The first thing confronting us when we disembark are large flat cages containing two very large snakes.Chris tells us that – for a price – we can have our pictures taken with these beautiful, well-fed Burmese pythons.
Why would anyone want to do that?
But as we wait for the others to arrive the idea grows on me. The wall is plastered with photos of people wrapped in huge snakes. This would really freak out some of my friends back home. We should do it.
Now that I have decided to do it, Chris wants us to head over to the elephants to begin our tour. She assures me there will be time for a snake photo later, although the owners of the snake are passionate in their belief that we must have our pictures done now or we will not have another opportunity. I promise we’ll return and head over toward the elephants.
Elephants seem to wander about randomly, some bearing “saddles” – simple wooden howdahs.
We climb up into a structure that looks like one of those backyard children’s forts on stilts. This provides a platform from which we can step onto the back of the elephant to take our place in the howdah.
Our mahout settles into his spot in front of us and we are on our way.
We are sitting far above the ground and at first it feels a bit precarious, but it’s wonderful once I adjust to the elephant’s swaying gait.
We start our safari by traveling through the village, the elephants parading down the middle of “main street” past homes and shops and the Catholic school. From atop the elephant, we have a bird’s eye view of the scene around us. This is so cool!
After a short while we turn off the road and onto a trail that runs along the rice fields.
The rice harvest is underway in this part of Thailand and our mahout explains how the rice is harvested, dried, and packed for transfer and storage.
The countryside around this village is pastoral and lovely, perfect for viewing from the back of an elephant. Periodically we stop so the mahout can give the elephant some of the bananas and sugar cane we purchased as treats. The elephant seems to enjoy the treats and I enjoy the opportunity to take a photo while sitting still!
As we travel, our mahout softly sings lovely simple melodies.
I wish we could spending a couple of days traveling through northern Thailand this way.
Soon we are at the river and I know our tour is quickly coming to an end.
The river’s bank is steep. For a moment I think I will slide right off as the elephant makes the steep descent into the water.
I hang on tightly and soon we are moving smoothly through the water.
It is only a short distance between the place where we enter the river and the landing at the elephant camp – far too soon we are back at the platform where our tour began. Lane hands the remaining bananas and sugar cane to the mahout to thank our elephant. Then we thank the mahout and our little elephant safari is over.
We remain on the platform, watching while the rest of the group return, until it is too crowded and we must yield our place to others.