In Thailand, elephants are known as Chang’s. As part of our 3 day jungle trekking expedition (more on that later) we got to ride elephants.
It sounds reallllly fun, and it was, but it was also terrifying. First, you get to cross the ricketiest old Indiana Jones-style wooden bridge to get across the river to where the elephants are. Then, because they are so big, they can’t get that close to the platform where you’re supposed to get on them so you have to step precariously onto the back of their neck and hope they don’t move while you’re doing it.
You are settled into a wooden/metal chair that is tied to the elephant around his neck and tail (with about 40 blankets between you and them, so they have tons of padding) with no seat belt, so you are basically trying to enjoy your ride, maybe take a few pictures, meanwhile holding on for dear life.
The area where they were riding was pretty hilly, and also really muddy, so when you are going downhill you are clutching the back of the seat with every ounce of strength you possess, trying to avoid falling forwards and being trampled to death, and when you are going up hill, you are nervously eyeing the incredibly slippery looking muddy path and hoping the elephant in front of you doesn’t slide and fall backwards on top of you.
To make it even more enjoyable, the elephant is huge, and seems to have no clue at all that he is actually carrying anything on his back, so he’s going about his business as usual, ploughing through bushes, and using his trunk to pull leaves off of branches that then snap back and hit you in the eye.
It’s a super fun time.
After we finished our ride, we got to hang out for awhile and observe them eating and wandering around. I was taking pictures of the baby and mom and happened to glance behind me as a huge male came marching through, I dove out of the way just in the nick of time.
The baby was super adorable, I’ve had an obsession with baby elephants ever since I saw Ducktales the movie (Webigail was a pretty huge influence on me) so it was neat to get to see it and be so close to it. It may have been small, but it was far from defenseless, a German guy got a bit too close, and it shoulder-checked him. Hard. He almost fell over. It was amazing.
It was definitely a cool experience, and I’m glad we were able to do it. I was also glad to see that the elephants were treated pretty well, they had a lot to eat, and a really big area to roam around, although I’ve been told that some of the companies that offer elephants rides don’t treat their animals very well, so be sure to check into it a bit before you book anything.