Moving further north to Chiang Mai was always meant to be a just staging post to our final destination in Thailand, Pai. But with Sukhothai and Pai being more remote destinations, Chiang Mai gave us the opportunity to hang around in the more hustle and bustle of a large city and see some of the history and one particular attraction that turned out to be the highlight of our stay there.
We spent the first couple of days chilling, browsing the markets, eating some great Thai food, exploring the old walled city and finding some great photo opportunities. The final day we headed out to see the elephants.
We were hesitant at first as we had read of many bad experiences at elephant sanctuary’s. After much research, and reading reviews, we came across the Chiang Mai Elephant Care Centre. This exceptional facility blew us both away. The centre was first elephant camp to be certified by Thailand Elephant Camp Standard from Department of Livestock. From the moment you arrive you get the impression that this is not a place that is going to be flooded with tourists. A humble entrance leads to a narrow meandering boardwalk up to a small reception where we were met by Sunan, who took us through our morning there.
Essentially, we were going to be joining the team there and helping out with the daily chores. This included donning in the traditional Mahout clothing.
Heading up to the centre itself we both got a feeling of calm relaxed atmosphere with large enclosures and, to our surprise, a number of elephants wandering around with no form of restraint. I did ask Sunan why it was not possible to allow the elephants to roam completely freely. He explained that the elephants they care for are rescued and have come from backgrounds where releasing them into the wild is just not possible and that they are safer in the centre’s environment.
We both had a great time helping out at the centre. Making the elephant salad was an experience in itself but the centre goes further and aims to educate visitors understand the work that goes on there. This included a lesson in elephant anatomy, health, which included the making of tamarind herb balls which treats many ailments and surprisingly the making of paper from waste products from the centre.
After helping out we were introduced to the elephant Mahjan and the mahout that looked after her. After feeding Mahjan with the salad we enjoyed a nice stroll through the centre and down to the river where Mahjan took a bath. Not that I have one but that’s one hell of an experience off the bucket list.
Returning to the centre we said our farewells, which was kind of sad as you can get quite attached in the short time you are there. We did leave with some treasured memories though.