Today began with breakfast at 8:00am. Deborah met us in the hotel lobby soon after breakfast, and we loaded the trucks for our journey back to Chiang Mai. We made a few stops along the way, and then pulled into the Elephant Conservation Camp around noon. We purchased tickets (70 Thai Baht each or about $2.00) to ride the trolley bus from the parking lot over to the elephant arena. At 1:30pm we watched the elephants being bathed in a large pond. They liked to have their backs scrubbed by their trainers, and also had quite a fun time squirting water into the air or on each other. Then we followed the parade of elephants to the nearby performance arena where we observed their strength as we watched them roll and pull heavy logs. We were amazed at their agility and balance as they walked along the top of a log, and their gentleness as they carefully placed a hat atop the head of a person. Then they surprised us by playing a song on some instruments and creating some very good paintings. At the end of the show, the elephants all took a bow, and sauntered up to the audience for photos and treats of bananas. We discovered that they could eat an entire bunch of bananas at a time! We snapped a few close-up photos, and then were off to our next adventure of riding the elephants.
We purchased our tickets for the rides (100 Thai Baht, or about $3.00 each), paired into couples, and stepped out onto a tall platform to await our turn. Soon a LARGE elephant would arrive at the platform with a wooden bench-chair attached the top of his back. The driver would stop the elephant at the platform, and we would step onto his back and into the chair. Then we were off for a lumbering thirty-minute ride through the jungle. We were seated amoung the tree-tops, and were quite amazed at the strength and grace of the elephants. They moved so quietly through the path. One did decide he wanted a quick snack, however, and easily pulled down an entire tree limb to munch on the leaves. At one point of our journey, the elephants even wandered into a lake for a long drink and a few squirts of water to each other. Then we lumbered back to a tall platform to dismount and descend the stairs for some quick photos.
We then browsed the nearby shops for elephant t-shirts and trinkets, found some cold drinks, and then made our way back to our vehicles. The remaining journey to Chiang Mai lasted about one hour, and we returned to the Montri hotel for a shower and quick nap. A couple of hours later we hailed a song-tow, and arrived at The Dukes Restaurant for an awesome western-style meal with some of the Partners staff. We were joined by Shaun, Marv & Dorothy, and Chris & Deborah. We feasted on lasagne, steak, salad, bread, and giant chocolate chip cookies, and NO ONE ordered RICE! (ha-ha) It was a great treat after so many days of rice or noodles for nearly each meal.
We visited for several hours with our Partners friends, and they deposited us back at our hotel around 10:30pm where we melted into our beds.