One of the best things to do in Thailand is going to see the elephants. They’re huge and majestic and beautiful. Everyone wants to get that sweet shot of themselves with an elephant looking cool AF. I’m going to tell you what it’s like to visit them and how to do it while treating the animals with kindness and respect.

You’re also going to want to make sure you have one of these awesome cameras to capture these moments. And if you’re looking for more things to do in Thailand, read my article about an awesome little town called Pai! Also, in SE Asia it’s always smart to bring some bug spray with you. This bug repellant is organic and DEET-free. 

.

 

No Riding

I’m laughing in delight and fear. Standing so close was much more intimidating than I thought it would be.

 

Don’t patronize an elephant camp, “sanctuary”, park etc. if they allow the animals to be ridden. It’s just bad. 

.

Since it’s one of the most popular things to do in Thailand, there are lots of elephant attractions. Unfortunately, a lot of them offer riding as an activity. It’s lucrative as people love elephants and will pay a pretty penny for the experience. But, if you really love them you’ll make sure you give your money to an organization that would never allow them to be ridden.
.
If they are tamed enough to carry people, it’s because the mahouts (elephant trainers) have broken them in with chains and a sharp metal hook they use to stab them in the head, inside of their mouths and their very sensitive ears. A lot of elephants have shredded ears from all the cutting.
.
Sometimes it looks like they are just using the stick to steer them in the right direction, but they are actually putting it up to their face to remind them of the pain that will be inflicted if they don’t do what the mahout wants. It’s brutal and horrible. 
.
.
.
Go To The Elephant Nature Park
Discussing how far down they think the price of Bitcoin is going to fall.
.
.
The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is run by people who love the animals and want to liberate them from forced labor, not continue it by allowing tourists to hop on their backs. 
.
The elephants there are all rescues from tourist attractions, logging work and forced breeding. Most are upwards of 70-years-old!! Many are partly blind and have hip & leg injuries from being hit by cars, stepping on land mines, violent training from mahouts and forced labor. 
.
At this park, they are allowed to live out their days peacefully and playfully. Visitors can interact, but only as long as the elephant is cool with it. They’re given huge buckets of fruit and you can hang out with them while they eat, but when they decide they’re done they just walk away and you move on.
.
It’s often overlooked, but this organization has over 200 rescue dogs, many of whom also have injuries from abuse and car accidents. The kennels are lined with doggie wheelchairs so that the many dogs with useless or no back legs still get to go on long walks daily.
.
Elephant Nature Park receives no government funding. Also, elephants don’t get donated the way a stray cat might get dropped off at a shelter. Most elephants they rescue have to be purchased from the previous owner, which is expensive because usually that owner is using the elephant as a source of labor and income. The price of feeding and providing medical care for so many aging elephants is astronomical. The people who run this place are very dedicated.
.
.
.
The Experience

.

 

Hard to overstate how cool this was.
.
.
As we walked through the park, our guide told us each elephant’s story and told us about their various health problems. It was sad to see them limping from old injuries, or look into their milky eyes blinded by lights from cars and performance shows. But, it was also so obvious that the animals were comfortable, at peace and well-cared for. They weren’t nervous and they looked right at home.
.
The experience of being close to the elephants was wonderful, but what affected me most was the endless amount of compassion in the people who work so hard to right some human wrongs and treat these amazing animals with kindness.
.
We stood next to one as she bathed in the river and ate a big bucket of fresh fruit. We were allowed to touch her, to help wash her with the river water and she seemed to enjoy that. Then, when she was done she walked away and we moved on to another part of the park. It’s a good idea to bring one of these handy towels with you so you can dry off after getting in the river.
.
The elephant we bathed had the freedom to interact as much as she wanted then leave and go to an area where she was alone or with other elephants. She knew that wherever she decided to go, she would be safe and her decision would be respected.
.
Sadly, right across the river from us there was another elephant park which operated differently. Every animal had a person on its back and you could hear the mahouts shouting commands at them, waving their sticks around to direct them as they forced them down to the river and then back up the bank, the animals moved frantically to obey commands quickly to avoid punishment. It was painfully obvious which animals were happier.
.
.
.
There was so much feeling in their eyes. It was sad to think about some of the things they’ve been through. But, they were obviously happy in their home now.
.
.
.
The visit to this place was amazing. The ride there and back was comfortable and they feed you a delicious, healthy lunch. 
.
Visiting elephants is definitely one of the coolest things to do in Thailand. If you want to see them up close, but you truly care about their well-being, you’ll visit the Elephant Nature Park or another organization with the same values and not a place that continues the legacy of servitude and human cruelty.
.
.
.
Visiting or curious about SE Asia? Read about our experiences in Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *