In a small town in northern Thailand lies an elephant refuge. It’s not a breeding station, or a research facility, or an “Elephant Ride Tourist Attraction” but a refuge– a place where an owner/handler (“mahout”) can come with his elephant to live. He is offered a job and a place to stay. His elephant can leave behind the horrible circus, or the streets of Bangkok, or the construction brigade to spend the rest of her life in a grassy plain with food and care.
Three times a day the elephants go for a walk in the forest for exercise and if you are staying in the area you can join them. With the mahout nearby, you can learn a few simple commands to teach the elephant to gently lift her front leg so that you can stand on it, then lift you up onto her back for a stroll into the peaceful grasslands. The graceful swaying of her walk might even lull you to sleep.
And we all know that elephants like water. When she comes to the pond, you can hold on to her ears while she wades in. She might dunk her head under the water as mine did, she might blow water through her trunk spraying everyone in sight. When she’s had enough water, you’ll make your leisurely way back to the base through the forest. And when she slowly lowers her head, so that you can slide down her trunk, you might just want to hug her and tell her how much you love her gentle grace.