Our arrival in Chiang Mai started with a 3-4 kilometer walk from the airport. Avoiding all of the cabs who won’t use a meter and want to charge double or triple what the overall cost would be as a flat rate. Cabbies… No matter where you go they always try to rip you off. Tourists please don’t accept a flat rate! Your getting ripped off. Anyways. The walk involved crossing a bunch of busy roads (fun) and enjoying the new environment since we had only briefly experienced the outskirts of Bangkok and the airports.
We made our way into the old square of the city. It is surrounded by a moat. Pretty cool spot in the city. There are a lot of tourists in this area. Our accommodation for the next few days was at Sirikamsan House. Absolutely the best place I have stayed for the price. Clean, bug free, and away from the noise of the streets. I had the best sleep of the whole trip there. I highly recommend them if you are staying in Chiang Mai. We turned in early that night after wandering briefly around the city. We needed our rest from all the travelling and for the elephants the next day.
Elephant Nature Park is located about an hour and a half outside of the city. To go to Elephant Nature Park you have to go to their website and pay a deposit to reserve a spot, or I am sure you could drop by their office in Chiang Mai and do it when you arrive. It is a not an inexpensive place to visit, costing about 88$ CAD per person. That is a lot when you consider what country your in and how far the dollar goes. Besides the cost the whole experience is pretty unique. The elephants are rescued from logging and mining camps as well as the streets of Bangkok, where mahouts (handlers) use them to perform for cash. I have wanted to ride an elephant since seeing Indiana Jones do it in Temple of Doom. What I learned prior to my visit was about how they tame elephants which is basically torturing them until they submit to their mahout. Some of the tourists didn’t know this prior to coming and I think the majority of people do not know. Do not ride the elephants, it looks cool for your Facebook profile picture but that is about it.
The park was clean and the facility was rustic looking. There were a countless amount of dogs running around and sunbathing, as well as elephants. After a quick roll call they take you to a feeding area where you can have an elephant take a chunk of watermelon out of your hand. Elephants are basically giant cows with a long nose, they graze all day. Feeding them was interesting because of their strength. Their trunks are incredibly strong.
Going out into the field and meeting the herd is the best part of the day. Our guide took us to the elephants with their mahouts and we took some pictures, rubbed their coarse-hairy skin. It was all really cool! The guides know a lot about the elephants and their stories. They are more than willing to answer any questions we had. After about an hour roaming around it was lunch time. A buffet style lunch is included in the cost of your ticket and it was more than adequate. It consisted of a variety of Thai noodle dishes, curries, meat, and all that other good stuff.
After lunch there was a documentary to watch about the elephants, the treatment of them before they were rescued and the founder of the park. I had watched this on YouTube before and was not interested in seeing it again. I wandered around on the elevated platforms and just watched the elephants being elephants. In my opinion the documentary takes up about an hour of the day and I would have to say most people don’t want to sit there that long. I get the eco-tourism education thing and the staff needing their lunch break but cutting that documentary down to a half hour would be a lot better.
The documentary was over and people were flooding out anxious to bathe the elephants in the river. The river was shallow when we went so we did not get wet. Your provided a bucket and you just start chucking pails of water at an elephant. The elephant stands there content flopping its ears about. A lot of fun, especially since right after they coat themselves in mud/dirt again.
After the river we watched the elephants again and headed back to Chiang Mai. If your visiting Thailand and are in the northern part, I highly recommend going for the day.
Next: Chiang Mai Night Market