Fun Fact #3 – giant leathery friends
Wow! It sure has been a while since we’ve seen a new fun fact around here. If you’d like to to know what fun facts are all about, refer back to my first post here. You may always click Fun Facts in the category sidebar to your right to find the collection of stories there (although it’s not very big yet… I’m gettin there!)
For today, I would like to introduce you to the biggest, leathery-est, gentlest giant friend I have in the world. The market elephant. That phrase alone just makes me grin ear to ear. I’ll say it again. Market elephants. 🙂 Here, take a look at one.
In our city, these guys walk freely down the road, at any given time of the day, usually with one or two caretakers in tow. There are a few different pachyderms in our community, I believe – two large ones and two baby ones that I’ve seen. The one in the picture above is the only one I’ve seen a carriage on, though. Mostly, they just walk about, poking around with their trunks, being curious, and waiting for someone to buy a bag of veggies or fruits to feed them.
Quite often in Thailand, when a person decides that they would like to become a “mahoot,” or an elephant caretaker, it’s a job that they sign onto for life. Mahoots may then travel around with their giant leathery friend, preparing and selling small bags of fruits or veggies to the people they meet along the road. These bags of cucumbers, bananas, or sometimes sugar cane can be bought for a low price, then fed to the elephant. The money made from selling the bags can be used to feed the mahoot, care for himself, and care for the elephant.
Now, what the customer actually gets out of the transaction is viewed in different ways by different people. Some say that by sacrificing money to buy food for the elephant, as well as the act of actually feeding the creature, one can make merit to pay for past sins in life. Others simply view it as a fun activity for either their children or themselves. I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to feed an elephant? They’re so cool. Here, check out a baby elephant at dinner a few weeks ago.
Perhaps one of my favorite parts of going for supper in the night market (other than being able to eat outside, and get a great meal for super cheap), is waiting for the elephants to come by. They’re so quiet, so gentle, so intriguing to me. Their eyes are so big and beautiful. Their skin is such a strange texture. They are just incredible creatures. (And, their magnificence is part of the reason why it really irks me when, sometimes, the mahoot pinches the elephant’s ear in order to make him squeak for attention.)
Every time I see or hear one of these guys coming, I get giddy like a little kid. Just the other night, we saw a small one staring down a car that had obviously chosen the wrong side of the road. They stood nose to trunk for about a minute before the elephant decided to go around the vehicle. The same elephant also wanted to taste my strawberry smoothie. I, however, did not allow him to do so. As a result of my moving the drink from his reach, the playful pachyderm proceeded to poke around my stomach and right hand with the tip of his trunk. How fun!
Elephants don’t roam freely in all places, though they are quite common throughout the country. So, if you really like elephants, Thailand is the place for you!