My Dad (the real, American one) came to Thailand!!!! And with Dad comes adventure. We spent a few days in Khon Kaen, my home city, before we traveled to Chiang Mai. Every day so far has included vain yet futile attempts to keep the “core temperature” down. Essentially, we have discovered there is a critical point to which the heat is no longer acceptable and a toddler-like meltdown occurs until we find an air-conditioned 7-11 or body of water to swim in. Only then does the world become sunny and bright again and our activities can resume.
Luckily, we picked a cool, manageable day to play with elephants. We traveled in a Song Thao (open-air trucks) for a few hours up into the windy mountains before hiking down into a small, secluded valley with a clear creek bubbling through. Being a cloudy day and higher elevation, it was a manageable temperature.
There were two of them that we got to interact with, the rest appearing to be in other places in the valley with other tour groups. One of them, Gulag, was around 12 years old but was still on the smaller side compared to the 39 year old Papa. Both of them eyed our sugar cane like I eye my own food; with a sharp, keen interest and a fear of it being immediately taken away.
We fed the elephants, admiring their massive, powerful trunks and soft, big feet. Then, we walked with them (no bull hooks, chains, or prods involved, just the guides and their voices) over to the creek and went for a little walk up and down the creek, the elephants eating everything in sight. By this point, we had learned that elephants eat around 400 pounds of food a day, spending most of their waking hours eating. I really began to identify with the elephants at this point.
We walked with the elephants down to a smaller stream, where they happily began bathing and soaking up the cool water. I and another girl joined in, throwing water at the elephants and she scrubbed their backs. By the end of it, I was completely soaked from splashing and the elephant’s blowing water out their trunk at me. Imagine someone blowing water at you through a hollow pool noodle as enthusiastically as they can, but multiply the lung capacity of that person by 10 and you get what it’s like to be sprayed in the face by an elephant.
Overall, it was an amazing day and I’m so incredibly lucky I both had the opportunity to see, interact with and swim with elephants.