The biggest reason we traveled to Chiang Mai was because we were dying to ride elephants. Much like any other hands-on animal experience, there is often a debate that comes with riding elephants as they are not in their natural habitat and are somewhat domesticated. Thankfully, my dear travel-mate Sarah, who has become a great friend over the course of this trip, is one of the most thorough researchers I’ve ever met. She found a very responsible elephant farm in Chiang Mai for us to visit. Patara Elephant Farm rescues elephants from circuses and other inhumane practices and provides them with a safe home. They also focus on breeding (the natural way, not by artificial insemination) as a means to combat the threat of extinction. They have successfully bred 24 elephants in the past 10 years.
The way that rides at Patara work is as follows: each rider is paired up with an elephant and caretaker for the day based on practicality (height, weight, etc.) and personality. Throughout the day it is the rider’s responsibility to take care of their elephant, i.e., feeding, bathing, even checking their poo to make sure the elephant isn’t sick. I was paired up with sweet Lucky, who was 9 months into her 22 month pregnancy. At first I was scared to approach her because though elephants are beautiful creatures, their massive frames are a bit intimidating, but once I got to know Lucky I realized just how gentle and affectionate she was. Because Lucky was with child, she liked to stop a lot and graze on the trees along our trail. My friends joked that I was paired with her because I too like to stop and eat street food. Overall, my experience at Patara was an unforgettable one. When I got home I told my aunt how I would remember my day with Lucky for the rest of my life and she pointed out that since elephants have such good memories, Lucky would remember me for the rest of her life too.