Hua Hin

The art of driving past an elephant


The same day as we drove from Hua Hin into the national park i Phetchaburi, Thailand, we heard that an american student was found dead, killed by an elephant.

Later we learned the tragic story about that the young backpacker Lilly Glidden had been attacked by one or several angry elephants. Beside her dead body they found a camera, and it showed that the student had taken a lot of pictures of several animals, among them elephants. Probably she had wanted to get som close-ups of wild elephants,  which can be very dangerous.

We were warned about an angry male elephant with a huge, broken tooth, and were told that angry elephants may attack motorcycles, but cars are safe. But I had heard stories about elephants attacking cars, not in Thailand, but in Africa where the elephants are even bigger. I thought about this when vi a couple of hours later saw a huge, male, elephant coming out of the jungle and walking calmly on the side of the, with enough space for two cars to pass. I have met big animals on the road before, a big norwegian moose for example. They have been frightened by the cars, lights and noises and just wanted to get off. Not the elephant. He was walking with majestic movements, as if the road belonged to him.

The driver slowed down. The elephant was about hundred meters ahead of us, and he started to walk in the same direction as our car. We could see his huge behind. This elephant was much bigger than the elephants wh had seen in Thailand on different shows. He knew we were just behind him. but he didn’t care. The driver used no lights, he told us, and he drove slowly and careful. No acceleration or noises from the engine.

«Why, I asked»

«The elephants own this area. We are just guests, and they have not invites us. We must behave like univited guests, he said, and that means staying low.»

The driver told me about a tragedy in this area just some months ago whn to thai boys went into tuhis area with a motorbike. Suddenly i big elephant stood in the middle of the road, faced against them. They stopped the scooter, which was correct, but they did two big mistakes. They did not stop the engine, and they did not turn off the light. Elephants don’t like this wasp-like sound of a scooter. It annoys them. And the same with the sharp light. The alephant attacked them, and tramped them to death.

«And what should we do, if the elepant blocked the road, faced against us? Try to turn around,» I asked.

«No, no – just stop, turn off the engine, no lights – and wait.»

«And what would the elephant do?»

«Probably nothing at all. He would stare at us for some seconds, just of curiosity, and then he would be bored and wander off».

We had already passed the elephant, then, and I turned around and watched him through the back window. He lifted his head and trunk as a sort of goodbye.


Pictures below shows two scenes when a car meets an elephant. The first is a You tube-vide showing an elephant just walks away after som nervy seconds. The next is are photo of an angry elephant i the Kruger National Park in South Africa.



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