Ostrich riding is an archaic form of travelling that has been lost to everyone in the fast paced modern world, but not the blessed Thai people. In the spirit of animal racing, I think it's appropriate to allude to the hare and the tortoise here, and recall that it was the slower tortoise who took the leafy prize ahead of the hare. Like so, it is the Thai people who have won my heart with ostrich riding over the airplanes of America. As a child I dreamt of riding on the wings of a bird, and now I can absolutely say that that dream has become a reality. Some wishes really do come true, even if you aren't terminally ill.
The Wana Ostrich Farm was unlike any place in reality. It reminded me of something you'd see in a child's fantasy movie. Th farm was like a Western dude ranch, and more than likely modeled off of a scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid which the owners likely saw once and assumed all of America was like the movie. There were two ostriches in our pen; any more would cause a brannigan we were told. Ostriches do not like to be ridden we found out, and wrangling them was almost as exciting as riding them. The cowboys (ostrichboys?) would pair up and go after one big bird. The first would get behind the monster and hold onto its wings so that it couldn't whack anyone with them, and to 'help' it stay put. The second clown would go straight for the long neck, knowing that once the head was in control the ostrich was helpless. With the head safely secured in the warm arms of the Thai man a sack was placed over his head (the ostrich's head, not the Thai mans' head). One thing you may not have known about ostriches is that when they can't see (because, oh, I don't know, they have a sack on their head?) they don't move. I imagine humans follow a similar response.
With the bird maintained, a footstool is presented to allow the impedimenta to climb aboard. The wings are lifted to that you may tuck yourself securely under, almost like a really hairy seat belt for your legs. Once on the bird, you realize how ugly they are. Their ears are holes in the back of their heads, perhaps connecting around to each other without any attachment to the brain, and their beaks are like two pieces of stiffened cold pizza. Their eyes bug out and their legs are raw like a steak cooked with a flashlight. Once you are seated uncomfortably on the derriere of the ostrich the bag is removed from the head and he goes wild. It's like a rodeo, and only those whom the ostrich approves of get to stay on longer than 8 seconds. The rider grips onto the duvet cover wings, holding on for dear life as the feathers creep between his fingers and offer a detachable surface. When he's ready to lose you he lurches forward and you have no choice but to ride the slide right off the back. Despite my unwillingness, my alighting was painless. As soon as the rider has been dismounted the ostrich runs off again, awaiting his head to be bagged. At one point we asked the ostrich expert if they ever get tired and she told us "Oh no! Their brains are way too small to know when they are tired!" What a classic response. And here I was thinking their physical strength was independent of the size of their brain...
When we 25 farangs had ridden the ostriches we went in for lunch. The menu at the Wana Farm boasts an entire page of ostrich dishes. How could we pass it up? Between the seating and the eating of an ostrich, I'd prefer the seating. Ostrich meat was a bit like pork, and not un-tasty, but still not not as enjoyable as riding one. If you'd like to see some pictures I would refer you to my Picasa Album. I also have a video, but my internet connection has been 'loading' it for a long time and I'm about to render it futile.