Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Elephant Nature Park

Today we went to Elephant Nature Park! This was a highlight of the trip so far and although was by far one of the most expensive things we'll do, costing us around £57 each, it was such a great experience. We had a slightly earlier start than usual; waking around 7.15am and having some questionable 7/11 breakfast before checking out of our hostel, storing our bags and then waiting at reception to be collected.

We were picked up around 8.20 and boarded a mini bus. Our group weren't very sociable, which was a shame but we ended up sleeping some of the journey anyway. We had a stop halfway on the hour long journey (lol) which Meg and I used to buy cheap rain macs as it was forecasted to rain. We arrived around 9.45, after watching a video about some of the elephant's sad pasts and a documentary about elephant tourism in Thailand, both of which were very sad. We had a welcome talk with our guide, and then began our day.

Honestly, it was a different experience to what I was expecting. Initially we fed an elephant bananas which was really fun, they took them right from our hand and as they get through so many we got lots of chances to give them some. However; from this point the day was pretty much unstructured. While this is really good compared to a day of riding or anything else unethical, we'd all just expected something a little more structured than just walking around the park, seeing the elephants often with other groups. This didn't reduce the enjoyment of the experience, and made it more legitimate,  just came as a surprise.

We were told that it was okay to stroke the elephants but advisable not to and so none of us did, and it truly felt like we were viewing them in the wild, as they interacted with each other and us naturally. Some of their pasts were truly heartbreaking; many had been blinded by humans, lost feet to landmines, or suffered psychological abuse due to "having their spirit broken" so that they would carry humans for rides or perform in circuses or for begging. It was so sad to see as they are such big, beautiful animals who had suffered so much, but at least were at the sanctuary now.

Another highlight of the day for me was an all vegan buffet which we got to eat! It was a really lovely, ethical place and I would love to help volunteer there. They currently have 80 elephants and a lot of staff, and although expensive to go, elephants are very expensive to keep, and they have to employ a lot of staff and mahouts to care for the elephants.

We watched the elephants bathe in the afternoon, and they swam around with each other. There was a slightly scary moment when a few charged out near the water and we had to quickly run back, as these are huge creatures weighing tonnes who could quite literally crush you! Whilst watching them swim it was strange to see other elephant camps operating on the other side of the river operating elephant rides and bathing, both of which are cruel to the animals, so close to the sanctuary.

Unfortunately it started to rain towards the end of the day really heavily, and although this put our rain macs to good use seemed to cut the day a bit short as we headed back to Chiang Mai around 3. We'd seen a lot of the animals though and learnt about the park though so I'm not sure any longer would have been necessary.

When we arrived back at around half 4 we got our stuff together and got a grab to a new hostel which was about half the price per night. It took the driver a while to find it as it is on a side road, and weirdly we are the only people staying here and there are no night staff! A littler terrifying but hey ho. We did another workout and some washing before heading to the night market around 9 in search of food, and had a wander around before heading back pretty late to go to bed.

Laura x

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