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Thoughts of a wandering soul The "IT WAS TIME" Trip!

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

THAILAND | Sunday, 2 December 2012 | Views [1612] | Comments [3]

The next morning (22 November) I woke up just before my alarm went off at 7am. I could hear a rooster crowing and for a moment it felt like I could have been in India. I got dressed, headed downstairs and grabbed a bite of breakfast.

Soon a minivan pulled in and a tiny Thai girl in a bright yellow tshirt jumped out and called my name and I hopped into the van. It was so quiet and everyone seemed terribly unexcited to be there. Oh great, this is was going to be one of those groups. To be fair, I thought, it is early and they could all be tired. I glanced around, next to me were seated a young couple who upon first glance I surmised as possibly being Australian surfie types due to the many bracelets worn by each. In front of them were another couple who I guessed were from Europe from the look of the guy I could see. Behind me were sitting two Indian guys and what looked like a girl from the US. And another couple in the back row. The silence was broken by the guy behind me who was detailing to his friend about how expensive last minute flights were and where he was going next, etc. Surprisingly, no Indian accent. It was, in fact, American.

After a while, Little Miss Yellow Tshirt turned and introduced herself to us. Her name was Gong (call me Gongster) and she would be our tour guide for the day, and had a video for us to watch. It showed the elephants in Thailand and how they are used to beg on the streets, and how Lek (meaning “small” in Thai) had created the Elephant Nature Park (ENP) and rescued the elephants there.

I gotta say it was pretty sad how those elephants had previously been treated.

And then my cynical brain kicked in when it was it was probably to prime us for spending/donating lots when we got there.

And then my other brain retorted that given the place was a refuge and ran mostly on visitors, it was only reasonable that they would try and make the most of the visitors, and at the end of the day it’s up to you what you decide to do, right?

Okay, truce? Okay.

Thank goodness!

We continued along and stopped at a service station for a toilet break & if we needed to buy anything ie. insect repellent! My wonderful brother, among many other things, had lent me a can of super duty repellent but I hadn’t packed it ‘cause I thought you weren't allowed to take aerosols on planes! Silly, silly! I wandered around the shop twice, but no insect repellent did I see! I spied “surfie guy” at the counter and asked if he had seen any during his turn around the shop, but he said no. He had the loveliest English accent. He said they had enough and I was more than welcome to use theirs.

Just then Gong came up with cans so a few other people bought them as well. We wandered outside when “not surfie, English guy” lit up a cigarette and his wife came around the corner. She was gorgeous up close with ginormous eyes and that creamy smooth skin that only the English seem to have been blessed with. I could have just watched and listened to them all day.

They were on a one month holiday, on their last week. they were both in marketing and worked in his father’s company. A place that provided electrical services to large commercial buildings like shopping centres. They were both so lovely and animated, it was good to have someone to talk to. We continued on our way and passed a few other establishments that also seemed to have elephants, but these were either chained in shelters or hitched up for taking people on rides.

Once we arrived at the ENP, after the introduction, we were to feed the elephants! Bananas, pineapples & pumpkins! Everyone had their pictures taken of them feeding the elephant by their partners. This has got to be one of the more annoying parts of travelling alone. But thankfully I asked lovely English girl if she wouldn’t mind, and she was happy to do so. Our elephant we discovered was not partial to pumpkin at all. She would take it, and then discreetly drop it at her feet and bring her trunk back for something sweeter. The elephant trunk was covered in short coarse black hair and felt like slightly cold worn tyre rubber, but wrinkled. Elephants also have a “finger” on the tip of their trunk, with which they can pick up smaller things, but our poor elephant had had hers chopped off. Apparently the “fingers” together with hair from the elephant tail is meant to be lucky to the Thai people. I remembered a guy at my high school also wearing a ring with elephant hair in it. It’s a bit sad the idiotic beliefs that we as humans hold sometimes.

After we’d finished feeding, we went to see the baby elephant, Nawan (which means either “piece of gold” or “the face of God”) who was born 3 weeks earlier. His mother, Si Phere (Landmine) was so called ‘cause she’d stepped on a landmine while working in Cambodia. Her foot was definitely damaged, but not as badly as it could have been. They didn’t realise she was pregnant when they took her in and I think this is the first birth at the park. The baby elephant was SO cute! It was tiny compared to his mother & running around after a ball with this seemingly too long trunk. We watched them both for quite a while, and finally moved when the next group came along. We then went to see Boon Ma (special elephant) so called because of the percentage of “white” (actually more like a dirty pink) on her body. We all had pictures taken with her while trying to avoid bumping into, or coming in front of the other elephants that were coming over. All this avoiding being crushed or trampled makes for hard work so it was good we had lunch next.

Lunch consisted of about eight different dishes from noodles to vegies & tofu. I’m not sure if there was any meat, as I don’t recall taking or seeing any. We also had salads (which I took a miniscule amount of due to the whole raw food paranoia) and fresh fruit (which I did partake of, my paranoia not extending to the delicious, sweet golden pineapples!) and Thai dessert - consisting of jelly & coconut milk.

I got to know the other people a bit over lunch. Turns out the American girl (who also had ginormously beautiful eyes and the the loveliest silky sand and sable coloured hair!) and one of the Indian guys (who I swear reminded me of someone, but I didn’t realise til later it was a character from an Indian CSI equivalent show!) were married and had recently quit their jobs, sold up everything and were on an eight month holiday! Wow! That floored us all as we eagerly pressed for more details. They were doing mainly south east asia, but would spend some time in India after which they were going trekking in Nepal! Incredible! The other guy with the big camera was their friend and had known 8 month guy from uni days. I also found out that lovely English couple were not in fact married but engaged.

After lunch we went to see another video, which detailed the start of ENP and focused in more depth on the torture of the elephants, specifically how they are used for street begging & a form of “initiation” to domesticate them for doing work. This part was quite difficult to watch as it involved poking the elephant with a stick that had a nail at one end. The “trainers” would poke it in its legs, sides, eyes, basically anywhere to make the elephant yield to them. I swear at one stage it looked like the elephant was being hit on top of its head with an ice pick looking thing. Very sad and yet it continues under the guise of “tradition”. The video cast a big shadow of gloom across the room and there was pin drop silence, when all of a sudden one of the many roaming dogs launched itself at the screen that was showing the movie. What the? We all started. It had seen a chicken on the screen! It did it again when next it saw another dog on the screen and then again when there were more chickens. It provided some comic relief to an otherwise very sombre video.

We then went outside, and the next activity was to bathe the elephants! Since a few of us only had one pair of shoes, we thought of taking them off and going in barefoot, but none of us were brave enough to do so until we saw Camera guy doing that exact thing. Okay, we said, we’ll wait for him, and if he’s okay then we’ll do it as well. He stepped into the water and didn’t immediately come out shrieking in pain so we surmised it was okay. The water was wonderfully cool but it was a bit hard to balance in places because the rocks in the river were quite slippery.

After that we headed back to the baby elephant, taking more photos along the way. This time when we got there, the baby was having a bath in this huge washtub. He was inside and trying to get out. It looked easy enough, but he couldn’t seem to coordinate all his legs and lift them high enough to get out. He finally got out and ran around a bit. I noticed a photographer taking pictures of him but didn't realise until quite a few minutes later that it was Lek! She looked quite different in work clothes - pants with knee length gumboots, flannel shirt, her hair plaited and a bandana tied around her forehead. Wow! The owner actually working with her workers and helping out? How quaint! Now Nawan wanted to get in again. The second time he wanted to get out, he managed to get both left feet out before pushing too hard and falling right out of the tub on his side where he lay for a moment before scrambling up again. It was the most hilarious thing! Soon after we fed the elephants again and then it was home time.

Lovely English couple asked if I had any plans and if not would I like to join them for a drink? That would be great! It ended being us, 8 month couple & camera guy. We went to a place recommended by both Gong and the owner of the others' hostel owner. When we got there, the lady told us there was an hour wait and we could out our name on a list and come back in half an hour. Yup, hour long wait but come back in half an hour. Their sister restaurant was across the two way traffic road and we could get a drink there while we waited. We headed over, causing one side to screech to a halt.

What? That's how everyone crosses right?

No one took note of when we got there or how long it had been, so when English & 8 month guy went to check, they came back telling us that our table had been given away because we were too late. We all went across again, causing more tyre screeching as we crossed. A few minutes later, the lady told us there was a table at the restaurant across the road. So back we went with the usual tyre screeching and had dinner.

I had the green mango salad which was delish but we tasted a bit of everyone's food. We found out a bit more about each other including that lovely English guy was an illustrator with his own blog! You should totally check it out: www.iamotter.co.uk as it is totally delightful, much like the author himself!

Then as it was so late at night, the entire group walked me back to my hotel even though I tried to insist it was no big deal, before heading back. All in all, a very successful and fun day!

Tags: elephant nature park, elephants, iamotter.co.uk



would have been a nice read if properly formatted.

  JJ Dec 3, 2012 10:05 PM


Glad u enjoyed ENP, I have been a couple of times. Lek and the rest of her crew do a wonderful job . There have been a few babies born in the park . My first visit was in 2009 and a little one had just been born, she was beautiful and I have a fabulous video of her. Go again and stay longer it's terrific .

  Michelle Dec 4, 2012 1:16 AM


Thanks Michelle, will definitely think about it. The volunteers seemed to do some pretty hardcore work including building these "retaining walls" to prevent the elephants from crossing over to where the buildings are. Must be very rewarding at the end of the day.

JJ - thanks for the feedback, I'm doing this mainly on my mobile phone, so not much of a chance to format. Will have a look into it when I get to a "real" computer.

  Prerana Dec 4, 2012 2:19 AM

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