Her bottom lip quivered as she talked to us. Every now and again her brow would furrow. Normally I wouldn’t notice, but her accent was coming across as strongly American. It was going to be a long boat ride to Koh Hai.
“They have these giant sharp hook that they torture the elephant with.” I can almost see the tears welling up in her eyes. I was kicking myself, what a stupid conversation to get into at 8am, especially with a Californian. I quickly made a note, animals in third world countries was to be added to my list of Thing Not to Small Talk About with Strangers. Naturally, I didnt know the potential for this situation at the time, but I was regretting it none the less. She went on about the working, breaking, torture (this word surfaced a couple of times) and general mistreatment of thai elephants.
She explained that even an enlightened animal lover like her had been suckered into an hour l0ng elephant torture show, or jungle trek as it is prescribed to tourists. I was beginning to suspect that she had a better time making social connections with injured elephants than with people. “I could have just kicked the little thai guides head in. Poke him with a hook and see how he likes it.” The irony.
I held my breath to keep my secrets, because there was no way I was going to let it slip that we had been riding baby elephants just the day before. Not only that but we loved it. Every second.
From our little remote house on South Koh Lanta we had borrowed kayaks and paddled past ancient thai fishing communities to Sung Ga Uh resort. The option to ride only came up when we met the elephant trainers, two young chilled out local thai guys. They didn’t carry any knives, have patches over their eyes or hooks for hands. They only carried small sticks which they tapped on the elephant as often as they would offer them a pet. Smiling and with proud new english, they explained that they are so young because they are lifetime trainers for the animal, the animals only respond to one trainer. After our stroll, they put on a little show for a band of local kids from the near by muslim fishing town. Everyone laughed as the little ones played soccer with the animals. Torture isn’t exactly the word I would use for it.