Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010, Day 352 - Chiang Mai, Day Four

I was very excited about today's adventure to the Elephant Nature Park to frolic with what are essentially big slightly less hairy puppies. Manuel has spent the last week at the camp volunteering. The Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary for abused, neglected and abandoned domesticated elephants. With the end of Thailand's logging industry almost a dozen or so years ago many working elephants had to find other ways to earn their keep and seeing as they eat literally hundreds of pounds of food a day their keep is not inexpensive.

We were picked up bright and early and headed up into the mountains. It was an overcast morning and there were patches of fog along the road leading up towards the park. As we climbed in elevation buildings got further apart and the road was slowly enveloped by jungle. After over an hour we arrived at the park nestled in the mountains.

Part of the 150 acre park.

Some of the accommodations for the staff.

The elephants!

After disembarking from the van our guide gave us the safety lecture and then took us out into the field to allow us to meet a couple of elephants up close and to show us how to feed them. You hold the food slightly by the bottom in the upright position to allow their trunk to wrap around the piece of fruit or vegetable. They are fairly gentle but we were warned that anything that is dropped should be left for the elephant to retrieve lest they think you are trying to steal their food.

Delicious watermelon.

And bananas...

Allowing the elephant to retrieve food from your hand.

An elephant begging.

Sifting through the scraps of her breakfast.

Manuel feeding one of the elephants.

After breakfast the elephants were taken down to the river the bathe. On warm days bathing is essential to keep them cool. As the marched down to the water we grabbed buckets to help speed the process so all of the thirty plus resident pachyderms could get cleaned up before reapplying their protective layer of mud (yes, really, it keeps the mosquitos at bay and acts as a natural sunblock).

Testing the water temperature.

This lovely lady is done bathing and ready for her mud treatment.

Rolling over to make sure that all sides are clean.

Up and out.

Head nuzzling after a refreshing bath and a dirt shower.

In addition to elephants the camp also has over seventy dogs (which we were encouraged to take as souvenirs), twenty cats and assorted other animals.

Even my dogs are allowed on the table!

It was a really fun day at the camp. After the bathing the elephants we were treated to a really lovely vegetarian buffet lunch after which we were invited to feed the elephants their lunch and give those interested another bath. When that was done we concluded our day at the camp (it was past four o'clock at this point) and headed back into Chiang Mai.

When we arrived back at our rooms we got Manuel settled in and decided to go off into the old city to find dinner. We settled on a place that is known for their northern Thai cuisine. After eating we walked to the Sunday walking street and found sky lanterns being released at Wat Jediluang.

I suspect the new moon might be the reason for the celebration.

Wat Jediluang.

Prayers floating towards heaven.

Young monks getting ready to release their sky lantern.

It was a lot of fun at the park today and it ended with the magic of sky lanterns. I couldn't have asked for more.


  1. So, so jealous. What an awesome day and some incredible photos of those elephants.

  2. I love the elephants... and the sky lanterns... it reminds me of Tangled... She was his new dream.

  3. Your blog is very rich with pictures and images. Great job..
    I liked the pics of elephants and the flying Chinese sky lanterns