If there's one thing you simply must do when you visit Thailand, it's elephant riding. This afternoon, for the grande finale to our Doi Inthanon trek, the 15 of us hopped onto a troop of 7 elephants, and went on a lumbering stroll around the jungle. The seats atop the elephants can only accommodate two persons each: and since we were an odd-numbered group, and everyone else was a pair, I ended up sharing an elephant with the German guys, and straddling the beast's enormous neck. It was a jolly old ride (if a bit uncomfortable for me): it's very impressive how these seemingly clumsy animals can daintily saunter up and down steep, narrow jungle trails; and it's good fun when they walk splashing right across a river, with you getting sprayed on top.
Indiana Jones-style bridge leading across to the elephant camp.
Local caretaker riding one of the beasts.
Myself and the Germans atop our elephant.
Elephants walking sure-footed down a steep, muddy trail.
Crossing the river: boats give way to elephants.
Thai man sit on elephant head, farang sit in chair.
The whole affair wasn't that long — perhaps about ½ an hour of riding — but that's easily long enough to appreciate what you're doing, and for the novelty to run its course. When I jumped off the elephant, my a$$ was sore as hell for a few minutes, but I was otherwise good. We ended the elephant ride by snacking on some ice-cream and some strange, very bitter fruit (pomelo, I think?).
That marked the conclusion of the Doi Inthanon trek. After that, it was another long and boring truck ride back to Chiang Mai — I slept most of the way, and I said goodbye to all my companions when we arrived back in the big city. It's been a fun little tour: calling it a "trek" is a bit of a joke, in my opinion; and the 2- vs 3-day agency stuff-up was a pity and an aggravation; but it was certainly worthwhile, and it was good to get out and to see the jungle for a few days.