80 Elephants

Elephant No. 41 – Ayutthaya, Thailand

Me and my elephant friend

NB: this post was actually written in December 2015 as the last elephant on my South East Asia trip. However it has evaded publication up til this point!

The highlight of our day trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya was certainly the discovery of this elephant centre. Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Thailand, and Christine and I visited it on one of our final days in Thailand, just before I flew home. The ruins were also interesting but unfortunately very much still in ruins after having been razed by the Burmese in 1767. In its day it had been one of the foremost cities of the world, but it was quite hard to imagine the place in all its former glory, especially as it was a baking hot day and we were perspiring greatly as we biked around the various temples (before finding an amazing smoothie-juice bar).

We decided not to take a ride on the elephants as I’m never quite sure about the ethics of elephant rides for tourists, but we did buy a basket of food, and had a great time feeding (or having food stolen by) several of the elephants. For an interesting discussion about elephants and tourism, do check out this post. Though the author of that blog decided to give the Ayutthaya elephants a ride, I think it’s an issue that it’s very important to be aware of as a tourist visiting a country that has elephants, so if you do decide to do it, at least you know what you’re doing. I got a bit of a behind-the-scenes insight of the elephant industry in my time in Rajasthan in India in 2011, and after having been appalled by what was going on (exploitation of both elephants and humans by one very selfish man in search of huge profits), I decided not to ride any more elephants unless I could be quite sure of the situation. That’s probably enough elephant-preaching from me for one post…




  
  

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Elephant No. 40 – Aleria, Corsica 

On our way back to the airport in Corsica we stopped off at Aleria, which had been the biggest Roman settlement in Corsica (also known as Alalia to Herodotus and other Greeks). A quick foray to the archaeological site and museum (neither of which would be high on my list of Corsican recommendations!) yielded this fantastic elephant plate!

The plate dates to the 3rd century BC and is decorated with three colours (white, red, yellow) on a black glaze. Around the edges you can see laurel leaves, and there is also a man on the larger elephant, though very faded. It’s very similar to another elephant plate found in Capena from around the same time which has been better preserved. It’s possible that both plates refer to the victories of Pyrrhus in 280 BC, who defeated the Romans with the help of some elephants, or perhaps to his defeat in 275 BC, where elephants also had an important role. Eight of his elephants were actually captured alive and then displayed in the triumph in Rome following his defeat. A different interpretation of the plate suggests it could be depicting Dionysus returning from India on elephant, or alternatively the elephants could be simply decorative with no link to history or religion. Either way it was a great find!

All crowded round to see the exciting elephant


The other highlights of the small museum included these large Italian vases

Elephant No. 39 – Corsica, France

I’m currently on a family holiday in the south of France: we spent one week in Montpellier, and now we have one week in the beautiful, mountainous island of Corsica before heading home. Unfortunately the search for elephants has been very unsuccessful and the best specimen so far has been this bright yellow cover decorated with several small red elephants that Clara and I found on a rock. We had to try and snap a picture of it before the family that owned it noticed, but unfortunately I think they must have seen us as they then gave us a very strange look as we went past! Whoops…  (more…)

Elephant No. 37: Fergana, Uzbekistan 

I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled throughout Uzbekistan for an elephant to add to this blog, and finally I found this one on our last day in the country, in Fergana city in the far east of the country. We were walking through a park to get to the bus station, and came across a series of fairground rides which – for once – seemed to be functioning. All the fairground attractions we’ve passed in other city parks have been disused and rusting, though these ones were making such a disturbing rattling noise as they whizzed round that we were in no way tempted to try them out. Besides, we were on a tight schedule, trying to get through the Uzbek-Kyrgyz border that day, which was supposed to be a particularly difficult and lengthy border crossing due to ongoing land disputes between the two countries. (In the end it was possibly one of the easiest border crossings I’ve ever done so we needn’t have worried!)  (more…)