Updated: Jan 15, 2022
Touring Tokyo and A Journey through Japan- these are two books I have written about Japan! Check them out!
Sawatdi ka!!! Hello and welcome to Thailand!
We booked a grab taxi to the the Maetang Elephant zoo for 400 Baht or $12.49. We were cognizant of how much money we were spending on the trip. We just knew that if we experienced any language barrier issues, the taxi driver could assist us. He certainly did!
Prior to traveling to Thailand, I studied the Thai language for over three months and was able to speak basic Thai. However, I was unable to carry a long conversation with a Thai person. Therefore, I relied upon translators who could speak English. This taxi driver could speak English.
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As we travelled 56 minutes away (32 miles north from Chiang Mai bus terminal 1) from Chiang Rai towards Chiang Dao to reach this 250 acre vast and forested camp, we maneuvered around winding, narrow roads. The roads were surrounded by forests and towering mountains. We knew we were heading into the rural side of Chiang Mai.
Approximately 20 minutes prior to arriving at the camp, we observed about 6 Thai people riding elephants. That was a good sign we were in the vicinity of the camp. The elephant sighting was great considering the fact this was my first time witnessing elephants in the wild.
Founded in 1996 by Sangduen Lek Chailert, the Elephant Park was designed as an Elephant rescue and conversation area that today inhabits between 40 to 80 elephants. There you will find mahouts (elephant keepers) all around the camp. Prior to 1989, elephants were forced to move logs for the mahouts.
Upon arrival of this peaceful area located in the Mae Taeng Valley, we purchased tickets, which included food, the elephant show, and elephant riding.
Our taxi driver took us to a restaurant (situated on the ping ping river) where we were served a four course meal (included in the package deal). The meal was fantastic. We were served a delicious northern Thai soup, two plates of savory chicken (20 large pieces) along with sauce, 5 irresistible egg rolls, and a large metal bowl of rice. On top of that, we had some very tasty blueberry and mango smoothies. They were perfect for a hot and humid day.
The show began with 8 elephants occupied by a mahout. Two elephants stood side by side holding a wooden plaque that read “Welcome to Maetaeng Elephant Park” both in English and Thai. The rest of the elephants formed a single line, and each of the elephants grabbed onto the tail of the elephant in front.
Elephant kicks a soccer ball
A mahout, holding a soccer ball, lined up next to the elephant. When the mahout rolled the ball to the elephant, the elephant's giant right front leg moved back and powerfully kicked the soccer ball high into the air. The second, third, fourth, and fifth times the mahout rolled the ball, the elephant kicked the soccer ball next to the goal line. For the sixth time, however, the elephant turned his back toward us. As the mahout rolled the ball to him, the elephant picked up the ball with his trunk. The elephant then launched the ball into the air and the ball quickly whizzed past us with amazing speed. This was a profound reminder that an elephant has incredible power and skill.
Elephants play a flute
I did not have an inkling that an elephant was musically talented until I observed it at the Maetaeng Elephant park. I watched as a mahout gave an elephant a flute. The elephant grabbed it with his trunk and began to play the instrument. While watching the elephant play the instrument, I was immediately captured in awe and amazement. While the music was playing, 4 elephants reacted to it by moving up and down.
Elephants dance to the music
When the music began to play, 9 elephants began to move their head and leg up and down. The elephants were enamored with a dancing spirit. One of the elephants spun a hula hoop on his trunk. It was incredible watching the elephants dance to the music.
Elephant paints a tree and grass
Part of the show involved an intelligent elephant given a writing utensil to carefully draw an elephant, tree, and grass. Once the drawing of the elephant and tree was complete, the mahout gave the elephant a paint brush dipped in green paint to apply to the tree. Then the elephant finished up the drawing by using the same brush to paint green grass. It was magnificent to observe this kind of special artwork. There is a souvenir store at the park that sells these kinds of paintings.
Based upon the elephant show, there is no doubt that elephants are instilled with a skill. It may be taught, but the fact of the matter is, even animals can perform amazing stunts and tricks that are surprisingly impressive and appealing. I did not know that elephants were capable of kicking a soccer ball, for example, or playing a flute until I visited the camp.
Elephant places a straw on my head and kisses me
After the show, I stood right next to one of the elephants. One of the mahouts riding an elephant asked me to turn around with my back facing him. As soon as I turned around, the elephant placed a straw hat on top of my head. Pictures were taken and then right before I was about to leave, the elephant kissed me right on the face twice. It was a cool experience.
We were elated to ride elephants for the first time in our lives. We ambled up several wooded stairs that led to a wooden platform. One of the mahouts assisted us in getting on the elephant. Once we were on top of the elephant, the mahout kindly took pictures of us. Then the journey began. My girlfriend (at the time) and I were sitting on the back of a mammoth elephant. In front of us was a metal bar that was used for holding on.
Our ride started at the loading platform. We proceeded down a steep embankment into the river, which was seemingly about 2 feet deep. We crossed the river and ascended up a steep and rocky hill. We proceeded around a corner, up a another steep embankment and down towards the river. As we were about to exit the river, a Thai employee, stationed at the edge of the river, snapped a photo of my girlfriend and I on the elephant. This photo would be later placed in a fancy Maetaeng Elephant Park frame as a souvenir, which I would highly recommend you purchase. We paid 200 baht ($6.05) for the photo.
Interestingly, we were able to ride elephants a second time. However, that was to just get another photo shot. In the first photo that was taken, my girlfriend’s eyes were closed. One of the Thai employees arranged a mahout to take an elephant to the same platform we walked onto for our first visit and ride the elephant again. We rode the elephant to the river and then the Thai employee, holding a camera, took another photo of us. We were able to receive a great photo of us on the elephant. My point is the park creates customer satisfaction and we were greatly satisfied with our experience at the park.
Our experience at the park taught us that elephants are highly creative and intelligent and they can be taught to perform some spectacular tricks.