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An Adventurous Lunchtime

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August 6, 2014 / Thai / By
Ryan Dickinson

Of  all my solo experiences in Thailand, taking a mahout training course at the Thai Elephant Home was by far the most thrilling. I took this course my last week in Thailand after eagerly anticipating the experience for the previous few months.

A mahout is a professional elephant caretaker and rider. My training class included learning how to communicate with, feed, ride, and bathe elephants. During the course each mahout-in-training is assigned an elephant to spend the day bonding and interacting with. I was assigned to a peer, a 23 year old pregnant elephant named Mae Bong. Mae Bong was calm and friendly and I had an absolute blast getting to know her.

After learning a few words in Thai in order to communicate with Mae Bong and feeding her copious amounts of bananas, we rode into the jungle with our group. We ventured through rivers, up mountains, and around sharp curves. At first I was a little unsteady riding Mae Bong, but after a while I became more comfortable riding her bareback.

Riding an elephant bareback was such a rush and it was only a part of my experience that day. We also had the opportunity to give an elephant a ‘mud spa’ and to bathe with our elephants in the river. Though it was a messy ordeal, I couldn’t have had a better time. Elephants really are such playful and friendly creatures.

Even my lunch at the mahout training course was remarkable. Our group ate in an opening in the midst of the jungle. We had pad thai wrapped in banana leaves and oranges. The pad thai was incredible flavorful and it was impressively contained within the banana leaves. Overall it was the quintessential Thai meal in an idyllic and picturesque Thai environment. Even though I was spending the day partaking in a stereotypical tourist activity, the meal and the event in general still felt authentic.

Everyone in my group enjoyed their lunch, even the elephants. Instead of discarding our leftovers we rewrapped our food in the banana leaves and fed it to our elephants. They ate everything except the oranges, because they can’t digest orange peels. During the course of the day our elephants ate continuously. They were hungry during our entire trek, mostly because their bodies can’t store a lot of food. In addition to bananas and leftovers, the elephants ate leaves and plants along the journey.

At the end of the day, all of the elephants and mahouts returned to the base camp satisfied and exhausted. Our lunchtime meal had filled us up and had kept us energized throughout the afternoon’s activities. It was, all in all, an experience I would recommend to anyone travelling to Thailand or Southeast Asia. Riding Mae Bong throughout the Thai landscape was more than just an activity to check off my bucket list, it was one of the most exhilarating and breathtaking adventures of my life.


Thai Elephant Home

Country: Thailand

Province/State: Chiang Mai

City: Chiang Mai

Address: 102 Moo. 2 Kuedchang, Maetang

Zip/Post Code: 50150

Location Tips: N/A

Phone: N/A

Website:http://www.thaielephantho...

Price Guide:$$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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