To be completely honest, Chiang Mai was not the first I thought of when I decided to go to northern Thailand. It did not mean that I do not appreciate the opportunity to visit and explore the city, but I found out about Chiang Mai while doing research about elephant sanctuaries. Probably most people hearing Thailand instantly connect it with elephants, which is very good, but…
There is always a but, isn’t there? In most cases searching for those two topics will get you information about elephant treks, smiley happy tourists enjoying theirs “experiences” riding on top of them in those comfy seats. What if I told you that those seats weight about half a ton each and the average elephant weighs about 3 to 5 tons and I am not counting the people seated on them. Elephants were never made to carry weight on top of their backs, and carrying anything on their backs will deform their spines. It’s the same reason that elephants in the wild do not spray water out of their trunks, it is a forced behavior through conditioning by the trainer (mahout). The elephants that most people associate with Thailand, India and other countries, are only that way for showing and tourists, but in reality the elephants are broken and maimed to get them to be show animals. What if you found out that the trainer (mahout) pokes the elephant’s ear with a sharp nail to keep the elephant under his control, knowing that their ears are the most sensitive spots on their entire bodies? What if you saw fear in the elephant’s eyes? What thoughts would you develop seeing an animal with a broken spine or leg, with a hole in an ear, wounds on the sides? Would riding on top of the elephant still look like such fun? Would you still be willing to do it?
I was looking for opportunity to hang out with them, without causing any stress, to find out about them and observe their behavior freely. That is why the Elephant Nature Park became my goal to visit that region of Thailand. The purpose of the park and its facilities is to help elephants being forced to work in a circus or giving tourists rides and more hard labor. They are funded thanks to many people volunteering and giving donations, trust me elephants like a lot of watermelon and eat a lot of it????.
The chance to feed them, bath with them in the river, enjoying their company was well worth 12 hours spent in the train????.
One day with transportation both ways, to and from the park, lunch and guide cost 2500 baht ($73).
I recommend it with all my heart and please remember that every animal feels pain! I do not think that anyone would be glad to give a ride to an elephant in the forest on top of their back. I just wish that we could think a little more before putting our own comfort first and look a little deeper, who know what valuables we will find.