Elephant bathtime in Sauraha

The village of Sauraha is the gateway to the Chitwan National Park, Nepal’s number-three tourist destination. It feels far away from it all, as one comes along an unpaved road from the nearby town of Tandi Bazaar through an increasingly empty countryside, and then the tourist centre of the village is just a handful of guesthouses empty at this time of year. The river flowing along Sauraha forms the border with the Chitwan National Park.

I didn’t go to the national park, as it is among the sites whose entrance fees the Nepali government recently tripled in a shameless act of price gouging. But Sauraha is worth visiting just for the remarkably clean air, the jungle climate and, the best thing of all, elephant bathtime.

Tourists often ride in the park on trained elephants. Every day around 1100 a.m., these elephants are brought to the river near the River View Inn (you can walk across their courtyard to get to the place) for a bath. By paying 50 or 100 rupees to an elephant handler, you too can ride on top of an elephant in the river while it splashes water over itself with its trunk. Even if you don’t want to participate in this soggy experience, watching is great fun. Afterwards you can feed bananas to the elephant, which it eats peel and all.