The elephant's ears assured me I was safe

At an elephant camp in Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand, my adventuresome sister and I climbed aboard a female elephant. Along with a procession of other tourists, we headed into the jungle for a two-hour journey. Each elephant had a bamboo seat for two attached to its back. Because of changes in the forestation in Thailand, these elephant rides have become an essential source of income, providing food for these magnificent animals, and we were happy to support this effort. Our guide, a native Thai man, was clearly amused at our efforts to cling to the bamboo seat as we swayed from side to side—the familiar sights of buildings and people disappearing, and the heat and lush tropical foliage engulfing us.

With the guide's permission, I gingerly crawled forward to sit on the elephant's neck, as I had seen him do. I was determined to get the most out of this ride! Once on her neck—where the swaying was even more pronounced—I discovered there was nothing to hang on to except the rolls on the top of her big ears. But in the inspiration of the moment, I brushed my concerns away.

The thought that saved my life
August 9, 2004

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