Trip Start Jul 23, 2010
32Trip End Aug 01, 2010
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We visited Doi Suthep temple which is high on a hill over looking Chiang Mai and is very beautiful. We were charmed by a very canny little hill tribe child who looked at us with doe eyes and as soon as she saw a camera posed quite beautifully
I think the highlight for both of us was our day at Patara Elephant Farm. Patara is in a beautiful setting with the hills on one side and paddy fields all around you. We were there to be elephant owners for a day and with that came much instruction, from how to guage your elephant's frame of mind to recognising if your elephant is well or sick, happy or sad, whether he had a good night's sleep (check for signs of dust along their sides) and had eaten enough (inspect their poo - yuk) and then the basic instructions to get your elephant to do your bidding.
At the start of the day you are introduced to your elephant and they size you up in the first five minutes - they either like you or they don't. If they don't like you, then you beat a hasty retreat and try another elephant. Thankfully our elephants didn't seem to object to us and I am sure the basket of bananas were fairly instrumental in this. Each elephant has its own mahout who looks after them and they are a real team. My elephant was a naughty seven year old called Ban Dao and his mahout was Sek. Having established that our charges were well and rested we then instructed them to sit down (yes!) while we brushed dust off the top of their backs, then into the river for a scrub
We trekked through the jungle, which was quite hard work as you are basically sitting on their head, so when they put their head down it would be so easy to slide right off. We were assured that no-one had ever fallen off but Harriet and I were rather skeptical about that particular claim. To avoid ending up on the floor, you need to lean right back and hold on tight to the rope behind you. Good for the stomach and arm muscles! The mahout is with you at all times and I am under no illusion that I had even the remotest influence on Ban Dao's behaviour. After about an hour we reached a waterfall, where we gratefully disembarked (legs aching, sore backside, height sick). Some of the elephants waded into the river and sank into the water, literally wallowing with delight
Lunch was served in a raised canopied hut with open sides over looking the waterfall and river. The food was laid out on banana leaves and was delicious. I had no idea there were so many ways to serve rice! Once we had eaten as much as we wanted, the elephants did an amazing clear up job. We fed them the remaining food and the banana leaf table cloths and then leapt nimbly (scrabbled, scraped and heaved ourselves!) back on board for the remaining trek down the mountain.
At Patara, they have a breeding programme which consists of boy meets girl, boy whisks girl off to romantic jungle location for ten days and they both return smiling. Two years later, baby elly arrives. They currently have two 6 month old babies there, who were enchanting. Ahhh!