A day @ Patara Elephant Farm, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Trip Start Nov 24, 2009
1
4
5
Trip End Dec 14, 2009


Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
shadow

Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Saturday, December 5, 2009

***remember - you can always click on the picture to see elephants in more detail***

It was just one day during our stay in Chiang Mai, but it deserves a separate entry...because it's all about ELEPHANTS! ...

Elephant is my favorite animal - just love them!!! - so those close to me knew how eagerly I anticipated the visit to Patara Elephant Farm...




It was not our first encounter with the elephants...during the previous stay in Chiang Mai (when we were in Thailand in 2007) we spent a day at the Elephant Nature Park - a sanctuary and conservation place about 1 hour drive from the city...





At that time I liked it a lot, but even then I wished there were less people and more interaction with the elephants...still, I was preparing to make another visit to the Elephant Nature Park, and then - while reading somebody's travel blog - I stumbled upon the name "Patara Elephant Farm" (http://www.pataraelephantfarm.com/)...I did my little research and thought it would be a perfect place to spend a day with the elephants...and it turned out to be just that...







We have never in our life interacted with elephants so closely, so intimately as during this day...




The whole concept of Patara Elephant Farm is very interesting - you are assigned your "personal" elephant, and during that day you do what an owner would normally do - feed him, learn to interpret his mood, check if he is healthy, clean him...of course the mahouts (the regular caretakers of the elephants) are always nearby, but you do everything on your own....

"My" elephant happened to be a 36-year-old female by the name Mae Wandee, and my dear angel got himself a 35-year-old female by the name Mae Kham ...





The age of elephants, by the way, roughly corresponds to human age...the only difference is that a newborn elephant is able to walk during his first hour of life...but from the age of about 6 they pretty much follow human pattern: a 6-year-old is a playful child, a 12-year-old is almost a teenager...they can be difficult at 16, stop growing in early 20s, live until about 85...

This, and so much more, we learned from the owner of the farm - Pat...he gave us an interesting talk about the elephants, and he seemed nice, knowledgeable and really caring...

 
 

There was one thing Pat said that I found to be very in sync with what I feel about elephants...I always imagined them having human soul because they are so intelligent, their memory is so good, their feelings are so deep...and Pat said something to the effect that it is believed in Buddhism that elephants reincarnate as humans in their next life...and they ARE humans, just in a different body form...

We had a group of  5 couples: besides us, there was a young Indian couple from Singapore (we actually stayed in the same hotel), newlyweds from England - Paul and Louise, a couple from Australia and one from the Netherlands...as you can see - quite an international group of elephant-lovers!...





We all got special loose-fitting tops to put over our clothes (to make elephants feel more comfortable since they are accustomed to their mahouts wearing similar tops)...and after we met our elephants, fed them, inspected them and bathed them in a nearby stream, it was time to get ready for the trip to the mountains - to the waterfalls...


It was supposed to be a relatively long ride, and I was slightly apprehensive because the only time in my life when I rode an elephant (during our first visit to Thailand in 2007) I found it very uncomfortable...but back then we rode sitting in a big basket that was attached to the elephant's back...I didn't really enjoy it and would never do that again...





At Pattara Farm you ride your elephant bareback, and it's very comfortable this way...I think I have a good sense of balance and adjust to the elephant's movements effortlessly, but even if the sense of balance is not your strong point - just remember to lean back when the elephant walks downhill and lean forward when the elephant climbs uphill...you could not easily do that while sitting in a basket on top of the elephant...so bareback is the way to go!...

 


 

By the way - elephants have much better sense of balance than humans do...so - when you are on top of your elephant riding to the waterfalls in the mountains, and the path ahead seems impossibly steep and narrow - just trust your elephant...they are very trustworthy animals :)

Before the ride we were shown three different ways of getting on top of the elephant, and during the day we used all of them...

The first way is to command your elephant to get down on his side...when the elephant is on the ground - it's not too high to climb on his back...but you better have a good sense of balance, because when the elephant is getting up - it's very shaky...

By the way - elephants understand commands in Thai only, so Pat took a pen and wrote down several key words and the translation on our arms for future reference...I still remember the word "dee-dee" which means "good" or "good girl"...I guess I was repeating it often to Mae Wandee - that's why I still remember...


 

The second "elephant-climbing" technique is to command your elephant to raise his front leg...then you use his leg as a step stool that raises you enough to be able to swing your other leg over the elephant's back...


 


The third way of getting on elephant's back - which I personally think is the most fun and the easiest way to get up (if your elephant is trained to do it) - is via his trunk...he bends his trunk near the ground - just enough for you to step on it...then he lifts the trunk, and you are level with his head - all you have to do now is just pull yourself over the head to his back and turn around (because you end up sitting backwards)...

  



The trip to the waterfalls was awesome - very picturesque, through the countryside, through the jungle...sometimes the path would become very narrow and steep, but as I mentioned before - trust your elephant...





At the waterfalls the mahouts prepared a delicious lunch for us served on banana leaves...we had chicken, several different rice dishes, various fruit and desserts...normally I am not a huge fan of rice (except when it's part of sushi), but their sticky rice desserts were great...all the vegetarian leftovers went directly to the elephants, so - they had some lunch, too...








At the very base of the waterfalls there was a small lake which became a playground for the elephants and some of us...elephants love water, and it was so much fun to watch them enjoying themselves there...unfortunately the water was rather cold (but we were in the mountains, so no surprise there), and most people in our group didn't go in to swim with the elephants...only the three most adventurous - the Australian couple and I  - went...and soon I forgot all about cold - it was so amazing!...and I enjoyed this so much... my elephant kept rolling in the water, so I kept sliding off her back...and the minute I climb back - she would roll again, and I climb back again...and again... and again...quite an exercise! ...and so much fun!...







We returned to the farm in the late afternoon...I don't think I mentioned before, but Patara Farm is also a breeding farm for the elephants...their population in Thailand (and not just in Thailand) have decreased significantly over the years, so there is an effort to bring it back...I believe one baby elephant was born at Patara Farm just recently - in November 2009...we didn't see the new baby, but we happened to witness a romantic encounter that might lead to another baby (in 20 months - that's how long it takes)...



 



Pat told us earlier that they usually send romantically inclined elephants for a couple of days on a so-called "honeymoon" to the jungle where they can have seclusion and beauty to surround them...but apparently one of the female elephants who was actually riding with us to the waterfalls (her "owner" was an Australian guy) could not wait for "honeymoon"...so when we all got off the elephants she left the group and went straight to a male elephant who was on the farm but wasn't riding with us...such impatience! ... or maybe  - when there is love there is no need for "honeymoons"?...





Speaking of honeymoons - the last ride of the day that we had was a so-called "honeymoon" ride...it was called that because we were riding in couples along the riverbed...a man in each couple would climb the elephant first via the trunk, and a woman would go second...this way the man ends up sitting on the elephant's neck and the woman - on the elephant's head...maybe it does look "romantic", but we both liked riding alone better...yet the ride was nice and beautiful...

 



Unfortunately the day was over too fast, and it was time to say goodbye to our wonderful elephants, to the helpful mahouts, to Pat and his family...everything during our visit to Patara Farm was so pleasant, thoughtful and well-organized...




It was truly an unforgettable experience, and for everybody who visits Chiang Mai area - it's a  "must do"...I know that when we are in Thailand again - we would definitely return...and until then - we'll have these wonderful memories...

Slideshow Report as Spam

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: