Maybe it has something to do with getting older, but for the past few years, I have had less of a desire for birthday things and rather look forward to having fantastic birthday experiences. Last weekend, I turned 33 and I wanted nothing more than to hang out with my two favorite ladies: Ligeia, of course; and Dani, a rescued elephant at Elephant Nature Park.
We spontaneously decided to rent a motorbike to ride the 65 kilometers north of Chiang Mai, instead of being shuttled in the normal passenger van, and thoroughly enjoyed the ride into the Mae Taeng valley.
With numb back ends from the 2 hour drive, and walking like sore cowboys, we headed straight to the river to join Dani at bath time. This has always been my favorite time with her. I stand beside her, feeding her watermelons and bananas one at a time. It’s the only time during my visits that I can be at eye-level with her.
Relaxing up on the platform, watching elephants roam and giving some of the dogs a good scratch behind the ears was a great way to spend a couple of hours.
When Dani and her friends – Mae Boon Ma, Mae Bua Loy and Lucky – returned to the platform for their afternoon meal, I knew that my first day with the elephants was winding down. As always, I hand-fed Dani the rest of her daily banana quota, and watched her wander off to her shelter for the night.
As it was a Saturday, the dinner was a traditional Thai meal, served with sticky rice, curries, and salads. Unfortunately, my tastebuds still can’t quite handle the traditional spice level, so much of the food remained untouched.
The next morning, we woke up early to catch the sunrise. Watching the valley lighten up, with the clouds being set on fire, and watching the sheltered elephants come into focus, was a spectacular way to start my birthday.
We headed straight to the Tree Shrine, a memorial for all the fallen trees, victims of the logging industry. Dead trees that had been pulled from the river have been replanted, standing upright to make a small forest, now mostly used as elephant scratching posts.
As part of their daily routine, the Tree Shrine is where Dani, et al come first in the mornings. They joined us in silence, and we watched them meander around us, slowly warming up from a chilly night.
Another highlight of my birthday was being able to Skype with family and friends from the platform and introduce the elephants that have become so dear to me. Of course, Dani was a true lady, and politely came over to say hello!
To cap off a fantastic birthday, Ligeia surprised me with a delicious, vegan cake, which took considerable planning as the restaurant that typically served it closed down a few months ago!
All in all, my 33rd birthday was definitely elephantastic and will definitely remain a favorite in my memory bank. Trunkfulls of thanks to everyone at Save Elephant Foundation for helping to make my birthday so memorable, from ensuring a comfortable night’s sleep to arranging the hard-to-find vegan cake. Thank you Lek, Darrick, Pom, Patty, Teloh and, of course, Ligeia.