Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 55 - Mahout Training at the Elephant Village

Took a minivan with a group of 6 others (2 couples from London, and 2 girls from Holland) to the Elephant Village, a center who's objectives are to care and save elephants. Booked a 2 day/1 night tour that includes learning some of the Mahout commands to the elephants.

The center saves elephants from poaching by providing them a viable means of maintaining the expenses needed to feed them and keep them healthy. Due to deforestation and logging  in Thailand and Laos, many elephants don't have enough area to survive in the forests. Most of the Asian elephants are from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Burma, Indonesia, India, and Nepal. The elephants are supported by the tourism industry, while giving people a chance to interact with them and ride them, bathe them, and feed them. They are able to exercise by giving rides to people, and walk around the sanctuary.

When we arrived, we were taken by boat to our lodge across the Nam Kwon river. The lodges were beautiful and basically in the middle of nature and the forest and beside the river. We all got our own private balconies overlooking the river. Afterwards, we each got a little lesson in how to mount the elephant and give verbal commands on how to go forward, move left or right, and stop. We were told to approach the elephant from the right side, and to make sure the elephant seems relaxed (flapping ears and tail, and moving a little) instead of tense (staring intently at you and not moving).

Afterwards, we each rode our elephants through the forest for an hour. We were all supposed to be sitting on the howdahs, but my mahout switched roles with me and I rode on the front of the elephant, grasping for dear life the entire hour. It gave my arms and legs a good workout. Along the walk, the elephants frequently tried to stop and just eat eat and eat! I think our tour guide said that elephants eat as much as 250 kg of food per day. 

Near evening, we all rode our own elephants to the jungle with the mahouts to chain them in the forest (or else they would continue to roam and get lost or run away). This gives them an ample amount of food to eat. On the ride, I kept thinking I was getting bitten in the butt cheek while riding the elephant, but I think it was just their thick hairs.

Afterwards we went to the Tae Chae waterfalls. The entire day it rained, but not as bad as yesterday. It was a light drizzle throughout the day that kind of enhanced the surroundings we were in. The water was chilly cold, but it was fun to swim next to the waterfalls. Not as impressive as yesterday's Kouang Si Waterfalls, but the waterfalls were wider. I showed my new friends how to eat a balut egg, and they were all gagging. I love eating balut in front of white people!

When we got back, we went to the elephant village to have dinner. Had a conversation with the Dutch people about their marijuana laws. It is legal to own 5 plants in your own house, but no more than that. What's interesting is that there's something fishy about where coffeeshops get their marijuana with this law. There isn't another law that makes it legal for a company to produce it, yet police officers don't really crack down or try to find out where they get it from. Maybe they are getting paid to shut up? 

These girls also told me that they wish that people would have better perceptions of Amsterdam and Holland instead of the marijuana culture because there is much more to see there. I do admit, the only place I remember visiting when I was there was the Red Light District...when I was underage...on an Asian tour...with my mom...

Balcony View from my Room

Getting Mahout Lessons with 36 Year old Mae Ouk

Sophie and Eveline from Holland

Feeding Bananas to the Elephants

Tae Chae Waterfalls

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