The highlight of our trip to Chiang Mai (if not Thailand) was a day-long experience at Patara Elephant Farm, partaking in their "Elephant Owner for the Day" program. A farm that prides itself on proper/humane care of these gentle giants (which of course carries along the appropriately-inflated price tag), Patara was well worth every dime (1,632 per person to be exact).
After being paired up with an elephant of "like-personality" (aka like-weight, but much less offensive to those packing a few extra LBs), the day is spent as follows:
Elephant Intro - A quick hello (obviously in Thai, elephants don't speak English mo-ron), pat on the trunk, and then 30 minutes of feeding them enough food to make Kobayashi look like a light-weight. In the age old visage of human/animal relationships, feeding=bonding.
Elephant Health Check - A 4-step process that involves ensuring the elephant is sleeping well (dirt on its side from it's "earthly" bed), eating well (food in hand translates to food in mouth), sweating well (apparently comes from their toes) and of course, crapping it all out in plentiful proportions. A couple "dung checks" later, and they are good to go!
Elephant Ride - One of the more controversial aspects of any Elephant camp is fulfilling the childhood-desire to ride aback these amazing creatures. While countless camps strap heavy/burdensome "seats" to the backs of these deceivingly-fragile creatures, Patara stresses a more natural/bareback approach. While much better for the elephants, you can pretty much ensure for yourself, a painfully sore rear, broken knees and burning thighs at the end of the slow, yet bumpy journey.
Elephant Bath - What better way to rid yourself of a bit of "swamp ass" (sorry folks, let's just be honest here), then to have it washed off by the same individual who placed it there 30 minutes prior (yup, we are in the elephant's perspective now). At the end of our trek through the jungle (back to human perspective), a thorough wash and scrub is done to put the elephant back to "pristine" condition. Sure you are washing them in a shallow pool, the same one in which they "relieve" themselves constantly day-in and day-out, but hey, it's the thought that counts.
Despite a semi-permanent limp/waddle that followed us around for the next few days, our time spent at Patara was truly an eye-opener into the lives of my now, 2nd favorite, animal (don't worry Llama's, you shall never have to fear losing your top spot).
Onto the pics: