Friday, September 28, 2012

Elephant Owner Binders - Patara Elephant Farm

This post will have a ton of pictures, as its hard to describe the experience we had yesterday at the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We had seen a few other travelers post rave reviews and amazing pictures from Patara, and decided to go with them although its a little more expensive than the "see an elephant kick a soccer ball and stand on two legs" elephant shows that are well known in Thailand. There were 10 people total, only 4 in our group - a lovely couple from China that were really cool. The theme of the experience is "Elephant Owner for a Day", where you spend an entire day with one elephant that you feed, bathe, hike, and swim with... while learning the key signs of happiness and performing health checks. Fun Fact: Elephants sweat through their giant toenails, and that's a key to check they are well hydrated. Also, smelling and checking the poop.

Bri had a rambunctious teenage boy.
Brando had a 21 year old mother, and her baby tagged along.
Feeding time, they eat constantly.
Awwww... that's a framer.
Smelling the poop, didn't smell that bad because they are healthy! Frame that one too.
Lunch with our friends from China. Well after the poop smelling and long trek through the jungle.
Amazing lunch, fried chicken, sticky rice, hella coconut snacks, fresh fruit... all organic and grown in the nearby village.
We started at the farm, and got to know our elephants by feeding them (they eat 10 percent of their body weight per day). Apparently, not unlike Binder, food is the fastest way to make friends with an elephant. We then learned how to board and ride them, with nothing but a small rope to hang onto (sometimes there is a big basket). We went for an hour hike up a pretty extreme hill with deep mud, and while the elephants trudged through, we got a thigh and core workout holding on. It was tough! We ended the day with a bathing session in the waterfall. It was unreal how the elephants can swim and go completely underwater with just their trunk sticking up like a snorkel. We then learned that you can use their trunks as water guns and had a water fight. It was a day we'll never forget, and we are thankful for Patara, our guides, and our new favorite animals, the elephants. A big shout out to Jack for the great photos and leadership yesterday, we are even now Facebook friends with him and look forward to keeping in touch with Patara.

Bri was a little nervous at first, but did great!
Elephants, the new ThighMaster. I am thinking of getting one for my home gym.
Bath time, they are so comfortable in the water.

The babies that came along on our hike, both under 2 years old. Brando's elephant was the mom of one of them.

Gotta scrub their feet.
Check out those pearly whites! Just scrubbed with sand and mud.
The Binders and the baby. Would it fit in our apartment?
I think these elephants have done this pose before.
Binder, the smaller but just as lovable mammal.
Grab trunk, stick in water to fill...
... FIRE!!!

Tomorrow we are off to the small town of Luang Prabang, Laos... where we will experience the Laos food and culture... and try to keep an eye on this wild card and AL West race. Go A's!

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