Sunday, April 27, 2008

OPB (Other Peoples' Bananas)

We did a touristy thing today, the first one in weeks -- nay, months -- we went on an elephant trek with the Pattaya Elephant Village. Here, rescued elephants are put to work taking tourists for a stroll through the Thai countryside, instead of in circuses or on logging teams like they would be otherwise. The premise was thankfully simple; we sat on the back of an elephant, waded through a river, stopped to eat some leaves (her, not us), and came back to the start point via Land Cruiser for a platter of fruit (us, not her.) Neither elephant nor tourist was subjected to any elephant football matches, elephant tug-of-war, or elephant dancing.

Asian elephants are significantly smaller than their African counterparts, but they are still massive. Our little lady, Phun, is 32 years old and eats 200kg of leaves and fruit every day, and washes it all down with over 100L of water. She carried the two of us and her mahout with ease, strolling through the jungle like we weighed nothing. We brought three hands of bananas to feed her, but she somehow managed to eat the whole bundle in one squishy mouthful, peels, twine, and all within the first 5 minutes. We were abashed as our fellow elephant-riders doled our their banana jackpot one piece at a time. Thankfully, Phun was happy to chase other peoples' bananas for the rest of the trek.

Riding an elephant is hard. The path was bumpy, and elephants don't have shocks (ha ha.) We got jarred and jolted along, but I told myself that it was a good core strength workout and concentrated on staying upright. Also, I got caught in some branches that Phun walked through -- maybe as punishment for not having enough bananas.

Our next Pattaya tourist experience may or may not involve a transsexual cabaret show. Stay tuned...

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