Visiting the
Ellies in
An ellie showing off his artistic skills.
Riding an elephant.
Bath time for the elephants.
November 10, 2006

Just outside of Chiang Mai is Mae Sa Elephant Camp. All I knew was that we were going to ride elephants there.

The rest was a complete surprise…

Let me start by saying that I am sure there are many people that would be turned off by all of the ‘entertainment’ there. But I, for one, loved it.

Elephants roamed around in the care of the Thai person that was looking after them. But there was no problem with tourists making contact
with them. Many people chose to pay twenty baht for a bunch of bananas or a bundle of sugar cane. These people never even had the
opportunity to hold their arm out to feed the animals as the elephants outsmarted them and their trunks snatched the food right out from their

We headed out to the nursery where the baby ellies stay with their mom until they reach two years of age. Just like any young animal, they
were too cute for words. They mimicked their moms by extending their trunks past the fence to search for bunches of bananas that people
might have in their possession. At first it startled me to be talking to my sister and then have the snout-like part of a trunk appear right next to
me. While it surprised me the first time, each time after that it made me laugh at how darn adorable it was.

We then headed over to the man-made river area. The guys rode the elephants out here. It was now bath-time for the animals. Oh, and did they
enjoy it! They walked right in and fully submersed themselves into the brown water. To be honest, I’m not sure if they ended up cleaner or
dirtier after being in this water. Then women who were wearing shorts walked into the water with big baskets. They stood several meters away
from the elephants. It looked like one of the challenges that kids used to have on the game show ‘Double Dare’ – like when one partner would
have to collect as much slop as possible into a bucket. But these women were collecting a different kind of ‘slop’. They were there to catch the
floating dung that the elephants just relieved themselves of. Just another reminder that working at a desk behind a computer really isn’t all that

Now the real elephant entertainment was going to begin. The trainers first showed everyone how well-trained these animals are by showing us
tricks of having them pose in different positions, curtsy and bow, and play dead (though one of them showed that elephants still get hungry while
they are dead as his trunk kept reaching out for food).

The next thing we knew there was a lot of commotion taking place. Lots of noise and excitement. Little did I know that an elephant symphony
had just begun. This might have been one of the most humorous and adorable things I have seen in my life. The ellies were playing harmonicas
and dancing…literally they were dancing. As if watching them bust a move wasn’t enough, their trunks were also getting into the groove by
spinning around much like a tassel. I couldn’t stop laughing. I really couldn’t.

As if I wasn’t already impressed by their capabilities, the elephants then came out carrying a painting kit in their trunks. The trainers came out
with easels and paper. The elephants’ talents now shined as they showed us their artistic skills. One painted an elephant, another few painted
flowers and another painted some trees. Are you kidding me? Did I really just watch that?

I feel bad for never giving elephants the credit they deserve. Such a smart and talented animal!

My sister and I ended our time here riding an elephant. I was assuming this would be a nice stroll. Wrong! We rocked back-and-forth and back-
and-forth bracing ourselves with both hands gripped on the bars. As we went down a hill we struggled to get in a position so that we didn’t slide
through the bars. We agreed that we got more of an arm workout during that ride than we have gotten in a long time.

It was time to leave the Elephant Camp. I could have stayed longer but it was time to move further north. Before leaving, we checked out the
elephant art. I ended up passing on paying $60 for paintings by unknown elephant artists. I figure it was enough of an experience just watching
them perform their talent.

My sister asked me where elephants rank in the animals that I have seen in the last 6 ½ months. There are now in the Top Five. How could
not be with what I just saw today?
Back to Thailand.