The elephant sanctuary was just north of Chiang Mai, nestled amongst misty mountains that looked like they were straight out of a sumi-e ink wash painting. On arrival, we were asked to change into special outfits that wouldn’t spook the elephants. The small herd at the sanctuary used to be used for elephant rides. Omo, our guide, pointed out the bald patches on their backs where their coarse hair had been permanently rubbed off from the saddles they used to carry. In the wild, elephants slather themselves with mud to protect themselves against the sun. These elephants hadn’t lost that instinct, but wouldn’t rise and reapply without getting a wash from their mahouts. After feeding the elephants a quick snack, we climbed into the river to help out.