Friday, 5 April 2013


What a wonderful lot of stallholders we have at Hungerford Arcade!  Some travelling the world to find wonderful and unusual items to sell in their units!  I would say that Adrian and Jane Jefferies are the most travelled, visiting Thailand and other destinations to find wonderful and beautiful stock!  Below is an article written by Adrian which tells the story of their recent visit to Thailand.  Hope you all enjoy it.  I did!

Tales of a Mahout’s Assistant 

The thought of getting up at 6:00 am was too much for this Mahout’s assistant so he stayed in bed while his wife (elephant mad Jane Jefferies) went off to learn how to become a Mahout. 
There are approximately 2500 elephants in Thailand, mostly redundant from the logging industry where they are no longer used. Most have found their way into trekking for tourists or as beggars in Bangkok. In Lampang; the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre has been established which provides a training school for mahouts. Another branch of this centre has recently been opened at the Anantara Resort and Spa situated in the Golden Triangle where you can see Thailand, Burma and Laos from your bedroom balcony. 
It was here that we met John Roberts, the Elephant camp co-ordinator at the Anantara. A mahout’s course lasts from one to three days, the basics being taught on day one and confidence established over the next two days. Jane opted for the one-day course as we had never been to this part of Thailand before and we 
wanted to see some of the other places of interest. 

Mae Sai (the border between Thailand and Burma). Note; a mahout’s jacket was only 150 Baht from a local stall. 

The course began at 6:30 a.m.; first you met the real mahouts, then together walk down to the grassland beside the river to find your elephant, dust her down and give her a wash and feed. Having tempted the elephant with a single banana the trainee mahout was then frisked by a slobbery trunk seeking more bananas!
Jane and Adrian Jefferies

Then it was back to camp to feed the elephants some more and have a bamboo cup of coffee and an introduction to the day. Next came the basic training. There are over 40 verbal and body language instructions an elephant can understand, in the course you are only taught about 10 of these, the most important being stop 
(How!). Mounting your elephant can be an ungainly affair and can be attempted in many ways, via the back leg, up the front leg or for the less agile from a platform. Then by a series of ear tickling from your feet and the odd word, pai (move forward) or baen (turn please) you can master the direction in which you want to go. After practising by negotiating a chicane, you take your first “drive” and steer your elephant back to the lobby for a late breakfast. You now have a few hours (a massage is a good idea) before part 2 of the training day. 

So with the Mahout’s assistant in tow carrying all the bags, camera and water it’s back to the elephant camp, feed the elephant some more and then mount your elephant to begin a 2-hour trek through the jungle via the kitchens where fruit was waiting for the elephant. (Jane’s elephant was called Lewan, a 27 year old who wasn’t renowned for her common sense). 

Elephants graze continually – and are always on the lookout for a tasty shoot, hence Lewan stopped for a quick snack sporadically throughout trek. Shouts of Pai, Pai and frantic ear tickling didn’t always have the desired effect, especially if something tasty happened to appear - scary when the identified snack was several 
feet down an embankment and you could only hold on with your knees! 

The trek wasn’t all on the level either; on one downward part Jane dismounted, let Lewan slide down the slippery slope and remounted once she was safely on level ground. The Mahout’s assistant had to follow wherever the elephants went and found it easy to fall over! 
Pictures below show Jane riding the elephant and having just re mounted the elephant without any assistance! 

Eventually after trekking through butterfly infested and wild wisteria growing jungle you came upon the river that forms the border between Thailand and Burma, where you wash your elephant before riding it back into the grasslands where she’ll spend the night. It was then back to the hotel for a bath followed by 
drink with your fellow newly trained Mahouts to discuss your experiences. 

A unique experience and well worth it. 
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