The first time I went to Thailand was on a cruise ship back in 2011. The ship made a quick excursion to Phuket for a day before we went back to the ship and head to Penang, and that was it. Aside from that one day, I had never planned a trip to Thailand and never went to Bangkok as well. So, this “Chiang Mai Trip” to celebrate Yi Peng Lantern Festival was the first ever planned trip to Thailand.
Me and my friend planned three days exploring Chiang Mai with the first day to celebrate Yi Peng Lantern Festival and two days for exploring Chiang Mai Waterfall and famous landmarks. Below is our itinerary for three-days in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Itinerary
|Day-1||Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Lok Moli, Three Kings Monument, Wat Phan Tao, Nawarat Bridge|
|Day-2||Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Tour and Royal Park Rajapruek|
|Day-3||Pha Chor Tourist Point, Mae Ya Waterfall, Wachirathan and Sirathan Waterfall, Doi Inthanon National Park|
Choosing Elephant Sanctuary
If someone mention Thailand to me, the images of beach and elephant come to mind. It’s the most common experience or interest when people going to Thailand and Elephant is a National Symbol of Thailand. But, somehow I was never quite keen on having a closer experience with Elephant. I saw them at the zoo, and in place where I used to live (in Duri, Sumatera), a lot of elephants often visiting our camp and stepping at the backyards of some residents. However, the idea of having specific activities with elephants had never came to mind till then.
I realized that doing activities with elephant was one of many cultural activities in Thailand and I really wanted to see them up close and personal. The elephant’s role in Thailand began as early as the late 1500s. The Thais took advantage of elephants’ sheer size and strength to fight against the Burmese, Malays, and the Khmer to protect the Kingdom. In addition to that, elephants were also part of daily activities for generations. From hauling teak wood to logging the dense jungles in the north, elephants were used in lieu of machinery. Elephants were trained until about the age of 10 before actually being put to work, and they did not retire until about the age of 60. (source: Culture Trip)
So, after I finished looking for places to celebrate Yi Peng Lantern Festival, i started to look for elephant camps and tour around Chiang Mai. It turned out, there were many elephant sanctuaries across Chiang Mai and they offer different kinds of activity. They vary from feeding elephants, bathing elephant, elephant ride and a walk with elephants. It was offered in many different packages as well, from half day, full day or multiple days.
After some researches, I gathered few tour operators. The point to be considered includes company profile, the sustainability profile, and how they treat the elephant. I also learned from different articles how different sanctuary treat the elephant, and I wanted nothing than an operator that ensure the welfare of the elephants. I’m also against elephant riding, and therefore I looked for operator that fit my needs. These are only few from many great Operators for doing activities with elephants
|NO||Operator Name||Program Offered|
|1||Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary||Learn to prepare healthy food for elephant and feed them, hug and love them, walk the elephant, wash and bath the elephant|
|2||Elephant Nature Park||Feeding the elephant, walk with elephants, watching the elephant bath.|
|3||Bon Voyage Thailand||This website refers several selective elephant sanctuary with activities from Feeding the elephant, Bathing with elephant, Mud spa elephant, visit to a waterfall, rafting, as well as walk in the jungle.|
|4||Elephant Jungle Sanctuary||Feed the elephant, walk the elephant, mud bath with elephant and hug the elephant|
The Elephant Sanctuary Experience!
I finally made a choice to go with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary for its positive review and it was offering the best price compared to the other. And since me and my friend only have half day, we chose the half day elephant experience in the morning.
We were picked up at 7 am near our accommodation with other participants using Songthaew (pronounced song-tail) to the sanctuary about 1,5 hours south of Chiang Mai. On the spot, few other tourists also awaited until all arrive and gathered together. We had a briefing with the tour lead, which then separated us depends on the package we took (half day or full day). All the participants were asked to wear this traditional suits afterward to make us easy to be identified and the tour begin with feeding the elephant.
We were explained of how to feed the elephant correctly and how to safely interact with the elephants. There were several elephants with different group of age and they were separated into several group so the each people can have experience with them.
After feeding the elephant, there were session of hugging and loving the elephant, which is basically taking picture together with the elephant and interact with them. I love this sessions so much as I get to pat and love them. The elephants were domesticated so they were all so friendly and calm in the presence of many visitors. Although, at some point after an hour session, I saw a bit of tiredness in the elephant’s eyes.
The half-day session was continued with bathing the elephant. We were given time to change into bathing suit and follow the elephant handle to the nearest mud pit. The elephants were taken there and they were told to bath in a mud and put some muds as well on the elephant. After that, we proceed to the nearest river and rinse all the muds and help the elephants bathing as well. I didn’t went in since the mud were mixed with the poos and the pees as well hahaha! Session was wrapped with having a great lunch arranged by the local.
All in all, it was such a fun loving experience with the elephants. They are such a kind and friendly and it was the highlight of my trip to Chiang Mai.
Royal Park Rajapruek
We were back to Chiang Mai around 2 pm, and then we took some rest for a while before heading to Royal Park Rajapruek. We used GrabCar to go to Royal Park Rajapruek and arrived around 4 pm in the afternoon.
I was quite astounded by the size of the park to be honest. The Royal Park Rajapruek was built to commemorate the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Accession to the throne as well as His Majesty 80th birthday. This is a vast floral and botanical garden is located 20 minutes south west from Chiang Mai City center. It is open from 9 am to 6 pm and the entrance fee is 200 THB for adult and 150 THB for children.
To enjoy this place leisurely would take about 2-3 hours walk. Don’t miss the orchid Pavilion and the main prize: The Royal Pavilion. Make sure also to take a picture from the right side of the pavilion where a beautiful pond will reflect the majestic Royal Pavillion. We were there until few minutes before 6 pm and able to catch the early sunset. After that, an announcement telling us that the park was about to close and we had to leave soon.
To me, Elephant sanctuary and Royal Park Rajapruek was such a great combination to be done in one day with the morning playing with elephants and relaxing in the garden in the afternoon.