!) She’s 36 yrs old and Un is her personal mahout.
Much with the storytelling, I’ll share to you the pictures they took for us the entire day.
- Feeding the elephants.
Ellies eat sugar cane and bananas, raw and unpeeled. They also play with their trunks and pull random grasses and branches during walks and treks around the farm. Walking/ trekking is actually good to trim their nails.
- Cleaning the elephants.
Ellies became too dusty and muddy since they use dirt to cool down. They use their trunks to gather some then spread them all over their bodies. We used bouquet of a kind of grass/leaves to shoo the dirt they spread on their bodies. Then, took them to the river to wash and brush it away.
- How to ride your elephant.
There are two ways to ride them: one through their head, and the other through climbing their leg. Riding them through ladders as seen in Bangkok will never be an option! This is one of the reasons why I chose Patara. The elephants they have are actually rescued ellies from circus and street-walking (the ones in Bangkok), even from logging. I hate seeing them on that state. Riding them sitting on the seats with hooks attached to them is so bad for the elephants. Please.. to someone who’ll read this, help the ellies through raising awareness that it’s abusive to ride them that way. I asked Kao if is it really okay to ride them “bare back” and he assured me that it’s 101% okay. Our individual weights can’t reach 1% of its total weight hence nothing to be worried of. We were told to sit on their necks, slightly forward before their shoulders and we’re good to go. We were also told how to command them and taught us Thai words – “pay”, “hao”, “maa” and so on. (I just can’t remember some. I’m so dumb on foreign language. T_T)
[“An elephant’s spine is not built to support the weight of a human being. Elephants that carry tourists on their backs for hours every day experience discomfort and can suffer from permanent spinal damage. There is also the added element of the Howdah- the seat that the human sits in atop the elephant. The seat causes irritation against the elephant’s skin and can lead to infection.” -The Culture-ist]
So please.. if you love elephants, be aware and help them by not tolerating these tourist traps in Thailand.
- Swimming with the elephants.
Prepare some extra clothes if you choose Patara Farm. They wouldn’t let you leave the Farm dry and with clothes unchanged. 😉 Prepare also your arms for thorough brushing especially if you have big elly. Don’t worry on hurting them. They have thick skin and strong muscles.
And one more thing: they will capture your precious moments with the ellies and just upload the images on their site. No need to worry for digital memories ‘coz they will take care of it for you. Your only responsibility is to make yourself enjoy every moment with these wonderfully God-created animals.
Through this blog, I hope I can promote the Farm’s genuine care for our world’s gentle giants. I really had a hard time saying goodbye to Mekka. Even for a day, I experienced some of the best days of my travel journeys and it will always be imprinted for as my brain can remember and engraved for as long as my heart beats. I can always earn money but never the same opportunity and chance again. I thank God for His every day graces and favors. All glory to Him! ❤
Enjoy and have fun!