First off, I should admit I've never actually been on an elephant ride.
There are elephant trekking places all over Phuket. Some are close to the main beaches, while others get a bit more off the beaten track (and are much better in my opinion – after all, I don't want to be trekking with a view of Patong or within earshot of a busy road).
And it's good business for sure – riding an elephant is on many tourists ‘must do’ list. My parents have been over here a number of times, and it was on their second visit in 2004 that they went for an elephant ride.
I recently asked mum to write about her experience. Here’s an abbreviated
version of ‘My Elephant Experience’, by Paula Monk.
“When I was a child, I would look through my books and see pictures of far away, wonderful lands. I was fascinated by them, but in the 1950s, growing up in post war Britain, it didn't seem possible that I would ever see any of those places for myself.
“I was filled with wonder at the sights of children riding on elephants, and imagined how it would feel. That little dream lay dormant for almost a lifetime.
"The world has moved on during that lifetime and people travel far and wide – ordinary people like me.
“Now we have family in Thailand (it was called Siam in my childhood) and on one of our visits I was determined to fulfil my childhood dream. I can't now tell you the name of the place where we went for our elephant ride.
"It was in the rural south of the island, in hilly terrain. I feel there couldn't have been a better place – the elephants were well looked after and so were we – my husband and I. The jungle was thick and lush and the views from the hill tops were superb.
“Slowly we moved off. I was all grins and happiness! At first the ride seemed fairly smooth, but soon we were traversing the slopes of the jungle through narrow pathways. It was like a fair ground ride – I was thrilled and exited and scared stiff at the same time.
“Going down hill it almost felt like we would be lurched forward and roll over the beautiful elephants head, but we hung on tight and enjoyed the thrill. Mostly our elephant strolled slowly along the familiar paths – sometimes she broke into almost a trot, accompanied by gasps and squeals from us.
“Our ride lasted for a long time – about an hour we recall. As we realised we were coming to the end of the ride we became aware that we felt physically tired.
“It is hard work to keep the body stiff and alert and to be holding on tight. But above all, we felt exhilaration that in our 60s we had taken the chance to fulfil a dream.”
Jamie Monk works at liveaboard dive specialists Sunrise Divers. For more information call: 084 626 4646 or visit: sunrise-divers.com