We have had an amazing two days in Chiang Mai. Yesterday morning we woke up and waited to be picked up by the Elephant Nature Park. We drove about 45 minutes to where the Elephant Nature Park resides in the mountains. The grounds of the park were absolutely gorgeous, and although it is a tourist attraction, you didn’t feel like there were too many tourists or that it was to touristy.
Our 2 days, and 1 night was AMAZING and I’m sure I’ll write a few blog posts when I return about our experience in more detail. The Elephant Nature Park (ENP) houses about 42 elephants, 440 dogs, and 100 cats (plus some other rescued animals like buffalos and cows that were saved from slaughterhouses). All the elephants were rescued from different situation such as circuses, illegally logging, street begging and trekking camps (that are popular amongst the majority of tourists).
When we arrived our group (of 6) was brought to feed the elephants a snack (watermelon and bananas) and then went for a walk around the grounds to meet the elephants and learn a bit more about them. You start to learn about each of their unique stories, which range from a couple elephants that stepped on landmines, multiple with broken backs and hips from trekking camps where tourists are riding them, and even ones that were orphaned as babies. Each of the elephants were so unique in their own ways.
After our walk, we had a delicious thai buffet lunch which was all vegeterian, organic and from local farms in the area. This camp is huge on supporting and giving back to the community around them. Almost everyone who works there is from nearby villages, and all their food is bought from the local markets and farms.
When lunch was finished we watched a devastating documentary that went over the story of how the ENP came to be, the amazing women who has made it her mission to stop elephant cruelty, what some of the domesticated elephants are forced into, and the brutal conditions they go through in Asia. Very eyeopening, but at the same time I wish they showed this documentary to all those that go to the camps that you ride the elephants.
After bathing the elephants, and feeding them more fruit we were later showed our cabins, which were huge and gorgeous. We had a giant house to ourselves with our own bathroom, a balcony that overlooked the elephants sleeping area, and a front porch as well. This was by far the best sleep we have had on our trip so far. ENP is so peaceful, it is seriously like a hidden heaven.
Before dinner we had a full body massage that was available on the camp by local women. The massage area overlooked the park and elephants, and was very relaxing.
Day 2 (aka today) we woke up bright and early to go have breakfast, and then head out for a morning walk. Today was much more personal with the elephants. We got to get a lot closer to them, to the point that we were even chased by a few and had to hide behind afence. After our nice long morning walk, we had lots of free time to do as we pleased. Later in the day we bathed the elephants again, watched them take mud baths, and then prepared some food for the old lady elephants who don’t have any teeth anymore. Their food consisted of mushed bananas, cornmeal, and rice flour, which was all mixed up (with our hands) and put in between steamed pumpkin like a sandwich.
After feeding the old ladies their food, it was time to load up the van and head back to our hostel in Chiang Mai. It was very sad leaving this elephant heaven. I could’ve stayed here forever, and I left knowing so much more about this majestic elephant.
Once we got back to our hostel, we headed out for dinner at a place recommended by a couple that was in our group at ENP. It was called Bamboo Bee and was a tiny little restaurant with 3 tables. The women who runs it does it all, takes your orders and cooks it up right at the front of the restaurant. It was delicious! We had fresh spring rolls, and I had pad thai.
After dinner we headed to the night bizarre which was massive, literally endless amounts of stalls of just about everything you can think of. It was pretty neat!
Now we are back at our hostel and will be heading to bed as we need to be up early tomorrow for another day trip we are going on.