Riding Elephants in Khao Yai, Thailand – From the Jungle to the Concrete Jungle

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Riding Elephants in Khao Yai, Thailand – From the Jungle to the Concrete Jungle

We got up in Pak Chong and made for the destination of Khao Yai National Park.  We packed up the bikes and rode only 20km to Khao Yai, and realized where we went "wrong" the night before.   We should have stayed on the main route, but we felt it was a good mistake after staying in Pak Chong.  Khao Yai is a jungle wilderness that has elephant conservatories and parks where you can ride them 2okm from Pak Chong.  We have never ridden an elephant and wanted to be riding elephants in Khao Yai as soon as we could.

Relaxing in Khao Yai at our Bunglaow

Riding Elephants in Khao Yai

Bungalow Perfection in Khao Yai

We found a great place that was affordable and close to Khao Yai. They were bungalow type studio apartments with a nice porch, bed and bathroom. We settled in and immediately put up our hammocks. We packed two hammocks for just such an occasion.  Our bungalow was perfect!  In our lives we have never really spent any time in bungalows and now in Thailand, we figured it a great time to begin.  We laid in our hammocks and napped until around noon then decided to go find the elephant park in Khao Yai.

The Elephants

Riding Elephants in Khao Yai
Riding Elephants in Khao Yai
Riding Elephants in Khao Yai

The Elephant Conservation Center

As we rode along the main road, we found the Elephant Conservation Center. We stopped and pet the elephants and fed them sugar cane stalks. They were incredible! I have seen elephants in the zoo and a circus, but never this close and never was I able to hand feed them and touch them. There was something magical about it. The sure size of their bodies, and power of their trunk gave us a healthy respect for them. One swipe with the trunk would easily put us on the ground. Their texture was that of thick leather.... very thick leather. They also had thick coarse hair sporadically everywhere.

We watched the Mahout (elephant trainer, yet more like a owner and companion) feed them banana tree stalks. They were about 8-10 inches in diameter, and it was interesting to see how they ate. They would put the stalk on the ground then step on it to break it open. They would then take their powerful trunk and strip a layer off, and then do something unexpected. When they had the stalk in their trunk, they would either smack it against their foot, or move the bottom of their trunk in a fast circular motion to either get dirt off or banana juice out of the stalk. We stood for while in awe then decided to get something to eat ourselves.

Taking a Break at McDonalds

Riding Elephants in Khao Yai

McDonalds and Elephant Ride Shopping

We found a McDonalds about 500 meters away and sat down to some fatty western fare. We finished and then continued down the road to get into the park. We were looking to ride an elephant and the park gates stated there was nowhere to ride in the park itself, and that they only had waterfalls and nature. We were amped up about riding and headed back to the another place we saw.  It was called Ivory in the Jungle. We liked it, but it looked more touristy than the Elephant Conservation Center looked.  We went back to the Conservation Center and asked where we went on the 30 minute ride they offered. They said in an open field which I wasn't excited about.  I had seen online where a couple had gone through a river and the jungle and we wanted to do that, not just simply ride in a field.  Riding and elephant would be great anywhere, but I wanted the full monty.

Riding Elephants In the Jungle

Riding Elephants in Khao Yai
Riding Elephants in Khao Yai
Riding Elephants in Khao Yai

Riding Elephants In Khao Yai

We headed back to Ivory in the Jungle and paid our 600 baht (approx. 10 dollars each) to ride. Our Mahout and elephant showed up shortly afterwards. We went to a platform where we got on top of the elephant and sat in a small bench seat that was attached by a large rope around the belly. We started our trek. It was amazing how the elephant moved. You could feel every step which was slow and deliberate. We were in a line with two or three other elephants and tourists and our mahout sat on the neck of the elephant directing him by pushing his feet on his ears and barking commands. We trekked into the jungle and got to a large stream. We entered the stream and walked about 200 meters as cottonwood trees shed their cotton which appeared as if it was snowing.

Riding Elephants In the Jungle

Riding Elephants in Khao Yai
Riding Elephants in Khao Yai
Riding Elephants in Khao Yai
Riding Elephants in Khao Yai
Riding Elephants in Khao Yai

Getting The Full Monty

The elephants were about belly deep in water and some of the elephants in front of us sprayed some water on other tourists.  It was cool and ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!  The Mahout asked if one of us would like to get on the neck and he would walk beside. We gave one of our cameras to the Mahout and I offered it to Shelly and she left the bench and sat on the neck. We got on dry land, and immediately the elephant knew it was time to mess around. The elephant frequently stopped to strip a tree of its leaves and wander from the path. It was a little concerning to us, even though the Mahout would yell out commands and try to keep him on track. 

I suggested Shelly use her feet to direct the elephant if it began to stray. The elephant didn't like Shelly steering him and let her know by flapping his ears and even bringing her trunk up and trying to push her foot away. She stopped steering at that point. The elephant was 49 years old and the Mahout has been with her for 15 years. He said he has been a Mahout since a little boy, and this is his second elephant. There definitely is a bond and a mutual respect between Mahout and elephant. The elephant was treated kindly and our ride ended at the platform where we got off.

There was the option for 1 dollar to buy a bunch of bananas and feed our elephant. Seeing how our elephant took so many frequent breaks to pull leaves from trees, I bought 3 bunches. I fed her my bunch one at a time, as he took the small banana directly from my hand. I also was able to hand feed her directly into her mouth which was HUGE and slimy. The tongue was short and fat and the mouth was surprisingly small for such a gigantic animal. I will remember this for the rest of my life. Shelly then fed him her bunch and we split the third bunch of bananas.

Feeding Our Elephant After our Ride

Riding Elephants in Khao Yai
Riding Elephants in Khao Yai
Riding Elephants in Khao Yai

Pak Choung and Bangkok

That evening we went back into town and went to the fair again in Pak Choung since we had enjoyed it so much the night before. We ate Thai BBQ and reflected back on our amazing day. It is a day we will never forget and one of the best days so far on our trip. We frequently would look at each other and chuckle stating.... "we rode an elephant!!!" Unbelievable day of beauty, relaxation and fun. We love our life!

The next day we packed up and headed for Bangkok. 164km away, we figured it would only take a couple hours... 3 max. It didnt. I had another problem with my fuel filter and it was clogging again. I would go about 3km then it would die on me. Frustrated and HOT!!! We finally stopped at a place to get it fixed. It was a carburator manufacturing shop but the kid working there said he could fix it. We sat for an hour as he took apart my bike and sure enough... he fixed it.

We got to Bangkok and was in awe at the size of the city. Expansive an busy, we rode until about 4:30-5pm and decided to call Kish. He messaged us back and said he was in the hospital with an ear infection and couldn't meet up with us. We got into town and finally found a place to stay after dark after blindly riding around Bangkok confused as to where to go and stay. We GPSd the Best Western Bangkok and couldn't find it. The GPS said it was somewhere it wasn't, however we did find another hotel at an affordable price with a nice room and stayed.  It was an Indian owned place with a restaurant and we ate a DELICIOUS Indian meal and went to bed.

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