Elephants, Oxcarts, and Bamboo Rafting in the North.
This was perhaps our most memorable day in Thailand. The little carved elephant was bought in Bangkok and now sits on a ledge in Claire and Jerry's home in Olney, but our elephants in Thailand are described very well in the Berlitz guide book entitled "Discovering Thailand".

Elephant Camps

A one hour's drive north of town will bring you to the town of Mae Taem, beyond which lies one of Chiang Mai's most famous attractions: the Elephant Training Centre.

Inside a vast forested area, bisected by a river, mahouts teach elephants to drag logs, to respond to commands and to work the jungle. If you arrive before 9.30 a.m. you can also see anything up to 30 of them being washed and soaped down in the river.

Until a nationwide logging ban was introduced in 1989, many of these same elephants were used to drag timber down to the river, whence the logs would be floated down to saw mills further down stream. These days, the centre caters specifically to tourists, but still remains one of the great highlights of any trip to Chiang Mai.

At the end of the show, you can take bamboo rafts down the river, returning by elephant through lush forest and woodlands. Be sure to bring a camera and arrive early. Coachloads of tourists generally arrive for the second show; by 11 a.m. the place generally resembles an Egyptian camel market.

These beasts always appeared to be hungry. We could buy little baskets of tiny bananas and the hungry little guys really loved them.
The young guy above was very adept at picking them up with his trunk, and the older one to the right could take them directly in his gigantic mouth. I would be afraid my arm would go with it.

Then, the show began.

The clever little fellow above has just made a basket.
These guys below are doing a clever dance step!
Below, the trainer tossed him a soccer ball and he gave it quite a kick.
Take a bow, gang!

Below, we mounted a fine elephant, had one of the trainers photograph us, and went off on a long elephant ride.

Below, we were following a fast flowing stream and right, a well worn trail on a hillside.
Note below: My left knee was right behind the elephant's left ear and the trainer was straddled on jumbo's neck.
Above, note that we were going through a dense jungle. At one point, we were faced with a little booth built right into a dense tree at elephant-rider height. A Thai was selling little baskets of bananas that we were supposed to feed the steed. Fred and I neither had change nor could get our cameras out fast enough. Immediately after this failed sale, our elephant brought his trunk right up to our level, expecting a feed.After he got nothing, I'm sure I felt a sharp slap of his great ear against my left knee. Oh Well!
After we dismounted our elephants, I noticed a large collection of fabulous teams of oxen hitched up to little carts. I wasn't real sure this was really our group. I didn't see anyone I recognized but by the time I hesitated, there were very few seats left in any of the carts.
A Thai invited me to sit right in front of the cart where the driver obviously was supposed to sit. Was he really inviting me to drive the beasts? Well, I didn't want to be stranded in the middle of the Thai wilderness without an oxcart or elephant to my name, so I got in. The couple behind me wasn't sure what was going on, but the Thai agreed to take my picture.
And then he got in next to me and drove the cart away.This is the cart in front of us.

It took 2 rafts and this was the other raft in the procession. The two men you can see were really neat -- one from Wisconsin and one from Detroit. The Thai girl was a tour guide in training. Note the size of the bamboo. The ones Jerry grows never get that big.

Would you believe it, the chap from Wisconsin just had to take a turn pushing the raft down the river. He was also the only one in our party that had the nerve to persuade the trainer of his elephant to let him straddle the elephant's neck and be the driver.
Our raft had only one other couple other that Fred and me and the rafting team. The couple in front spent the whole time talking in Indonesian, I think, and the raft team carried on a Thai conversation that we couldn't understand. It was very quiet and peaceful.

Below, we passed by the elephant house where they were fed and bedded down, I think.

This ended our $27 trip.We were back to our hotel that day in plenty time to relax a bit and take the hotel bus to the airport. If you look carefully at the picture to the right, you might just see Fred sitting in the center of the picture in the airport restaurant near the window.
After we left the elephant camp, we had a few stops, including the pretty waterfall I photographed on the left.

This ends our tour of Northern Thailand. If you aren't sick and tired of all these pictures, there is one more Bangkok wrap-up.

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