For the first part of the elephant ride a guy was sitting where I am in the picture below and steering the way. He is called a mahoot and known as an elephant caretaker. While on the elephant we were given sugar cane and banana to feed him. The elephant was so smart and understood the mahoot's directions when he spoke to him. Part way through the trip our mahoot gestured to me, said "switch driver," and hopped off. I was a little confused at first but eventually realized he wanted me to climb off the bench on our elephant's back and onto his head. It was an amazing experience to steer the elephant while riding through the land. He was so big that he swayed side to side while walking. This made it rather difficult to balance. I had nothing to hold onto so I squeezed my legs around him very hard to stay put.
Initially I was concerned for the elephants well being at the park. Are they happy, overworked, or neglected? However a picture that I found on my camera that the mahoot took put to ease my concerns. I know this might be inappropriate but I thought it was interesting. While looking through the pictures the mahoot took while I was steering the elephant I came across five rather strange ones. At first I wasn't sure what the pictures were of. Upon further examination (and consultation of our guide) I found out that what I was looking at was an erect elephant penis or shivaling. Apparently it only happens when they are really happy and is an extremely rare site in the wild. So my elephant, it would appear, was quite happy with his life. I don't think that it would be appropriate to post on my blog, but if you really want to see the picture just message me and I will send it to you.
In order to get to the elephants we had to cross the rickety bridge see below. On the way over I felt just like donkey from the movie Shrek when they were on a mission to rescue princess Fiona. Riding the elephant was my princess Fiona. Just like Shrek and donkey I was able to skip quickly across the bridge without fear once I had won my prize.
After eating lunch at the park we packed into the vans and headed for our next destination, the northern province of Chiang Rai.
Upon arriving at our hotel we explore the Royal Project in Chiang Rai. It consisted of many beautiful gardens and local shops. We finished the day with a yummy dinner before tucking in and preparing for a big day tomorrow.