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Published: April 4th 2009
Trunk-painted by an elephant!
Elephant trekking and rafting, Mae Taeng Valley, ChiangDao Friday 3rd march 2009
One and a half hours drive north of Chiang Mai, near to Chiang Dao, lays the beautiful Mae Taeng Valley. Having spent two days doing very little, apart from enjoying Chiang Mai city, especially the night bazaar and the food, we spent today elephant trekking and rafting at Mae Taeng. The scenery is stunning, with forests of teak, lychee trees and banana palms lining the river, which winds its way through the hilly terrain, home to rural hill people who live in villages of thatched stilt houses. We didn’t trek ourselves (we left the boots behind today) because it is simply too hot, unless one is young and very fit. So we went up the valley by elephant (for about an hour), took a short ride in an ox-drawn cart back down towards the river and then spent about forty five minutes rafting back on bamboo rafts to our base at the Maetamann elephant camp. Great!
Maetamann is home to a herd of sixty elephants, many of them rescued from a previous dismal working life. They still work of course, as mounts for tourists who want to
"Hong" the artist at work
She is only 8 years old and very talented!
enjoy some elephant trekking, but they are well fed, well cared for and have a lot of space and freedom. Upon arrival at Maetamann one is treated to a “show’ which didn’t appeal to us much (elephants playing football and so on) however we did become fascinated by a young female elephant, born in 2001, who is fantastically artistic. One could argue that elephant artists are simply responding like Pavlovian dogs, but watching this elephant concentrate on her painting was extraordinary. She lifted the paintbrush after each stroke, made with precision and care, and passed the brush, unprompted to her handler when she wanted another placed in her trunk. There were six elephants painting but this young one impressed us immensely, so much so that we bought the t-shirt that she was painting on. Check out the photo of John wearing the shirt; we watched her paint the whole thing, completely unaided.
We are enjoying Chiang Mai so much that we have decided not to go further north to Chiang Rai. Many people have told us that it is better here and there is a lot to see and do. Sometime towards the middle of next week we’ll start
Stacking logs. Impressive team work!
heading south to Bangkok. We only have ten days left before our travels come to and end.
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