I arrived already 04.00 in the morning to the Surin elephant festival grounds, when it was still night and black. The Stadium looked rather different than in daylight, black and deserted, although some spotlights were on. Went behind the Stadium, and walked into the military area, where some of the smaller elephants were kept, one was actually sleeping with half its body on the road, and when I passed it first time, I thought it was some stones...
At the "Sui mahout houses" at the end of the stadium, close to the dam, a mother with her new born baby was heavily sleeping, as well as her owners upstairs.
Its remarkable that the elephants doesnt tear down the house structures, or try to break out, when unattended in the night. To the right is a closeup of the sleeping mother.
Most of the elephants were sleeping out on a field, adjoining the festival grounds, with the mahouts tents mounted closeby. At around six, the mahouts started to fetch their elephants for morning care. It was nice to see how relaxed the elephants were in the night, and the lack of stress in the morning. This is highly depending on the management of their owners, and as I have seen before, many Thai elephants are excellent trained and used to various situations.
Now trucks with food started to arrive for the elephants which were not staying on the grass field. After the grass was was off-loaded it was stored in the shadow.
It was nice to see that many elephants gets fresh food every day, preventing the food to go bad and dry up. It seems that the mahouts wifes takes a special responsibility for the food of the elephants, unloading, storing and also feeding their elephants. I couldnt see a single pineapple plant, fruits, or other sugar rich food, which are fed to many Thai elephants elesewhere, here they got some sort of palm leaves similair to the ones I have seen being fed to elephants in South India. Rich of cellulosa, sugar free, and much better for the stomachs, probably...
One hour later, new elephants arrived with lorries, and among them, three lorries, according to the advert sign, from the same owner or company.
The first lorry was carrying a large bull with crossed tusks, which activities I followed throughtout the morning preparations, without knowing how lucky I was.
(You can see on the picture how the right tusk is pointing into the left one, and how the surface of the left tusk has been slightly destroyed while growing.
I learned first later about his important role, being the star of the festival, a tusker who is playing the role of King Naresuan of Ayutthaya, who fought himself in Yudhahatthi, the Elephant battle.
While one caretaker was putting the chaining stakes into the ground, the owner of the tusker unloded his elephant, while chatting relaxed with his wife, and his elephant stepped down from the truck without a lot of commands. I decided to follow him, when leaving the truck, after mounting his elephant.