Early the next day, we got picked up in a truck to go to Thom’s elephants. 1400 baht for transportation, lunch, hot springs, bamboo rafting, a photographer/videographer, and an hour long trek with time to play in the river. Way cheap you couldn’t even find a place to stay in Roppongi for the night that cheaply.
As we’re waiting, we feed the elephants, who, in turn, pick us up by their trunks and give us a little swing. I don’t think a lot of people can say that they’ve swung on elephants. Checked off my bucket list.
Its two to an elephant so Billie and Hayley ride the smaller one and Tom and I have the biggest elephant I have ever seen. We show pictures of the elephant to other volunteers, and everyone says that this is the biggest elephant that they’ve seen too. This thing is massive.
Billie is the first one to get up and we’re laughing at her, but in hindsight she was the most graceful out of all of us. The two girls get up on the side of the elephant using its foot as support, while Tom gets up using the trunk. So of course, I try to get up using its trunk too.. and fall. All the Thai trainers are scrambling to catch me, it was all quite embarrassing (and it’s all on tape too). I finally get up and I’m petrified. Remember how I was crying on Sigiria? Well this was one of those times where I didn’t realize how high I was and my fear of heights kicked in. That’s how tall this elephant was.
I’m half crying begging Tom to pull my pants and hold me so that I don’t fall as I’m trying to get situated on this elephant. We’re finally all on and holding on ready to go. Who knew that elephants wobbled so much when they walked. It almost felt as if we were rocking on waves, especially because it began raining a little bit (which actually made the whole jungle experience even cooler). They have hair all on their head, neck, and backs so wearing shorts wasn’t the best idea as both Tom and I were getting chaffed. It was all part of the experience though and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Now, as I said before, Tom and I both aren’t touchers. But clearly that isn’t an issue when you’re holding on for dear life on an elephant because we got pretty damn close that day. My back was stuck on him, hoping that if I fell he would catch me (unrealistic on an elephant I know). We talked about everything, about how we didn’t want to leave, what this trip has done for us, and everything else in between. When you contemplate life while riding an elephant with a guy, you’re automatically bonded for life.
We got to the river and our elephant stops to take the biggest shit I have ever seen. I guess it’s proportionate to it’s size, but either way it’s massive. We take our tops off as the elephant walks into the river and lays down for us to get off it. We play a little bit and had water squirted on us through its trunk, we were in such high spirits. We got back on our elephants and watched Billie and Hayley be flung off the elephant. Tom, behind me, is telling the Thai trainer that we don’t want to be flung, but apparently there was a “language barrier” and we were flung anyway.
I’ve never had so much fun.
We continue getting on and being flung off again, and no matter how many times we did it didn’t get boring. At one point they told me to sit on the elephant’s trunk and hold on. Of course I don’t speak Thai and I have no idea what they’re saying so before I know it the elephant snaps his head back and I go flying over the elephant into the water. When Tom does it, he sprains his ankle (who even knows how he did it). Finally, we all get on the smaller elephant and are told to wave at the camera for a picture, but just as we’re waving the elephant jolts so that we fall off unexpectedly. That moment in the video is my absolute favorite. No doubt the four of us are bonded for life. Whenever we tell the story of how we touched tigers or played with elephants, we’ll remember the other three.
We do a couple more things at Thom’s and get back into the pickup to be brought back. It’s time for Blake and I to hop on our trusted scooter and head back to Chiang Mai in a torrential downpour. By this point, Blake and I have gotten close enough that my no physical contact rule doesn’t apply to him either. I’m freezing in the 10 degree (celsius for all you Americans out there) weather so I’m holding on to him as we fly down the twisting winding roads. In all honesty we probably should have skidded and fallen. The roads to and from Pai are steep, winding, and not well built. Imagine the roads leading up to Fukushima. It’s even worse in a downpour. There was some good driving going on ‘cos for a while I definitely thought we wouldn’t make it.