I have always been a great lover of elephants. This will be obvious to those of you who know me because I am frequently seen sporting some sort of elephant clothing/jewellery. Despite this, I had never really considered going to visit an Elephant Park before because I had only ever heard negative things about them. It wasn’t until my friend pointed me in the direction of Elephant sanctuarys that Ben and I started considering the idea. Following extensive research and hours of reading reviews, we finally decided on Baanchang Elephant Park (Baan = Home, Chang = Elephant). One word: incredible. Throughout the day it was made very clear to us that the elephants really were very well looked after. As Baanchang is an elephant sanctuary, this means that they adopt/rescue elephants from some horrendous living conditions and abusive owners. Many people argue that because an elephant’s natural habitat is in the wild, that these parks are still acting cruelly by keeping them in a domestic environment. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that if they did let them into the wild, they would not survive as they are fully domesticated and now rely on humans to look after them (due to their previous living conditions). At the end of this blog I will make a list of Elephant Facts so that I don’t spend too much time waffling excitedly about my newfound Elephant knowledge.
A brief overview of the day: we started by getting dressed into Mahout (a person who works with elephants) clothes and taking hundreds of selfies because we looked so glamorous (not). We then spent about half an hour being told everything we needed to know about the history/purpose of the park, and also lots of very fascinating information about elephants themselves. For example, did you know that elephants sleep for only 2 hours per day? Ben and I really sympathised at this point following our sleeper train fiasco. Next up, we got to feed the elephants sugar cane and bananas. Mainly sugar cane because Ben ate all the bananas. Like Ben, elephants have big appetites and often we had about 3 trunks trying to steal the food from our hands! The rest of the day we spent riding them bareback through the beautiful jungle having learnt elephant commands, and then got to bathe with them in the water (AMAZING!). Our elephant was a 42-year-old female called Dom Kwang, who was better than all the other elephants because we decided so. To summarise, it was the best day of both our lives so far and every single one of you should add it to your bucket list if you like elephants.
The following day we were rather saddle sore, so we decided to relax in Nong Buak Hard public park. An absolutely stunning park located in the southwest corner of Chiang Mai’s old city. Stunning yes, but also chockablock full of pigeons. Back in the UK, pigeons are anything but a novelty and mostly annoying to us Brits, adding to the general greyness of the streets. Oddly, out here, they are treated like royalty! People visited the park to feed them and let them casually walk all over their bodies. Ben took part in this strange ritual, unfortunately though this was unintentional. I had decided to take a stroll around the park with my camera and left Ben writing his story about Clive the Ant (not joking). I was far enough away from our base that Ben looked like a little dot, so I decided to test out our cameras zoom function. I took a perfectly timed photo showing that one pigeon had gracefully landed on Ben’s bum, whilst the others crowded around him. They obviously caught wind of his ant story and wanted a sneak preview.
Now for the cooking course, which I promise Ben didn’t really force me into doing! This took place at the Thai Farm Cooking School, which is just outside the city, so delightfully away from all the traffic and set in beautiful countryside. This cooking school comes highly recommended by Trip Advisor, and also me. So if you are considering doing a course, definitely do this one. Only 1,300B (about £25!) Our teacher for the day was an incredibly happy chappy named Yummy (fitting, huh?). We got to cook five meals over the course of the day. I chose red curry, tom yam soup, pad thai, chicken & cashew nut stir fry and mango sticky rice (obviously). We also got to visit the Thai market to learn about ingredients, walk around the farm and taste everything fresh and, my favourite part of the day, we got to eat all of the meals we had prepared. YUMMY! Therefore, if any of my friends would like an authentic thai meal when I return, let me know as I need to keep practicing. Please note that I will provide no health insurance for any sickness that follows.
I realize that we haven’t really written about our evening activities. That’s because literally every evening we have enjoyed a Chang beer at John’s Place or Oasis Rooftop Bar (links below) and played Shithead (the card game). Which, by the way, I am winning by four rounds as of last night due to Ben getting smashed on an interesting cocktail named ‘Cheers Sexy’. Also, if you ever want to eat at John’s Place, the food is amazing but also amazingly SPICY. So if you ever eat there, make sure you ask for ‘a little spicy’, or you’ll turn into a cyclops like me.
Well, we are coming to the end of our stay in Chiang Mai. Our last day is tomorrow and then we are off to Pai. The journey involves an extremely winding road with 762 turns. I think the sleeper train journey will seem like a haven compared to this…
SUPER COOL ELEPHANT FACTS
- Elephants can detect personalities in humans, and therefore it is in fact the elephant that chooses its owner based on his/her personality.
- Elephants live in human years and can live up to 100 years old
- The length of an elephant’s pregnancy is 18 months
- Elephants are very emotional animals and can experience joy, anger, grief and happiness
- Elephants have no stomachs, hence why they can eat 250kg per day.
- Elephants have a ‘finger’ at the end of their trunks, which can be used to pick up something as small as a shard of glass
- An Asian elephant can carry up to 150kg on its back, which makes the act of bareback riding (usually on the elephants neck) not cruel and actually a very healthy way of exercising domesticated elephants
Read the link for further information about the ethical elephant experience, which mentions Baanchang Elephant Park.
This post was originally published on EGGSONTOUR.