TRAVEL GUIDE 2017
ChiangMai Elephants of
BY KINI PIPER
I really recommend visiting the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. There are lots of different programmes, so it depends how hands-on you want to get. You can volunteer in the dog sanctuary for a week, for example, or stay on overnight programmes with the elephants. We did a single day visit. Our day started with feeding a bucket of food to a blind elephant called Lucky. We were shown how to correctly place the fruit in her trunk. Then, our guide took us for a walk around the park and we took “elphies” (elephant selfies!) with Kabu, whose foot had been damaged in a logging accident. After a delicious vegetarian buffet lunch we gave another elephant, Srinuan, a bath in the river, which involved us standing in the shallows throwing buckets of water at her. I’m pretty sure we got more wet than our elephant because we kept splashing each other with the muddy water – it was loads of fun! We spent time up on the viewing platform watching one of the bigger family groups (including a darling baby elephant) as they played in the mud bath. After viewing the park’s informational videos, I felt so bad that I’d ridden an elephant and seen an elephant show on my first visit to Thailand. Once you learn how they get them to perform, I don’t think you’ll want to see elephants used like this in tourism again. At Elephant Nature Park you won’t get to ride an elephant, but you will have an absolutely amazing experience in a place where elephants are truly cared for. When the elephants arrive at the park, guides let them choose their own friends and groups. Watch out, though! As the elephants are free to roam, they walk right up behind you – and they are incredibly quiet for such big creatures!
FACT FILE Getting there: SilkAir and Tigerair fly direct from Singapore to Chiang Mai (not daily). See elephantnaturepark. org for information about getting to the park, or participating in one of the programmes. Trivia time: • Chiang Mai means “new city”, which is exactly what it was back in the 13th century. • There is a large expat community in the city (estimated at around 40,000 people). • The elephant is the fourth animal of the Thai zodiac system.
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