There I was on the first day of my holiday in Phuket – one of the most popular beach destinations in the world with its fantastic sun, sand, and sea. With me were my boyfriend, my oldest friend, and her boyfriend. We’d packed along bikinis and sunblock, ready to laze on the beach and snorkel.
And yet, upon check-in to our hotel, the first thing I’d dragged them all into doing with me was…to go elephant riding.
I can already hear you thinking “WTF?!” But did you know that these gentle giants, known for their intelligence and friendly nature, have been revered for centuries in Thailand? That’s why elephants are emblazoned on Thai coins, seen in Buddhist temples, and used to brand Thai beer.
But I digress.
I couldn’t find any information about the elephant shelter I’d researched online – and I couldn’t very well drag everyone around in the hot sun when they were already accommodating my unusual request, so we settled for an elephant “safari” near Karon beach. The BF and I were given a sweet female elephant, whom I shall name Girl. Nervously we stepped on her body and into the seat she carried – and we were off!
Time seemed to slow down as our cheeky guide took us meandering through the forest of rubber trees. Girl was extremely patient and obedient even when we took the guide’s position “up front”, nudging her behind the ears to direct her. Time wafted lusciously by as she drank from puddles and snacked on shrubs, playfully ignoring us to traipse under low-hanging branches and down steep slopes.
Although it felt like a whole afternoon, we were back at the safari reception area after just one hour. I was a little afraid that the guide, who’d offered to take photos of us with our camera, would hold it ransom in exchange for more cash than we were willing to tip for the extra perks (such incidents are more common than you think). Luckily, the BF was so pleased that we willingly forked over way more than the generally accepted amount.
As Girl rested by a water trough after her stint, I fed her some bananas – which she gracefully accepted with her sinuous trunk. Then she sent me a wise, knowing look.
Nope, I won’t forget her.