While planning our trip to Thailand, I was looking for a wildlife adventure that would allow us to interact with the animals rather than just view them in a zoo type setting -- or even worse interact with them in a carnival/circus type atmosphere. I came across the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai. After reading about their elephant owner for a day program, I quickly emailed Pat to reserve our spot and adjusted our itinerary to spend a few days in Chiang Mai.
The Elephant Owner for a Day was one of highlights of our trip to Thailand and one of the most memorable travels days of my life. The day started off with the farm's van picking us up at our hotel for the 45 minute journey to the rolling hills just outside of Chiang Mai. When we arrived, we were greeted by Pat and his family and warmly welcomed to the farm. I could see the 12 or so elephants off in the distance majestically standing against the breathtaking vista . I was excited to meet the elephants and knew the day was going to be magical.
Pat quickly stared telling us about the elephants and their history in Thailand. After his overview, we were given traditional elephant riding attire and introduced to our elephants. Pat indicted that he would match us up with the elephant based on our personality and demeanor. I quickly joked with Alice that my "personality " matched with the largest elephant since I was least 50 lbs and a few inches taller than anyone in our group. I was correct, and Pat walked me over and introduced me to my elephant---the largest elephant at the farm. I approached her with caution, but Pat laughed at my apprehension and indicated that the elephants are gentle giants. So I took a few bananas from my elephant's trainer and fed her, and she quickly warmed to me.
After we became acclimated to our elephants and learned a few basic commands in Thai, we walked them down to the river and washed the dirt off their backs. Once the elephants were properly cleaned we mounted up for the ride into the hills. For the next few hours we trekked along the riverbanks, roads and up a steep hillside and then down and equally step decline. I was amazed at how sure footed they were on very the narrow trails. The only time I was worried that I might fall off was when my elephant went off the trail to eat a very large branch of bamboo. Around 2pm, we stopped along the river near a waterfall and had a picnic while the elephants relaxed in the river.
After lunch, we continued our trek through the hills and back to camp. As the day came to a conclusion, I reflected on my time with the elephants and realized just how lucky we were to have spent a day up close and personal with these amazing creatures. I can' wait to return there one day!