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Chiang Mai, Thailand – Day 3

January 19, 2023

Today is the Elephant tour! I’m a little conflicted about it because elephants seem to carry a big ethical concern here in Thailand. But it’s also a great opportunity for a new and unique experience, and I want to believe all the tour outfitters are taking proper care of their main attraction. I picked what looked like a reputable company, Elephant Rescue Park and away we went.

We drove an hour and a half north of Chiang Mai to the Elephant Rescue Park. They have 8 domestic elephants, all of which have been purchased from circuses or the logging industry. They have two tours/day that allow visitors to feed, walk and bathe elephants, then they are free to roam around the jungle.

Feeding elephants bananas

The beginning was a little underwhelming because it was a little like feeding elephants at the zoo. We got in a single file line, and the elephants were all lined up behind a psuedo-fence. One by one we held out a banana for each elephant to take from us and chow down. It was quite an experience to have their massively powerful trunks reach around the banana, usually brushing against many fingers. Even though we did this about four times, it felt foreign and slightly scary to have such a big animal reaching its massively powerful trunk at me.

The elephants were of varying ages, but some weighed as much as 4 tons! And they eat 10% of their weight every day, so they basically eat all day long. Kind of like me in Thailand.

After feeding them, we went on a walk where they could eat some more. We watched as they scratched themselves on trees, walked more quietly than humans, and ate any vegetation in sight. All of it impressed us, but especially how quiet they walk! Their feet don’t make a sound.

Eventually the elephants walked down to the river where they drank water from their firehose-like trunks. Shortly afterwards, we grabbed buckets and brushes and joined them in the water. After giving them a thorough scrubbing, we started splashing around. The more we splashed, the more they splashed, kicking their legs and spouting water from their trunks. It was a fun, playful experience and we all left quite wet.

We took our final pictures with the elephants, most of us getting a really good one with the youngest boy who wrapped his trunk around us in hugs.

chiang mai elephant rescue park

This is a great photo. I have many more that are not 🤣 Apparently I patted one a little too hard and it let me know by flapping its ear into the back of my head. It’s also hard to be calm next to something so big and powerful it snaps tree trunks with ease. Here are some not so good ones.

After we finished our elephant fun, we cleaned up, changed clothes and had lunch. I spoke with Yelena from Belgium about Khao Sok National Park. She gave me great advice about the tours she took and places she stayed. I ended up canceling the accommodations I booked yesterday and rebooked what she advised. I’m very excited for Khao Sok!

We also talked with a couple of healthcare workers from New York who are on a whirlwind trip of two weeks. They were jealous Yelena and I were both able to travel for so long. I do not miss trying to squeeze a year’s worth of adventure into a two week window.

After Khao Sok I’ll have two weeks left in Thailand. I think I’ll continue working my way south, checking out Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Rok, and maybe Koh Lipe. Then I’ll fly back to Bangkok to fly out to New Zealand.

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