Wanderlust Wednesday: Cambodian Elephant Rides

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In lieu of my usual Travel Tuesday post, I’m doing Wanderlust Wednesday this week instead. (Better late than never, right?)

I’ve always loved elephants – for their elegance, beauty, intelligence and strength. In multiple cultures they serve as a symbol of wisdom and gentle grace – an animal large enough to trample its surroundings is still humble enough to not step on a mouse.

During my trip to Cambodia, I was thrilled to ride an elephant on the temple grounds in Angkor Wat. I was upset that we were told three times in a row that the elephants were already booked throughout the day – I thought my elephant dreams were slipping away.

Like so many things in life, our bad luck trend out to be really, really awesome luck in the end. We came on a holiday morning, when the temples were closed off to the public. Which meant that instead of weaving through crowds d people, we had the entire place to ourselves.

Our adorable elephant took us along a glittering river dotted with temples. We came upon a few smaller temples hidden from view in the forest.

Since there were no other tourists, it was pristine, peaceful and quiet. As we or deeper into the greenery, I felt incredibly blessed – it was if we were experiencing what this place really looked and felt like before the tourism ever came.

I did feel bad about riding the elephant, but our guide treated him well. He gently petted and spoke quietly with him the entire time, and let him stop and munch on leaves whenever he pleased. The relationship between the guide and elephant was tangible – much like those of my friends that have horses, or an owner walking her dog.

I also learned that the elephants were rather intelligent and refused to cooperate when they got too tired. That was why the elephants were always “booked” so early in the morning – they only worked a few hours early in the day, had a lengthy break, and worked one last round at sunset.

I absolutely adore elephants – this is one of my favorite memories in Cambodia and in Angkor Wat alone. Such a beautiful, majestic creature.

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