“I, for one, am looking forward to eating some elephant!’
This was proclaimed by one of our party (OK, it was me) as we barrelled down the highway en route to the Elephant Rescue Sanctuary just north of Chiang Mai, Thailand. And barrel we did! There seems to be only one speed on the road in Thailand – light speed. It’s quite insane and mildly unnerving (ok, maybe a bit more than mildly) how fast the average Thai drives. If your vehicle can go fast, – be it mini-van (what we were in at the moment), motorcycle, giant bus, dangerously over-packed truck or open air pick-up pick-up truck (both terrifying and throat-clogging as I’m pretty sure that Aircare doesn’t exist in this part of the word) – it will, very fast.
We met up with some good friends from Vancouver who travelled all the way to Thailand to hang out with us for 3 weeks – Scott, Krista and their 2 girls, who have been friends with Swanson since they were all babies. They were also kind enough to bring me a little taste of home.
The two families discussed the possibility of indulging in some hot elephant action (not that kind, perverts). But what to do? Ride them? Roll in the mud with them? Stick ones head in an elephants mouth? After doing a little research what is best for the elephants, we opted for a day at the sanctuary. It was quite an amazing experience hanging out with these majestic (Swanson’s word) animals.
The park is filled with over 40 elephants that have been rescued from logging camps (illegal and legal), trekking companies (who knew elephants didn’t like to have a bunch of sweaty, fat, tourists ride on their backs as they lumber around on paved roads? Or baby elephants, separated from it’s parents, forced to beg for change on city streets among the noise and pollution?), or from circuses and some who had been horribly mistreated by their former piece-of-shit owners – there were a few who had been blinded by knives or slingshots. One poor animal had stepped on a land mine in Burma 5 years ago, blowing off part of her foot. She is still being treated for it.
The seven of us spent the day at the park, feeding elephants – that was a weird thing to do, standing in front of these giant grey beasts as they extended their alien-like face hoses out to grab watermelon – washing elephants – we stood in a river throwing buckets of water at them which was kind of gross as the river was filled with large piles of elephant dung (I got out of way after getting some water in my mouth) and just hanging out with them for the day.
They had a nice buffet of vegetarian (sadly no elephant, cat, dog or buffalo) noodles, soups, veggies and some mystery items for us to enjoy at lunch. It made me sad (and a little angry for reasons I cannot explain) to see grown-ups – one 40 year-old man and 25 year-old woman – eating nothing but french fries (the guy did have a couple of spring rolls on his plate). I mean, you’ve come all the way to Thailand and all you are going to eat is a huge plate of fucking french fries? Enjoy your Thailand experience! And what made it worse is that they cleaned out all of the fries so there was none left for others. Swine. And no, there was no swine on the menu either.
Even with all of these wonderful, gentle beasts leisurely wandering around, the kids were more interested in the Cat Kingdom – the place is also a rescue haven for cats, dogs and water buffalo (hence the vegetarian buffet at lunch). But who can blame them? Wouldn’t you rather play with adorable kittens then stroke a giant, leathery monster that may charge and you and crush you at any moment?
It was a great, fulfilling day. We were flown back (driven, but if the van had wings we would have been airborne at this speed) and enjoyed some tasty beer and lovely food at a local establishment. I was maybe a little worried when this was the scene beside our table.
But it was all good.