We’re off on an Elephant hunt. Not a Victorian style hunt but a ‘shower them with love’ hunt. When the pandemic started and Thailand closed down to tourists a lot of the elephant camps had to close so some mahouts walked the elephants back home to their villages, some many miles away, it took them weeks. Many have not returned. About 30 minutes out of CM in Mae Rim north of the city there are a quite a few touristy elephant camps. We have passed them a few times and seen only one elephant. Their deep musty aroma once in your memory is unmistakable.
Animal welfare has improved immensely in CM mostly because of pressure from western tourists. They objected to cages on elephants backs for riding, the hooked stick the mahouts use as control and these things are now better. Not all of Thailand is like this. In the ancient capital Ayutthaya, near Bangkok, we visited a few years ago and they had elephant parades, hooked sticks, cages for riding….
It was all Asian tourists that wanted this, 4 people riding on a cage, asking the mahouts to make the animals do tricks. I wasn’t happy at all.
The best ethical Elephant Camp in Thailand is close to CM and even now has a 2 year waiting list to visit or volunteer (you pay handsomely to volunteer). All 75 elephants are free to roam within her land and the woman who runs it is very famous and admired for her work, her name is Lek Chailert. Would love to visit it’s called Elephant Nature Park. All the resident nellies have been rescued from logging and abusive, sad situations all around Northern Thailand. There are lots of videos of her on YouTube.
It’s normally on the way back from Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain, that we see elephants in a place called Mae Wang. We ask the mahouts if we can take a picture and say hello. The last few years it has been after they have finished with tourist groups, later in the day. We especially like an elephant called Vasi, she’s so sweet.
We drove to Mae Wang, heart of Elephant country. Lying in a valley with a broad flat sandy river meandering under bridges and through densely forested areas. It’s very pretty and pretty wild!
We passed a couple of empty corals fearing the worst. Then a couple of miles further on we could smell them before we saw them. We drove in and were invited in to feed the elephants some bananas. This wasn’t where we were expecting to see them.
It had changed ownership from when we’d last called in there, friendly and professional. They had a coffee shop and restaurant overlooking the river with rafters passing beneath us, great spot and good name. It’s called Coffee with Elephants. Behind the coffee shop was another coral with a mother and calf. Took some sneaky photos.
Further into the mountains our favourite elephant, to our delight, was in residence. So we knocked on the mahouts dormitory door, nothing…. 5 minutes later he turned up on his bike and when asked said yes we could take some pictures. He went and got an enormous bunch of bananas and we got to see Vasi.
We were so happy, my heart melts when I see her. We’re sure she remembers us, maybe wishful thinking on our part, we did have food! If you blow up her bristly muddy trunk she responds with dreamy looking eyes then blows back. If you had a hat on it would be gone. It’s a very joyful game. She likes to touch you and is very playful.
Chris got a full face snotty snorkel kiss, he couldn’t have been happier. Happy, happy. It’s always a real treat to get so close to them, we would have felt really glum if we hadn’t seen her and all the other nellies. It’s always a highlight of our trip.
5 thoughts on “Escape to Chiang Mai”
Great pics and wonderful storytelling yet again. You make it all so real. Thanks for sharing 💕
We got to spend 2 days and one night at the Nature Park and it was magical
Elephants never forget xxxxx
Only just read this blog. Fabulous photos. Elephants have got to be one of my favourite animals – I have many photos of them (I can’t take enough), only in zoos. To get so close to them must be wonderful, glad you were able to see them on this trip. Enjoy xx
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Thanks Sal, love those elephants 🐘❤️