Siamese soldiers rode elephants into battle as the tanks of ancient battlefields. Now tourists can ride one, too. Though you can go for an elephant trek on many Thai islands, the most scenic outings are up in the great green north. Atop the elephant’s back you can climb hills, ford streams and lumber through the jungle. Some of the camps also put on shows. For anincredible display of the animal’s might, just watch them hauling logs.
At the National Elephant Institute, in the northern province of Lampang, tourists can also sign up forcourses on how to be a mahout. Learn how to ‘drive’ the beast, how to take them to the river for a bath, and even sleep with your own elephant out in the jungle.
Please bear in the mind that these intelligent and endangered creatures, which have the same lifespan as a human being, are sacred to Thai people and that a white elephant once graced the flag of Siam. Even today, you can still see Thais walking under the elephant’s belly, like ancient Siamese warriors used to do, in order to bring themselves good luck and strength.