Discover the majestic Asian elephant in Chiang Mai
Guests will learn about feeding, health checks, and have the opportunity to ride elephants bare-neck through forests, waterfalls and local temples; and bathe and brush them in the river.
A country diverse in its offerings, each region of Thailand has its own unique charm. With Bangkok a bustling shopper’s paradise and Phuket a laidback retreat for beach goers, Chiang Mai is known for its national parks, hill tribes and natural beauty. Perhaps most famous are its elephants, a national symbol deeply engrained in Thai history. However, today’s elephant population has rapidly declined, and only a few thousand remain in the wild, in the remote jungle south west of Chiang Mai.
Offering a fantastic alternative to tourist attractions using elephants for rides and in performances, the Elephant Nature Park provides an 800-hectare sanctuary and rescue centre for distressed elephants from all over the country, many used for street begging, logging and forced breeding. Founded in the 1990s by Sangduen Chailert, her mission was to provide the animals with a peaceful natural environment, set in a lush valley concealed by forests and mountains.
With an emphasis on rescue and conservation, the park is open to visitors year-round, with programmes that include day trips, overnight stays and longer-term volunteer placement. Expert guides share personal stories of the 35 elephants, shedding light on the problems they face in Southeast Asia and how the park cares for the dwindling population, while visitors have the opportunity to feed and bathe the animals. The Elephant Nature Park has received numerous accolades, from institutions including the Smithsonian Society, and Chailert was named Asian Hero of the Year by Time magazine in 2005. Her efforts have been internationally recognised, and in 2010 she visited the White House, received by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Another way to learn more about the mighty mammals is by taking a hands-on approach at Patara Elephant Farm’s Elephant Owner for a Day programme, sharing the responsibilities of elephant care and creating a special bond with the magnificent creatures. Visitors participate in a typical daily routine and are trained on the correct way to approach elephants, assess their temperament and communicate using verbal commands.
Guests will learn about feeding, health checks, and have the opportunity to ride elephants bare-neck through forests, waterfalls and local temples; and bathe and brush them in the river. The breeding programme is an integral part of the Thai-owned farm and visitors will be educated on the intricacies of heat detection, mating, pregnancy and the delivery of baby elephants.
Pleasures and Treasures
An exhilarating day of quality elephant time calls for respite before heading out to explore Chiang Mai’s urban offerings. Reflect on the experience over scrumptious Thai delicacies at Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai’s Silapa Thai Lounge & Bar, where the tom yam goong, red duck curry and local chilli crab are simply divine. Or treat yourself to a Lanna blend massage at CHI, The Spa, a sensual massage blending ancient Northern Thai technique and Asian tradition.
The deluxe, 281-room city resort is located in the heart of Chan Klan Road, within walking distance of the famous night bazaar and central district bustling with riverside cafes, flower markets and sois (alleyways), a feature distinct to Chiang Mai. One of the city’s best-loved attractions is the Sunday walking market, showcasing the art and craftsmanship of Northern Thailand, ideal for gifts and home decorations. Enhanced by an abundance of delectable local treats cooked before your eyes; and street entertainment – ranging from traditional dance to rock bands – the vibrant, atmosphere flaunts the city’s undeniable appeal.