Pam and Mom’s most anticipated activity in Chiang Mai was visiting the elephants. There are tons of opinions about the elephant tourism industry in Thailand. It is a very complex industry and I would suggest reading this article published in The Atlantic last year. It takes a thorough look at the many players in the industry and provides the most balanced representation of the industry I’ve come across.
We loaded up into the minivan for a 90 minute ride to the elephant park. After a quick stop at the local market in Mae Wang we wound up the narrow mountain road until we were in the shadow of Doi Inthanon (highest peak in Thailand) where the park is located just outside a Karen village. This park is unique it that it is Karen owned and operated.
We had a nice small group, a Brazilian couple, a German gal, and the 3 of us. This is one reason I like to bring visitors to this park. Besides it’s beautiful location, it does not get the big groups (think 45 people on tour with you) that other camps do.
First up was meeting a few of the elephants and learning about them, name, age, sex, how many kilos they eat a day, etc. The park had 3 females (1 pregnant) and 2 youngsters (9 months and 18 months) and 2 males (kept separate). Elephants are pregnant for 24 months!!
Then it was time to feed the giants. We were given bags full of bananas and pumpkin to fed to the elephants, a very small portions of the food that they will consume in a day.
After they had exhausted our treat bags they were given big bundles of grass to eat. Elephants spend much of their day eating to maintain their shape.
Then on to my favorite part of the tour, a jungle walk with the elephants. This is a nice chance to see the elephants just be themselves. It is neat to see how their trunk works and just how strong they are as they forage in forest.
Pam was getting a nice little assist from this giant as we went up the steep trail. She was worried that she might get pooped or peed on. I noticed the elephant gently kick at the ground, loosening up the soil, then scooped up a trunk full of dirt….I called out to Pam….dirt bath!
We watched this momma push down this trees to reach the leaves at the top.
One of the youngsters rubbing, rubbing, rubbing against a tree. It’s cute when it’s a little one, but you want to make sure you steer clear of the adults when they do this in case the tree gives way!
An extra happy moment for me when I spotted these tiny fingernail sized orchids in the forest.
Dragonfruit from the market in Mae Wang, crossing another fruit off of Mom’s lengthy wishlist.
While the tour continued with mud bathing and river bathing with the elephants we opted for a quiet afternoon of reading, napping, poking around the garden, and watching the water buffalo.