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…


Elephants No. 20, 21 and 22

Three very different elephants from a city of many sides: we spent four days in Singapore last week, only slightly marred by the return of the dreaded haze, and a thorough bed bug cleaning operation after a nasty encounter with the fuckers on the ferry back from Koh Tao. Here is my pick of the city’s elephants:

Elephant No. 20


This is a particularly interesting elephant for me, because it is the twin of a different elephant (Elephant No. 14) I found in Jakarta! This one is located outside the Old Parliament House, Singapore’s oldest surviving government building. Both are presents from the King of Siam (modern Thailand) in 1871. I’d love to know more about this king and why he decided to distribute these elephants around south east Asia – and I wonder if there are further ones to be found in other cities?  (more…)

Elephant No. 19: Georgetown, Malaysia 


I found this magnificent elephant in the Khoo Kongsi clanhouse in Georgetown on the island of Penang, an incredibly elaborate temple of ancestral worship built by some of the Chinese community in Penang. Modern Malaysia has many citizens of Chinese ethnicity who emigrated from Southern China in various periods: the Khoo clan mostly arrived in the 19th century and were some of the most successful Chinese in the area, hence the amount of money they were able to spend on this very ornate temple! The elephant and its rider is one of 36 “Celestial Guardians” painted on the inside of the central hall, 18 on each side. Each guardian rides an impressive steed like an elephant, a lion, or a dragon, and each has its own unique weapon. All, like this one, look pretty fierce.  (more…)