by Kate Wiley
If you’ve ever ridden a horse or a camel then you’d think that you’d be at least a bit prepared to ride an elephant. Let me tell you now – elephant riding is like nothing I’ve ever done before. I’ve ridden horses for around 17 years now and I honestly didn’t think that riding an elephant would be that different… how wrong I was!
I was so excited when I found out I had the opportunity to ride an elephant. I practically threw my handbag and camera at my mother and tore off in the direction of the elephant, who I have nicknamed Daisy. It wasn’t until I got up close to Daisy and her handler, that I first began to realise that to ride an elephant and to ride a horse were going to be two very different things.
Despite a small flutter of nerves in my stomach – I’m absolutely terrified of heights – I swallowed my fear and climbed up a rusty old ladder and onto a rickety platform to climb aboard.
There was no way I was going to chicken out – elephants are a huge part of the culture in Thailand, and I wanted to experience the magic of these creatures first hand! From there it all I had to do was make an awkward half jump, half climb across and I would realise my dream to ride an elephant! Before I knew it I had scrambled up onto Daisy’s back and was perched rather nervously on a plank of wood that had been tied onto her big, hairy back. Call this a saddle? It was more like something from a junkyard
Her handler was already onboard… I never imagined that to ride an elephant you could sit on their neck, but he perched himself right behind her ears and off we went. The handler, who spoke almost no English (and I don’t speak Thai) held onto nothing but an old rope tied around the elephant’s neck.
Witnessing the obvious connection between the elephant and her handler was incredible… he controlled her purely by voice and by digging his toes in behind her ears to indicate which direction we should be going. So off we went into the jungle, just me perched in a very wobbly manner on the back of the most enormous animal I had ever seen and her handler who couldn’t speak English.
I actually got quite nervous when I heard a funny noise and looked up to find about half a dozen monkeys running around in the trees, but Daisy turned out to be a very gentle (and hungry!) giant!
I would definitely ride an elephant again. It was an amazing experience and gave me some wonderful insight into the Thai culture and the role that this huge, gentle animals play in society. I hear wild elephants roam on the beaches of Phuket… now THAT I’d like to see!
What other’s are saying about Thai elephants, and riding elephants in Thailand
http://www.cbsnews.com/Dec 15, 2011
They mash up bananas and clean fruit in the elephant kitchen, plant trees and sugar cane, build fences, and clean the elephant shelters.
One of the most popular activities for foreign tourists when they come to Thailand is to ride an elephant. Do some research on the internet first before you decide to visit an elephant show or ride an elephant. I took this picture in Ayutthaya where you can ride these elephants around the ancient ruins.
Elephant ride in Pattaya Thailand. Elephants playing harmonica, and Gibbons riding on boat. Elephant plays harmonica.
We rode a 15 year old elephant (just an adolescent) at the Maetamann Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai followed by the rafting down the Ping River. The old city of Chiang Mai with its fascinating indigenous cultural identity such as diverse dialects, cuisi…