Elephant Nature Park
So scenic and peaceful
Yesterday we set off on an adventure to the Elephant Nature Park
where we had the most amazing day. We were picked up around 8.30am and driven to a local markets where there were bags and bags and more bags of bananas & pineapples. There were 5 of us (Trent, me, 2 sisters from Syd and Melb and a Kiwi) and we all had to load the bags onto the two trucks.. I had pulled a muscle getting my backpack on the day before so it wasnt the most fun part of the day but someone had to do it!
The ride took about 1 1/2 hours (to do 67 kms) but when we got there it was worth every bump!! What an amazing place. The centre was started by a lady called Lek who was pretty much outcast by the Thai Government, Media and even her family when she did a documentary for National Geographic outlining the treatment of Elephants in Thailand. The Elephant is reverred and considered sacred by the Thais, yet the treatment of these animals in the logging industry (now banned), the tourism industry (think elephant rides) and in a ceremonial 'breaking of the spirit'
to tame these animals to be submissive to their owners is heartbreaking. Not even alot of Thais realise how badly their elephants are treated.
If you are going to Thailand, please think about supporting a sanctuary like this rather than getting caught up in the tourist hype of watching the animals perform demeaning 'tricks' like painting pictures and playing soccer or taking an elephant ride. 10 years ago Thailand had over 100,000 elephants. In 2002 that number was estimated to be 5000 and today around 2000. If you are interested in learning more, please click on the link above so that you can read more.
We spent the day with an Aussie guide, Michelle who has lived there for 3 1/2 years with her husband Carl. She spoke about all the individual elephants and their sad stories (there are 28 in all) and explained the problems that exist. Just before lunch we got to feed them bananas and pineapples. They are such gentle creatures. To feed the babies you have to peel the bananas and feed them! A baby weighs about 250 kgs!!
We then sat down to the most amazing lunch we have had in Thailand
yet. Michelle wasnt kidding when she said some people just come back for the food! It was outstanding!!
After lunch we changed our clothes and walked down to the river to bath the elephants. You get in the river with the elephants with buckets and scrubbing brushes and they lay down and you wash them... it was soooo cool! You have to watch out for the babies though as they love to play and think its fun to charge you and push you over! Luckily we avoided them! Elephants use dirt as a natural sunscreen so are quite dirty, but as soon as they get out of the water, they find more dirt and use their trunks to spray dirt all over themselves again! I took some small videos however I cant seem to get them to load up (the files are too big... will try work it out and post them in another blog if I can)
After they finish having their baths we went for a walk over to see the biggest elephant Maximus. He is tied up at the moment as he is in 'musth'.. this is where the males have a 'heightened sexual period'
These cuties weigh 250 kgs!
and become aggressive. It is thought this happends as some bulls are more dominant than others, so when a bull is in 'musth' then as the less dominant bull he has a better chance of reproducing! I could tell you more but would be here forever! We watched him from a distance. He was quite aggravated as the Mahouts (elephant handlers) were trying to fix his chain and he kept trying to charge them. We were just hoping that his chain was strong enough!
There were so many beautiful stories that we were told. There is one blind elephant who lost her sight by her previous owner throwing rocks and spears in her eyes when she wouldnt work hard enough. When she came to the ENP she 'buddied' up another elephant who is now her best friend. They never leave each others side and the other one 'looks out for her'. There is another that was a land mine victim who has one back leg that only has half a foot and walks with a limp. All the elephants there (except for the few babies born there) were formerly abused. There is one that was made to work 24
The names were all too hard to remember but this is the blind elephant and her best friend that never leaves her side!
hours a day (tourist riding during the day and logging of a night) and to keep her awake they fed her 'speed'. She was a drug addict, and it took Lek a long time to rehabilitate her. Very sad.
Mid afternoon we sat down and watch the National Geographic video that saw Lek outcast .. one girl walked out it was so brutal and sad. This video is banned from being viewed in Thailand, so alot of the Thais still are not aware of the plight of their elephants. It is so sad.
Later in the afternoon we went back down to the river for another bath, then it was time to head home. Very sad to leave and it is definately somewhere I want to return to. You can stay overnight there and you can also volunteer for a week or two. I will definately be back to stay a week or longer. This place was just so amazing! If anyone would like to make a donation to the ENP you can do so at their website. It is all tax deductible!
We were so wiped out after getting back from
the ENP that we found a tiny local restaurant 2 minutes walk away to eat. It was again one of the best feeds we have had here in Thailand. I had a big Singa beer (equiv to 2 or 3 beers in Oz), Trent had a coke and we had 2 noodle dishes and it cost us 165 baht! That is like $6 AUD... ridiculously cheap. Afterwards Trent went back to the room and I went across the road from our guesthouse for a oil massage! 200 baht for a 1 hour oil massage - again how ridiculous! I tipped her 100 baht as 1) I felt guilty paying so little and 2) I have heard that the lady that does the massage makes bugger all out of the 200 baht. They actually called her and she rocked up 5 minutes later on her motorbike with her little daughter! I felt guilty - she was probably home watching tv and then had to come back out to massage a dumb farang for very little money! Great massage!
Today And Tomorrow
We had a massive breakfast this morning. Trent had scrambled egg and bacon with toast, a
huge banana pancake and a banana chocolate shake. I had a plate of fresh fruit and a banana pancake and a 'Hill Tribes' coffee... very nice... cost us 260 baht (yep less than $10!!!!)
As soon as we finish this blog we are going to explore some of Chiang Mai by foot then hitchhike a taxi up to Doi Suthep. A temple on a hill that overlooks Chiang Mai.. Tonight we are off to watch Muay Thai and tomorrow we are going Mountain Biking... we couldnt find one trek that didnt have Elephant Riding and that would defeat the purpose of yesterday if we were to have a elephant ride. Honestly if you saw what we saw yesterday - the deformed spines from years of tourist riding the elephants - you would never support the industry... It is important that people know however that Lek isnt trying to shut down these tourist camps and she offers a free medical clinic called Jumbo Express to all camps. She also is trying to show them that there is a viable option for tourism apart from the rides and shows!
Till next time, I hope everyone is well ... sorry if
this lacks detail but I am rushed!! There are two pages of photos so at the bottom of the blog you will need to click to page 2! Enjoy xx
Love Reet & Trent xxxx
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