Sorry in advance, this one is gonna be long. But the next one will be all photos!
This is week 5. I’ve spent a month of my life here. With the humongous bugs. And the really loud geckos. And the even louder cicadas. And the mushy vegetarian food. And the rain. So much rain. And the majestic elephants. And the playful and sometimes crazy dogs. And the water buffalo, who are strange.
For every two-week program we spend one week at Elephant Nature Park. It’s outside Chiang Mai. I have no idea where. I should look at a map.
Elephant Nature Park is a project of the Save Elephant Foundation, started by Lek Chailert. The aim is to provide a sanctuary for elephants rescued from trekking, illegal logging, and performing. Elephant Nature Park is like a beautiful retirement home for elephants.
There is a lot I want to say about the cruelty faced by elephants at the hands of humans, but not here. Just, think twice before signing up for an elephant-riding excursion while you are traveling. Elephants are not pack animals. Those huge metal chairs plus you, equals a very heavy load for an elephant. Many mahouts, or elephant trainers, use hooks and sharp things to keep their elephants in line. Many tourist operations do not give their elephants adequate food and rest during the day.
I really just want to share some entertaining anecdotes about my five weeks at this amazing place called Elephant Nature Park.
Dok Rak is the littlest elephant here. He is three months old. Until now he has been staying in a separate enclosure with his mommy, big sister, and nanny. Last week they started letting him out a little. I missed it the first time, but they did it again!
They let him and his family out for a little but so he can start getting acclimated. We got to watch. We stood on the platform and watched the adorable little man, with his adorable little everything, frolic. One of his nannies, Fa Sai, decided the abundant supply of watermelon was not good enough so she climbed up on the railing of the platform with her two front legs to grab at some branches and vines. For a minute there it looked like she was gonna come join us on the platform.
We got so close to little Dok Rak. Got a good view of his itty-bitty ears, and his itty-bitty trunk, and his itty-bitty tail, and his itty-bitty feet.
Sometimes Dok Rak squeezes through the bars of his enclosure. I think just ‘cause he can. One of these days he is going to get stuck.
Also he waddles when he runs.
Dok Rak was nibbling on his sister’s tail. She kicked him.
We watched little Navaan, one of the younger elephants play with some tire swings. He loves them.
One day we were driving around in the back of a pick up truck, cleaning up the park. Navaan decided he wanted to come with us. So we had a young elephant running after our pickup truck.
One day we went over to see a group of elephants. They were grumbling and thumping their trunks on the ground. The baby that they are the nannies for swam to the other side of the river without them. Since they are old and the river was really high and fast, they could not follow. He didn’t care and went without them. He was frolicking and having a great time. Finally he cam back to the riverbank to wave hello so his nannies would know he was ok. Then he went back to frolicking.
Week one I feel in some elephant poo. Week two an elephant called Kabu farted on me.
It’s rainy season in the jungle. It rains a lot. A lot a lot. Every day, a lot. The rain is so loud. When all of the day visitors leave and the elephants are in their enclosure and it’s just me on the sky walk, the rain and the thunder over the mountains in the distance are the only sounds. And the thunder rolls on for what seems like forever. It’s beautiful and there are a zillion different shades of green. Then the cicadas start up. They sound like a chainsaw.
Lucky, Mae Boon Ma, and Mae Bua Loy. They are best friends. One day something irritated one of them and the other two went over to gossip about it. Then they peed in unison. #friendshipgoals. It was like three girlfriends going to the ladies room to gossip.
The bugs in Thailand are so big and intense that I have started a series on Instagram. I haven’t been eaten yet, but give it time.
When hundreds of dogs get to roam free all the time, hijinks ensue. All of the humans have a favorite dog, Memphis. Memphis likes to tag along on chores sometimes. When he’s not getting almost hit by a truck, he’s defending us against the other dogs. We’ll be hanging out and he’ll be hanging out. Then some other dogs will come over and fight in our vicinity. And Memphis will start barking at them and then at us. Here is my interpretation of their interaction:
Memphis to the other dogs: Guys stop embarrassing me in front of my new human friends!
Other dogs: Memphis, we don’t care, we like barking. The humans will love us and play with us later anyway.
Memphis to us: Ugh, can you believe this?! They are so ridiculous!
I’m pretty sure Memphis is a little senile.