The next morning Hero Material and I got up early for our taxi. We were a little worried that the driver might show up late, but he came on time. And to make it even better, he spoke great English and knew a lot about tourist attractions, etc. The best thing about it was that his rate was very reasonable, and Hero Material and I could do the tour leisurely, on our own schedule.
(FYI -- if you want to hire him for a private tour in Chiang Mai, his name is Manop, he works for Chiang Mai Airport Taxi, his car number is 11, and his work contact is 08-1885-1563 [Don't forget to punch in the country code for Thailand first if you're calling from overseas!] or if you prefer, you can email him at nopcm02 at hotmail dot com.)
Our biggest concern -- now that the taxi thing was squared away -- was that we didn't want to go to an elephant camp that had abused animals. I heard some horror stories from a British couple in Phuket. The wife said the elephants she saw were so abused that they tried to beat their own trainers! Ack.
The elephant camp we chose was Maesa.
There are the pictures from the entrance. The portraits you see below are the king and queen of Thailand from way back when they were still young.
As we walked in, we saw elephants bathing. That's how the show begins, BTW. They looked so happy in the water.
Here, you see people collecting elephant poo. Per Manop, elephant poo is very fibrous, so the camp recycles that into paper. (So the next time you think you're a shitty writer, now you can have the perfect paper! Perfect for shitty first drafts!)
Along the way, you can see an art gallery. It displays paintings by elephants at the camp.
We went to the main arena for the show and waited. It takes a while for all the elephants to show up because they move in a leisurely fashion. They were very quiet though. You don't hear any thuds or anything like that, which was kind of surprising.
The people you see on the elephants are called mahouts. They're trainers and caretakers. Elephants do not like to deal with people they don't know or like, so it takes a while to earn the animals' trust and become a mahout.
Finally the show got started. You see how they march in with a welcome banner and all the elephants are linked, trunk to tail.
This baby was also part of the show.
Here's a very short video clip I made with my digital camera. This is a kind of elephant musical, featuring hoops and harmonicas.
Many elephants were very playful. They sometimes stole their mahouts' hats.
Elephants are also excellent soccer players. Look at this goalie posing!
Here are short video clips of elephant soccer!
And the super goalie!
As you can hear, the Europeans in the audience got REALLY excited during the soccer portion of the show.
Afterward the elephants painted some pictures for us.
Then to thank some of their hard-working mahouts, elephants gave a Thai massage...
(No, he wasn't mortally wounded...just bowing LOL)
The dart throwing competition: Who will prevail? An elephant or human children?
(Actually they tied...)
Finally the elephants built a wall of sorts. You can see how strong they are! (FYI -- they were all fully grown elephants...no babies.)
And look how triumphant they look after they're finished. :wub:
After the show, the elephants came closer to say hello to the audience.
You can see me and Hero Material with the elephants.
This elephant liked us a lot because he got tons of bananas from Hero Material. HM bought a bunch of bananas to give to the elephants, but he held them too close to one, so the closest one got all of them. Oy...
We were a little thirsty and tired, so we had some coconut juice then went off into the jungle on an elephant.
Look at the caravan!
Elephants don't move very fast, so it wasn't unstable or anything, but it can get a little scary if you don't like the height.
As your elephant carries you around, it wants to eat. Well, the problem is that sometimes the grass it wants is on the downhill slope...! Ours actually tried to go down the slope instead of following the trail. So the mahout had to scold him some. (But he never hit the elephant!)
Another pic of us on the trail...
The view of the elephant camp:
The final stop was a stream. That's where elephants can drink water; because it's so hot and humid, they need to cool off, rehydrate...and bathe. But you gotta be careful because they tend not to think about the fact that the humans on their back don't want to get wet!
After we got done with our ride, the elephant lunch time started. Some of them also got a nice cool shower.
We went to the nursery to feed the elephants there.
You can see the mother and the baby. He was so young that he couldn't eat any regular food, so we didn't get to feed him, though his mom ate a lot of bananas.
Afterward, we went to several huts with exhibits. Here you can see the tool that mahouts use to control elephants. It's basically used to tug at the elephants, but some jerks apparently use it to hit them in the head...! Grr.
Then we went to see the record-setting painting by elephants. We weren't allowed to take pictures there (kind of a like an art museum...), but you can read about it here.
We also bought some souvenirs. We don't tend to buy them much, but since Maesa obviously treated its elephants nicely and we wanted them to continue to be cared for in the manner they deserve...
I'm breaking the log for this day into multiple sections because there are too many pictures, etc. After the camp, we went to the Tiger Kingdom, where Spicy Sausage awaits! Coming up next!