Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

ELEPHANTS!

One of the main bucket list items I wanted to check off while in Thailand was to see elephants!

Please be careful when planning anything that involves animals. There are two great elephant sanctuaries that I know of in Chiang Mai: Elephant Nature Park and the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.

To be completely honest, I really was looking forward to going to the Elephant Nature Park. It was the first sanctuary for elephants to open in Thailand. They also do a lot of veterinary care for the elephants and me, being a veterinary technician, was really interested in that aspect of it. Unfortunately, they book up very quickly. We were not able to book too far in advance just because we weren’t entirely sure of our schedule so we waited until we arrived in Chiang Mai to actually book our visit to a sanctuary.

Rule of thumb: do NOT go to a “sanctuary” where you also ride them. Bareback or with a saddle; neither are acceptable!

Riding an elephant is inhumane and is actually very harmful to the animal.

Anyways, here’s my experience with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary!

We decided to do the “Half Day Afternoon” package. They will pick you up right at your hotel to drive you to the sanctuary since it is way up in the jungle mountains! They picked us up at 11:30 am at our hotel. There was a total of 10 people with us. It was about an hour and a half drive to the sanctuary. Beautiful scenery on the way! You see many fields and little villages.

When we arrived they have you change in to the traditional Karen Tribe clothing. Since the Karen Tribe is who works with these elephants, the elephants are familiar with the clothing therefore they like everyone to wear it so that the elephants feel comfortable. In total, there were about 40 people in our group for the afternoon.

Our guide took us to a covered deck to brief us on the history of the sanctuary, how to approach the elephants, and what to expect during your visit. Thankfully the guides all speak English. He was charismatic and funny so listening to him made it fun and easy! I was surprised when he said that this particular sanctuary first opened in 2014, I didn’t realize how new it was. These elephants were all saved from trekking camps and working farms.

I was so excited when it was time to interact with the elephants! We walked across a shaky bamboo bridge to a platform. Then they released the elephants! Three came running down the hill to us! One of the elephants that we were feeding was 72 years old! She was so mellow and calm. They also had two younger ones – 1 ½ and 4 ½ years old. They were both so much smaller than the adults! I didn’t realize it takes so long for them to reach their adult size. We fed them bananas for a while. It was so fun holding out your hand and the elephant wraps its trunk around the banana and put it in its mouth. You can also hold up your hand and say “bon-bon” and the elephant will open its mouth and you can place it right in! Their tongues are giant and their teeth sit farther back in their mouths so you don’t need to worry about them biting you.

 

We walked back across the wobbly bridge again and fed more elephants and got to really interact with them!

After feeding and taking pictures for a while, we walked down to the mud pit for a mud bath!

Afterwards, we went in to the river to clean off! It was so fun splashing the elephants and playing with them. They were all so sweet!

They do feed you dinner so while they cook you get a chance to walk to a beautiful waterfall and play in the water for a bit. While everyone else went to the waterfall, I selfishly stayed back to spend more one-on-one time with the elephants.

Once everyone returned we sat down and were served dinner. After eating, we all headed back to the covered trucks that we arrived in and headed back to the city of Chiang Mai.

 

It was a truly incredible experience that I would love to do again! Plus, I like knowing that the money spent to go on this adventure was going towards a good cause of saving elephants and improving their lives.

Here is the link to learn more about the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: http://www.elephantjunglesanctuary.com/

 

It breaks my heart that trekking camps even exist and that people still choose to be blind to how these magnificent creatures are treated. Please don’t be naive and spend your money supporting cruelty and abuse. Do your research before choosing to partake in anything that has to do with animals being used for entertainment.

NO ELEPHANT RIDING/TREKKING! NO TIGER KINGDOM! NO MONKEY SHOWS!

 

My 4 Day Itinerary for Chiang Mai

 

Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand.

It is a city nestled in the jungle! What I liked the most about Chiang Mai is that you can step out of your hotel and walk to most of the places that you would like to go! We saved a lot of money not having to take transportation everywhere we needed to go like we did in Bangkok. It is a larger city but if you stay in the center of it (“Old City”) you are relatively close to most everything that you would want to see and do! There are so many restaurants, massage parlors, and bars everywhere you go! There are also lots of food vendors and random markets popping up all over the place! Entertainment was endless!

I felt very safe during our stay in Chiang Mai. Even at night I felt safe walking home late from the bars.

Chiang Mai was easily my favorite city to explore in Thailand!

 

Day 1

We flew in to Chiang Mai on New Year’s Eve. We stayed at a hotel called the Moon Dragon Hotel. It is located on Ratchadamnoen Road which is known for its famous Night Bazaars and Sunday Night Market. It is right in the center of Old City so it is surrounded by many temples and delicious restaurants! We spent the afternoon exploring the market and I even finally drank coconut water straight out of a coconut! 

We got massages (about 100 baht = $3 USD) and headed out to go bar hopping. Once night fell, the sky started to light up with floating lanterns! It was an amazing site! We also got to light one up and let it go – make a New Year’s wish!

 

Day 2

Explore the city!

We only booked one night at the Moon Dragon Hotel so the next day we went to our next location –Duangtawan Hotel.  It was just outside of Old City; a quick 15-minute walk from where we were previously at. We spent the day enjoying Chiang Mai and walking around. Everyone is so friendly! It was also laundry day! It was 30 baht/kg. Between my boyfriend and I it was 120 baht all together. Not bad! And I’m pretty sure they hand wash and hang dry your clothes because they smelt amazing when we got them back!

Our big event for the day was that we bought tickets to a Muay Thai fight! They have these almost every night so we had to see one! It was actually pretty exciting! It was crazy how young some of the fighters were, some looked as if they were only 13 – 14 years old! I read that they start training very young in Thailand.

On our way back we tried a few different foods that were being sold by the street vendors. I found my favorite dessert – it’s a crepe with Nutella and bananas! So delicious! We also felt adventurous and tried some cooked worms! Let me tell you from experience, just skip the worms. 😊

 

Day 3

Explore the Jungle!

Scooter day! We decided we wanted to head up in to the mountains today! For a 24 hour rental it was only 250 baht (about $7 USD). We went to the Doi Suthep Pui National Park! It’s about an hour trip up to the mountain and it was beautiful!

It is a windy road and be careful of traffic! Just like in Bangkok there doesn’t seem to be many rules of the road! To be honest, sitting on the back of the scooter was a little nerve racking but I just held on tight!

Our goal for the day was to make it to the Wat Phra That Doi temple which overlooks Chiang Mai. I had previously read that you want to get there early because it becomes so overcrowded very quickly! We accidentally passed it and went straight on to the Bhubing Palace. It was pretty incredible though! It was large botanical garden with giant bamboo trees and gorgeous views! This is actually where the Royal Family stays in the winter! After we explored the grounds for a few hours we ate lunch at the little village area then headed back down.

We were going to stop at the Wat Phra That Doi temple on our way back down the mountain but even just trying to find parking was ridiculous! We decided to skip it since it was now about 3:30 in the afternoon. We headed back to the city and watched another Muay Thai fight! And of course enjoyed another Nutella and banana filled crepe! After the fights we enjoyed bar hopping again and talking with the locals! Everyone we met was so sweet and kind to us! We spent a lot of time at the Roo Bar with 2 of the bartenders talking and hanging out with them. Seriously, the two sweetest woman that I’ve ever met in my life! The people you meet here are so welcoming and kind.

Day 3

Elephant day! This day deserved a blog all to itself! Read about my experience at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary!

Day 4

Our last day in Chiang Mai. I truly was so sad to be leaving! When I come back to Thailand I would love to spend at least an entire week here if not longer.

We made sure to eat at our favorite restaurant again (for the third time!). It is called Cooking Home Thai Restaurant. So much delicious food and endless options! It is located in Old City on Ratchadamnoen Road near our first hotel stay. I highly recommend eating here if you get the opportunity!

We headed to the airport for our next adventure….the islands! First stop, Koh Samui!

 

When you come to Chiang Mai on your trip, make sure to take the time to explore the city and the mountains! There is so much beauty here!

 

Travel Tip from a local: Do not plan a visit to Chiang Mai in April or May. It is common that in these months there is a lot of jungle burning so there is a heavy amount of smoke and smog that sits over the city.