So, I guess I need to start of by addressing the elephant in the room… I am painfully aware that I haven’t blogged for 249 days… To anyone that is new here (welcome!), when I left off on September 4th I was bracing myself for Hurricane Irma and naively assuming that nothing too bad would happen. Needless to say that wasn’t quite the case.
Unfortunately, I still find it very hard to read or watch anything hurricane-related, and the idea of writing about it has been a source of a lot of anxiety for me. Maybe one day there will be a hurricane post, but it certainly won’t be today. I’m sorry. Anyway… enough of the metaphorical elephant, can we talk about literal elephants now??
We recently got back from the most wonderful Asian adventures (more on these to come!), comprising four countries, six cities and a good few bucket-list items checked. One of the ones I had most been looking forward to was visiting the elephants in Thailand! And it certainly did not disappoint…
Chiang Mai was the last city on our itinerary, and I had patiently been waiting for our elephant encounter. I knew that I wanted to find an ethical elephant sanctuary, with no riding, tying up or stress for the elephants and fortunately Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary delivered the exact elephant experience we were looking for.
Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary is about an hour’s drive North of Chiang Mai. We were met by our friendly guide bright and early at our hotel and we hit the road, stopping along the way to gather up the rest of our group. (Lanna Kingdom restrict their groups to less than 15 people so that the elephants don’t get overwhelmed and so that each visitor can get some time getting to know the elephants.)
We arrived to Lanna Kingdom and quickly changed into the more elephant suitable attire that they provide (you’re going to get wet and muddy, in the best way possible, so keep that in mind!) all the while marveling at the five magnificent creatures just strolling around.
Each of the elephants has their own mahout and you are introduced to the elephants with them. We had arrived just in time for breakfast so first on the agenda was handing them their corn and bananas. We also received a quick but informative briefing about the sanctuary and the elephants themselves, a little about their background and characters. All of their elephants have been purchased from logging camps, riding camps or circuses and many of them still bear the scars and the branding from their previous homes. It is fantastic to know that they can live out the rest of their days safely at Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary. They all have big personalities (excuse the pun) but none more so than the baby of the bunch, little Lanna, sooooo mischievous – you couldn’t help but feel for her mahout as she lead him on a merry dance around the property, charging around and generally misbehaving as only a little elephant can.
After feeding the elephants (a bizarre experience that I can only liken to trying to post food into the nozzle of a very wet vacuum cleaner) their bananas (be sure to remember to say ‘di di’ (good girl) when she takes one). We then headed down to the river to start bathing the elephants. The schedule at Lanna Kingdom Elephant Sanctuary is pretty fluid, the same items need to get done every day, but they are somewhat lead by the elephants and what they’re in the mood for.
We also helped out making the elephant ‘medicine balls’ – just three ingredients, these are needed to keep our favourite pachyderms ‘regular’. Banana is muddled with sugarcane and sour tamarind in a large pestle and mortar before being scooped out and fed to them. The sweetness of the sugarcane and their favourite bananas help to make the sour tamarind (the key ingredient) more palatable.
Lastly it was mud spa time, definitely the messiest but probably the most fun, the elephants head to the water hole so that you can rub the mud into their skin, which is necessary to keep their skin healthy.
There’s always time for a water fight too…
Before heading back into the city there is just enough time for lunch! Delicious vegetarian pad Thai and slices of fresh watermelon we’re waiting for us. All the tasty food smells proved a bit too much of a temptation for baby Lanna and she squeezed herself into the enclosure in order to try and steal some watermelon.
We opted for the half day tour and we found that was the perfect amount of time with the elephants and still allowed us time to explore Chiang Mai. The cost of our tour was B2,500. More about the tour options available can be found on their website here.
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