Back in Chiang Mai from our stay at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, we had a little over twenty-four hours left in this wonderful city before flying out to Hong Kong for a few days on our way back to the States.
Author Archives: craig
They were an anxious lot, and there was nowhere to go but straight into their ranks. Would we be greeted as friend or foe? Welcomed warmly or despised? I took a deep breath and, hoping for the best, opened the truck door and stepped out. That's when the mob surged forward.
As I learned during our time at Elephant Nature Park and Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary, to understand elephants you have to move at their pace and within their framework of time. Busy yourself at the blurred speed of humankind and you'll miss much of the beautiful gestures and language these gentle giants use.
Of all the elephants at Elephant Nature Park with their multitude of injuries - broken legs, broken backs, dislocated hips, missing limbs from landmines - I don't know why Medo has lodged herself so deeply in my heart. But she has. And every morning during our stay I'd anxiously wait for her to appear.
At quarter past six every morning I would make my way to Elephant Nature Park's main complex for a coffee. It was my favorite time of day here. Quiet and still dark, the hustle and bustle of the day's activities had yet to begin, in the distance the silhouettes of the elephants slowly moving towards the river for a morning drink.
Whether used in the illegal logging trade or in tourist camps for rides and other "entertainment," unless you're lucky enough to come across elephants in the wild while visiting Asia every elephant you encounter will have been both literally and figuratively broken in a process called phajaan.
A tinny PA squarbles some unintelligible noise in the distance, reminding us that the Sunday market is about to kick off. Outside our hotel, Rachadamnoen Road has been wondrously transformed from a hustling, exhaust-filled road choked with cars, tuk tuks, and scooters to a bustling thoroughfare of market stalls brimming with a vibrant array of tastes, smells, sights, and sounds.
I'm just about to climb over the top of the gate and into the elephant barn to join Lek Chailert as she softly sings lullabies to Faa Mai and the other elephants in the barn, when Kim loudly shouts my name in a panicked voice. I look down towards the ground just in time to see my backpack – filled with my camera, lenses, audio recording gear, and travel notebooks – get whisked away into the darkness by an errant elephant trunk.
"The Task Force consists primarily of lay people with little to no prior expertise regarding the Earth's largest terrestrial animal." Excerpt from the Final Report of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephant Task Force.
"Language bearers, photographers, diary makers, you with your memory are dead, frozen, lost in a present that never stops passing. Here lives the incantation of matter, a language forever. Like a flame burning away the darkness, life is flesh on bone convulsing above the ground."