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Thailand – Chiang Mai – Elephants – 10th March

We booked to do a 1 day course at the Chang Siam Elephant Training Mahout School based on a recommendation from one of our friends so we didn’t have too many hang ups about which one we were going to pick. You’ll soon find that in Chiang Mai there is a lot of choice for this type of excursion. We booked through Panda Tours based at 179 Thapae Rd but the school do have an office in Chiang Mai where  you can also book this trip. There were 6 of us on the trip with one tour leader and the elephant trainers who live at the farm who are either part of the family who own the elephants or hired to train them. This isn’t a case of training an elephant to perform tricks, it’s about communicating with them for the purpose of elephant and human being to be able to live and work alongside each other. There are no wild elephants left in the north of Thailand as they were all captured many years ago by native Thai’s who used the elephants for log moving and transportation. We have found out that one elephant costs 1,000,000 Thai Baht which is around £200,000 so they are worth a hell of a lot of money to their owners.

The elephants at this farm range in age between 1-40 years old with a mixture of 9 male and female elephants. We had heard some horror stories about the way elephants are treated in Thailand by their owners and many of these camps offer elephant riding, shows, performances and the like. What we wanted to do was to spend the day with the elephants, learning how to communicate with them through traditional Thai Mahout training, feed them, learn about the way they live in the north and then go on a bare back ride to the water hole where we could wash and bathe them. So this is what we did, whilst we were there we did see fellow tourists riding the elephants on wooden seats, which we’ve heard isn’t very good for the long term quality of life for the elephant, so we were a little disspointed to see this. However everything else lived up to our expectations and from the start we had a really good laugh too.

We learned about the history of these elephants, where they had come from and why the owners had come to have them in their family. We also learned that in order for the elephants and the locals to live peacefully the elephants needed to be kept in farms and in contained areas as otherwise they eat everything they come across which over the years has led to crops being destroyed and elephant poachers getting what they want.

We learned the commands of going forwards, backwards, left, right and the all important stop which in western voice is completely different from the way the Thai’s pronounce it so we think the elephants went along with their trainers commands over ours! We fed them a good amount of bananas as they need to eat around 300 or so pounds of food per day. We went on an hour walk with the elephants and Dave and I shared ours swapping part way through to direct the elephant through the forest. We had some encounters with bushes, dung and steep inclines but it was really good fun along the way. We finished the trek at the water pool where the elephants got straight in and we washed and bathed them aswell as carrying on with a water fight that the trainers started. This was probably the most rewarding part of the day and we got to try out our new underwater Sony DSC-TX5 camera which we hope is going to provide us with another creative element to our blogs in the future.

We paid 1800 Baht each for the day and this included lunch and transport which took about an hour from Chiang Mai heading north. This was the price for sharing an elephant and it cost 2500 Baht to have one to yourself for the day. We were happy to share though. It was a pretty satisfying day, and if you do have any hang ups about going to one of the elephant camps from Chiang Mai it’s worth looking into what they do on their one day itinerary. There are some companies who only have elephants that have been rescued from poachers or farms where they have been mistreated and The Elephant Nature Park is one of these with good reviews.

(Sony DSC-TX5 waterproof camera, processed in Lightroom 3)

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One Comment

  1. Posted 7 Apr ’11 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful what majestic and beautiful creatures.
    After 2 years in Thailand my brother said Chiang Mai was his favorite place. Can’t wait to visit myself sometime.
    Can see why the waterproof camera was needed – you look as though you’re having fun.
    Much love
    Jen x

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