Pineapples and Four-Legged Friends


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, November 28, 2004 was originally posted on December 04, 2004.

DAY 407:  I have faint but fond memories of my parents taking me to New York’s Bronx Zoo as a kid, about twenty-five years ago.  Not only was it one of America’s more decent zoological preserves where I got to pet animals in the petting zoo section, but it was the place where I had ridden an elephant my first and only time — until Day Two of my “non-tourist trek” through the jungles of northern Thailand.

THE DAY STARTED at the breakfast table.  All of us were having our eggs, toast, teas and coffees — minus Nick who slept in after complaining he didn’t get much sleep the night before — when an old woman with no teeth and a curious face stopped by.  We thought she might have been there at the request of our guides, but no, she was just some random old woman who came to stare and observe us, possibly returning the favor of every Westerner that had come to the village to stare at her and her people. 

“Look at her, she’s so cute!” Claire said.  Lot concurred and gave her some coffee and a banana.  The curious old toothless woman sat down with us and enjoyed the free food for a bit, but we left her and her village about an hour later — but not without Claire and Lot posing for photos, the latter with the balloons that Hans had given her as a gift.

“SÁAI OR KHWAA?” Sawit said at every fork in the trail as we proceeded on our trek.  “Left or right?”

“It’s this way?” Claire in the pole position guessed.  The correct way was always to the right and for a short while we thought we might just be going in circles.

“Hey, there’s that tree again,” I joked.

After two hours of trekking and rest, followed by more trekking and rest through the jungle and through a dried up rice terrace, we finally saw elephants in the distance.  Hans and I started to make trumpeting elephant noises, with no success.  “That’s not even close!” Lot told us. 

We arrived at our midday camp, the Elephant Camp where our rides for the afternoon grazed freely on the local vegetation and drank at the river as we humans dined on a big pot of ramen noodles with fresh vegetables.  Elephants never seem to stop eating — an adult eats something like 80 kg. a day — and I wondered how something so big could be vegetarian.  “They’re so big, but they’re so cute,” Luke said.  It was pretty much the general consensus of all of us, minus Nick who noted that elephants “bathe in mud and shit all day.”  That was taken care of when the camp guides took each one and washed them individually like automobiles (picture above).

The elephants were fashioned with wooden saddles for us to sit on, two people on each of the thirty-something-year-old adults.  There was an odd number of people in our group, and I was the odd man out — but lucked out by getting an elephant all to myself, eight-year-old elephant boy Song Wong.  The adult and baby elephant walk took us through the scenic jungle along a stream, up and down hills. 

As exciting as all that sounds, let it be known that riding an elephant isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world.  On a scale of 1-10 in comfort (1 being the lowest, 10 the highest), it ranks about a 1.5, just above streaking nude in a cactus farm.  I sat on the wooden seat with my feet up, down on the elephant’s head and Prince Ali Ababwa-style, but nothing really felt right as I bounced violently along.  Plus every time we went downhill I had to hold on for dear life with my hands on the sidebars to keep myself from falling off and being stepped on, or even worse, shat on. 

Clearly, this was something I never had to worry about as a kid at the Bronx Zoo.

And speaking of elephant dung — fecal matter is a common theme on this Blog if you’re new to it — the elephants produced a lot of it that afternoon.  Whenever one had the urge for a Number Two, it’d stop, turn its ass to the side and then let it bowels go free.  Claire especially liked my sports commentary of the defecation as the elephant she and Hans were riding did her deed.

“Oh, it’s coming, it’s coming!  Oh!  That was a fast one!  Here’s another… it’s coming, it’s coming…  oh!  Oh, it’s stuck!  Wait, here it comes, here it comes.  You’ll hear it, you’ll hear it…”  (A quick rustling of leaves, followed by a THUD.)

“Elephant pineapple,” Sawit said, pointing to a fresh yellow elephant turd the size of a pineapple.  Because of him, I may never eat pineapples again.

THERE MUST BE SOMETHING INHERENT in an elephant’s brain that never seems to forget that it wants to be dirty; Song Wong often picked up dirt with his little trunk and threw it up over its head, right at me


The elephants were kept in line by the elephant camp guys, who conditioned the pachyderms with yelling and an occasional prick on the side with a slingshot.  Song Wong didn’t seem to mind and eventually got used to having me on his back.  Near the end of our time together, he greeted me with his baby trunk.  I’m sure if we spent more time together we’d go to America and get jobs in the circus. 

Our rickety elephant rides were thankfully over only about an hour and a half later.  We dismounted our long-nosed four-legged friends and bid them goodbye — Elise thanked hers with a banana — and proceeded on foot to the nearby village, which was a lot like a children’s petty farm with baby animals running all around:  chicks, piglets, calves, kittens and puppies.  Claire took a liking to one particular puppy and brought him home to our shelter in the village for the night.

“We have to give him a name,” she said.

“He looks like a Marvin,” I said. 

“That’s such an American name,” she said in her constant, but harmless stabs at me for being American.  (She had lived and worked in the Lake George region of upstate New York, and to make a long story short, she gained a rather unfavorable perspective of middle-class America; she worked in a RV park.)  “Marvin,” she said.  She liked it the American name and it stuck.  She held him and stroked his little head as a cat Elise named Oscar sat on her stomach, until Boon and Sawit took Luke, Hans, Claire and me fishing at the nearby river.

IT WASN’T FISHING IN THE TRADITIONAL SENSE, with fishing poles, lures and slimy live bait; it was more like trekking in the river with a net.  Sawit and Boon taught Luke and Hans how to throw the net in the river to catch fish, but with no luck — the guides said the river was too muddy at the time for fish to be present.  Meanwhile, Claire and I hung out on the riverbank doing Stupid Forest Tricks like popping a leaf on the top of my fist and blowing bubbles out of a leaf stem

That only lasted so long, and with the rain starting to come down we head back to the village, traversing the muddy river back and forth in the process.  Marvin, our new four-legged friend was there waiting for us at the gate, and we played with him some more until we were warned that perhaps he had fleas or some sort of disease.  Claire and I let him go to play with his other four-legged friends and went to the guides’ hut where Boon was cooking up Thai green curry with chicken and a savory pumpkin dish, and Sawit was playing guitar and singing Thai songs with a little village boy who hid in a blanket when we arrived

For some reason the guitar wasn’t available that night and the firewood was too damp for a fire, so entertainment came in the form of cans of Coke, a bottle of cheap Thai Sang Som rum (available at the village drink stand) and a box of matches.  Boon and Sawit tried to boggle our minds with match brainteasers, many of them trick questions.

“Make [two triangles] four triangle.  You can only move one,” Sawit said.

Nick had the answer; he simply twisted a match in the first triangle to make it the numeral “4.”  It was his big contribution to the night, after an evening spent mostly flirting with Lot (but with no luck since she was faithful to a boyfriend back in Holland), complaining about how cold it was, and the snail in our room.

THAT NIGHT THE RAIN CONTINUED to fall when we turned in for the day, a day of baby elephants and puppy dogs.  I’m sure in twenty-five years I’ll have fond memories of that day, the second time I rode an elephant that is, and hopefully I’ll forget about that image of the “elephant pineapple,” so I won’t have to think twice about eating them.

Next entry: Whingeing Down The River

Previous entry: Facing Fears On The Non-Tourist Trek

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Comments for “Pineapples and Four-Legged Friends”

  • GREETINGS FROM LUANG PRABANG, LAOS…  I just got in a couple of hours ago and boy is my boat tired! 

    Here’s one more for you weekend readers; I hope to have another batch up before the WHMMR…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/04  at  10:50 AM

  • CHRISTY (w/ or w/o PATRICK’s computer):  At this point in the game I probably will have to skip out on Middle Earth…  It’s about 10 times more expensive per day than Asia, leaving me with two options: either last the sixteen months as promised (for the Blog), or cut it really short by going to NZ.  (I’m going to wander Asia until February.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/04  at  10:52 AM

  • Glad you gave a shout about pineapple-poo. Ignored that pic. Loved the others, the doggy, the cat and oh yeah, the elephants. Baby elephants are the cutest.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/04  at  11:21 AM

  • I love the elephants.  When I did it, the ride was a bit precarious when we went up a 45 degree slope (in mud - praying the line of elephants wouldn’t fall like dominos) but otherwise ok.  But then, my friend and I sat on our life jackets, so we had added cushioning LOL. 

    Did they use the metal pick to smack the elephants you rode?  That really upset me when I went.  Apparently they “need it” because the elephants’ skin is so thick, so it is the only thing that they feel.  I still thought it was horribly cruel.

    Posted by Liz  on  12/04  at  11:50 AM

  • Erik, I must thank you for my educating me…..I was watching a really cheezy “canadian” made movie last night (yeah, I know sad… was freezing rain here and I couldn’t get out of my driveway to go to my friend’s party)......anyways, there was a part about “Diwali” fireworks celebration and I knew what they were talking about thanks to you!  I really had no idea about India celebrations until that entry!

    Love the elephants and the puppy really did look like a “Marvin”!

    There really is quite a bit of snow here…it started to melt yesterday, than turned to freezing rain, now it is -10 degrees celsius!  I’m in central Ontario, which is the “gateway” to the North and in the snow belt!


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/04  at  02:39 PM

  • Prince Ali Ababwa-style picture not working…

    pineapple poop pic is nothing….click on it!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/04  at  09:35 PM

  • I would love to be there and experience the ride!  All readers out there in a warm climate….enjoy, as Ontario is now into winter mode.  I am located in southern Ontario and Lisa is in the Great White North!  LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/04  at  11:58 PM

  • Were there like 9 million little puppies? When I was in Nica last December, there were puppies everywhere - no one gets their puppies hacked. Sadness…

    I like the “washing elephants like cars” verbiage. Fun!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  12:58 AM

  • LIZ:  I actually met some people who got off their elephants because they were treated so badly…  But I think I was with reputable people; nothing like the horror stories I heard.

    MARKYT:  I’ll get the picture up soon…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  03:46 AM

  • MARKYT:  For some reason my Day 407 folder got trashed off my hard drive, along with the Prince Ali Ababwa photo…  I don’t have a redundant backup file with me because it wasn’t one of my files (it was from Hans).  The backup exists on a CD I’ve already sent to you; you can go ahead and upload it when you get it, but by that time no one will care anymore.

    BTW, with my NY Yankees hat on the baby elephant, the filename was “shortround.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  10:13 AM

  • He Erik!
    I loved to read al about ‘our days together’!!
    Do I have that missing picture on my CD?
    If so, let me know and I send it to you when I’m home. Just one more day to go…..
    Love Lot

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  12:41 PM

  • I love the way you described the comfort level! Just above “streeking through a cactus farm” is about right!

    I don’t know how you lasted an hour and a half!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  03:10 PM

  • That rope around the elephants tail looks painful and annoying to the elephant.

    There was a snail in the room?  A snail is like a slimy snake in a shell . . . didn’t that bother you?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  03:38 PM

  • AWWWW!!! BABY ANIMALS!!! they’re so cute!!!! that puppy is adorable. so is the little elephant. and the little piggie. =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  04:31 PM

  • Dood. You are in DESPARATE need of new sneakers! At least new laces. How are you hiking up trails, etc. with that sad pair? Is it time for a sneaker fund-drive?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  09:57 PM

  • LOT:  Sure, send me an email when you’re home and I’ll tell you which file it is!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/06  at  10:20 AM

  • WARREN:  I eat snails for breakfast.  Er, well, dinner.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/06  at  10:23 AM

  • CHRISTY:  No, the shoes stay until the end… then they will be immortalized on a wall (after deodorization of course).

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/06  at  10:25 AM

  • I am catching up slowly here, but I wanted to comment.  I can’t possibly imagine how Claire got a bad impression of Americans working at an RV park.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/07  at  04:49 PM

  • LMAO tjw!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/07  at  06:37 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Whingeing Down The River

Previous entry:
Facing Fears On The Non-Tourist Trek


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