It’s here! It’s here! Ahhh!!! The day is finally here!!!! We finally get to see the Elephants!! This is the thing I’ve most been looking forward to and basically my reason for even coming to Thailand in the first place. We get to spend 2 days and 1 night at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. I know it’s going to be a life changing experience.
Tuesday morning we were picked up around 8:15 and jumped in a van full of people and our tour guide Pim. We watched a video on the way and it was so hard to watch, it made me and several others cry. They first went over some safety rules for being around the elephants (don’t approach them, let them come to you, don’t stand directly in front or behind them, stay with the tour guide at all times etc). We then watched an emotional video about the many horrible ways elephants are used today for tourism, riding, logging and street begging. We saw how the elephants were treated, tied in chains which caused deep wounds in their sensitive skin, wounds from being hooked and nailed to follow their mahout. It was so horrible to see and realize that things like this happen still today. Even this past week in Cambodia we saw a ton of elephants being used for riding at Angkor Wat. This means they have to carry up to 500kg on their backs including the huge metal saddles. Elephants aren’t naturally inclined to do circus tricks or paint pictures. They showed the method used to break an elephants spirit, called Phajaan, or crushing… which entails tying baby elephants up so they can’t even move an inch, and beating them and starving them for a week until they forget their mothers and essentially work as a robot so that they can be trained. When we accept the reality of elephant tourism, we are basically saying that we are okay with abusing these animals and that’s so not okay. I could go on and on but that is the main part of the Elephant Nature Park. They rescue abused elephants and give them a wonderful life in the wild where they are taken care of and can roam freely and build relationships with the herd. ENP has over 70 elephants (1 was just rescued from Phuket yesterday), over 70 rescued water buffalo, over 200 cats and over 450 dogs!! The founder Lek is very passionate about saving the animals and providing a safe living environment for them.
So we arrived to the park and immediately could see elephants in the distance. The park is gorgeous because it is right in a valley and is 300 acres large.
We put our stuff aside, paid the rest of our admission fees, and went to feed some elephants some watermelon!!
They were so cool. They pick it up with their trunks then bring it to their mouths to eat. A little baby came up to us too but didn’t want our watermelon. Next we walked out into the actual park area and met the oldest elephant here, 90 years old!!!
We then walked further and watched a family for awhile. The baby is 1 year old. We took pictures with them and watched them eat. At one point the baby got brave and came right up to us but then squealed for his mama and she immediately came to protect him. The whole herd just wraps themselves around the baby to protect him.
Next we had a buffet lunch. Everything here is vegetarian. They even have a farm with cows and pigs that they have rescued from the slaughterhouse.
We then went down to the river and watched some bathe and then roll around in the mud. The baby was nuts and rolled around under water, he must have loved it.
Then we walked and saw the male elephants which they keep separated as they are aggressive. One of them is a wild elephant from the jungle, Jungle Boy. He is so big and has huge tusks. We also saw “Naughty Boy number 1” who they keep separated with his nanny because he is so bad. Even when we were walking away he ran towards us and swung his trunk.
Then we went and visited Dalla, the elephant that was rescued yesterday from a forbidden breeding camp in Phuket. She was absolutely beautiful and had long eyelashes and her front legs were slightly deformed. Poor girl. It’s amazing that each and every one of these animals has a story of past abuse and Pim knew everything about them. I don’t know how she could tell the difference between them!
On our walk back to the platform, the two baby elephants, or Double Trouble, were playing savagely around everyone. They were climbing up into the platform and trying to climb on cars. It was the funniest thing.
Next was bathing in the river!! We brought pails and a basket of bananas with us and set up shop along the shore. A huuuge male walked across the river to meet us and we had a blast dumping water on him and cooling him down.
So much fun! Next we checked into our hut where we are staying overnight and had some downtime. We had the option to visit the dog sanctuary but we didn’t have much time so we just chilled. The power soon went out so we couldnt really much. All of a sudden 3 elephants walked past though, so that was neat.
I also walked through the cat kingdom but didn’t really enjoy it because I don’t like cats. (Brooke you would love it). I personally love all of the dogs walking around and visiting with us. We relaxed a little bit more, the power came back on, and then we made our way back to the platform for dinner. All of the elephants are no where to be found now. They must have walked far away now that all of the people left. Most people come here and do a single day trip and then leave around 3. Since those people left, it was so peaceful and quiet around the park. There are some people who live here and volunteer for weeks at a time but dinner was still very small compared to lunch. Another nice thing about staying overnight is that in the morning we get to go for a 2 hour walk around to see the elephants and it will be just our group and them. Today there were groups everywhere.
We sat and had dinner with two women from Germany and ended up talking to them for a couple of hours after. One was a midwife and the other an obstetric surgeon. We had great conversation and I really enjoyed meeting them. We were back in our hut by 8:30 and we showered and went to bed! Breakfast is at 7am!
Day 2 we were up early for breakfast which was yummy. Our morning consisted of a 2 hour walk around the park just our group of 8 and the elephants. We learned more about some of them and then climbed into the back of a truck and delivered fresh fruit to several groups. When we got near the crazy babies, Naughty Boy #2 ran after the truck and chased us down so we had to drive really fast! They LOVE bananas and watermelon. Then we walked around and Double Trouble (the two young babies) escaped their shelter and tried playing with us but we had to run away. I would have loved to play with a baby but I guess the issue is that they were never trained like the older elephants and are essentially wild, being born at the park. They would knock us over and it’s bad behaviours for them to learn for when they are older and stronger.
We then had lunch and after 4 vegetarian meals we are craving some meat! Then we went back to the river and gave the old grandma elephant a bath. The water was too cold for her so we basically rubbed her down with water instead of splashing buckets at her in the river. After the elephants are washed they go cover themselves in mud to protect from the sun and bugs.
Now for our last activity! We made rice balls for the old elephants who have no teeth left. They are unable to eat the same things as the younger ones. We first searched for ripe yellow bananas, peeled them and added them to a big bucket of sticky rice and oatmeal. We added salt, corn and some flour. Then we mashed it all up and rolled it into balls. It was actually super fun. Our new tour guide Apple kept singing funny songs and adding the words “rice ball” and “apple” to them. Then we brought the rice balls to 2 of the old ladies and fed them. The elephants LOVE this meal, even the ones with teeth. If a basket of fruit is placed next to a basket of rice balls they will skip the fruit every time.
They were very happy ladies :). It was the weirdest feeling feeding them and putting your hand in their mouth. It sucked your hand right in and Dad kept freaking out! Sadly this was our last activity of the trip. We ended it off with this weird rice dessert which was yummy and drove all the way back to the hotel.
I absolutely loved this place and the only thing bad I have to say is that the vegetarian food wasn’t for me and I am craving meat now. Dad obviously said the same thing. My favourite part of the trip was our long walk this morning which wad very peaceful and intimate since the day trippers weren’t there yet. Dad’s favourite part (and I would say mine too) was when the baby elephant chased us in the truck. I don’t think we have laughed that hard since the trip started.
When we got back we went for a swim and our hotel pool was HUGE. I will have to take a picture this week. I showered all the mud and elephant goop off of me and then we headed back to the Night Bazaar. I found a restaurant on trip advisor that had really good reviews and we went to find a huge lineup. We got in pretty quick and it was a delicious meal. I’ll add pics of it since so many people wanted to see Thai food. This chicken satay is to die for with the peanut sauce. Dad just said that this is his favourite meal yet! High praise! No wonder this place is so busy.
We walked around the market some more and I got a foot massage!! We took a songthaew back to the hotel…its a truck with seats in the back that you hop on and off.
Tomorrow we have a huge day trip planned to Chiang Rai, further north and we will be in Loas as well. Busy busy!!
Enjoy the snow my friends!
The best way to experience these 2 days with us is to watch this video I made here!!!