Riding Elephants in Pai

It’s been over a week since we rode bare back on elephants and my body is still aching!  Granted, my legs were clutching the elephant’s backside like my life depended on it…I used muscles I never knew I had.

Just thinking about our elephant experience puts a grin on my face that I can hardly contain.

After doing some research on elephant camps with good reputations we settled on Thom’s Elephant Camp in Pai, Thailand.  We decided to do a one hour ride, which ended up being enough….one hour is fun but I think two hours would verge on torturous.  My parents opted for a seat and my family opted to ride bareback.

First we met the elephants and made friends with them by giving them bananas. We learned how to tell if an elephant is happy (it flaps its ears and sways side to side) and how to tell if it is angry (its ears are pushed back against its head.)  We learned to never walk behind an elephant as this makes them nervous.  We learned that elephants eat a lot (over 150 kg per day) and that elephant mamas have pregnancies of 22 months!  Can you imagine being pregnant for 22 months?  No thank you!

My mom meeting her elephant!

My mom meeting her elephant!

Once we got onto the elephant we learned that elephants are actually quite hairy.  Their hair resembles the bristles of a stiff hair brush.  If your skin rubs against it it hurts!  Luckily the mahouts laid a blanket under our bottoms!

The elephant's hairy backside.

The elephant’s hairy backside.

We had a leisurely walk down to the river.  Mike and Lan rode together on the biggest elephant and Kayden and I rode on a smaller one.  We peered into treetops and looked down on houses as our elephant swayed from side to side in its slow saunter.


Once at the river our elephants got right into the water.  Since my parents were on a chair their elephant did not go under, which was a good thing because we had someone to take pictures!  At the command of the mahouts the elephants would fill their trunks with water and then spray it at us!  We dove in, we swam, we bathed them, we stood atop them, we sat on their heads.  Mike actually took a tumble off of his.  That was priceless!


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On the way back the mahout instructed me to sit up on the elephant’s neck.  Luckily I was wearing long pants to avoid the scratchy hair.  The mahout sat on the back hanging onto Kayden.  Lan road back ON his elephant’s head with the mahout hanging onto him.  I thought this would be scary for him but no, he was in his element.



An hour came and went so quickly.  Still soaking wet and grinning from ear to ear we said goodbye to the elephants and drove our rented van to our hotel for a very long hot shower.  This was, hands down, the best day we had in our road trip of Northern Thailand!


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  1. Alyson says:

    Gorgeous! I love elephants, they’re really special. So much so, I had one at my wedding! Just wanted to tell you about my scary elephant riding experience, through the jungle at dawn, not far from Pai, we were first riders of the day along the path and elephant back is just the right height to go through all the golden orb spider webs. EEEW! I had one on my arm. I still love elephants though!

    1. worldschooled says:


  2. Living Outside of the Box says:

    Awesome! Riding elephants was DEFINITELY one of the highlights of Northern Thailand for us, too! I agree…it’s certainly not a COMFORTABLE experience, but it is still magnificent (love the water-baths) and educational!

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