A few days ago, Racine and I ventured 122km west of Bangkok to Kanchanaburi Thailand via the bus, which turned out to be a 12 seat passenger van. We spent over night in Kanchanaburi, the following morning we went to the bus station at 0800 to be picked up by someone from the Elephant Haven Thailand. Our guide Khun showed up promptly and found me rather quickly as there’s just no way to hide that I’m a tourist. Racine is Philippino, but many Thai people mistaken her as Thai and will go up to her immediately speaking Thai. We get a laugh outta it, but that certainly doesn’t happen with me. Anyway, we drove for about an hour to Sai Yok. Beautiful area with dense green jungle.
We arrived at Elephant Haven Thailand, which is an elephant sanctuary that rescues elephants that were being used for riding and performing. I often hear people say that they would love to ride an elephant, PLEASE DON’T. It’s an extremely cruel practice. It’s not like riding horses. These magnificent gentle giants are taken from their moms very young put in crates and small cages, beaten with a sharp baton. Once their spirit is broken, then they are beaten further into submission as its against their nature to have stuff on their backs. When you ride them, the mahout (means the trainer or tends the elephant) has the sharp baton, hits them, because of the pain or fear of pain, they obey. The bridle on the back is very heavy. Even though they are large creatures, their spine isn’t meant to carry such a heavy riding bridle, nevermind adding the weight of tubby the tourist. It’s also very hot here and more so with the bridle on. This inhibits them from carrying out out normals cooling off behaviours such as their dirt baths as shown below. The bridle also rubs their skin raw and digs into them. They have a life span up to 60 years, it’s like they are doing hard time! And for what, so us tourists have a new exciting Facebook profile pic to show how cool we are?!
Well that’s depressing isn’t it! The manager Chet explained to us that some organizations such as Elephant Haven Thailand, are trying to meet the tourists demands of interacting with elephants, but in a more humane way. Here there is no riding or performing. We got to prepare their meals and feed them, walk with them through the forest as they ate leaves, drank water, lots of pooping, watching them have mud baths and help them bathe in the river. They still have a mahout, but a nice one. No violence, they just understand commands as we the tourists get close, but these elephants don’t seem to mind us.
Preparing their breakfast. We made these balls out of rice, corn, salt, tamarind and banana. Then we cut up watermelon. My god, these beauties love their watermelon, you get lots of truck action coming your way, yet they are non aggressive. They are also love chewing on sugar cane as above, and they eat tons on leaves. You put the food at the end of the trunk, and they hook like an arm, or their trunk is like a vacuum. But nothing goes up it, just so they can get a grip to get it in the mouth. Same with water.
We then walk them in the forest. They like to put dirt and dust up on their head and back. It cools them off, it’s sunscreen, it’s bug repellant. Impossible to do that when you have so much weight and stuff on your back!
Here we got to shovel the poop!
Mud bath to cool off, then they like to scratch up against the trees!
Now the river bath. We got in with them after their mud bath and helped washed them. They loved it in there.
Meals were included for us, amazing home cooked Thai food!
Beautiful little sanctuary site!
We stayed overnight at a nearby hotel, and spent 2 days there. We loved it. The Chiang Mai site I believe you can stay on the site, but because this one was new, they aren’t quite set up yet for overnight guests yet. Some elephants you could see their spirit broken. They just looked sad. You will notice no tusks as these are all females.
[/caption]Thank you Elephant Haven Thailand, Kanchanaburi, Sai Yok. All the staff were wonderful and welcoming. We had a great time. We especially loved the elephants. You can also check out and book through Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. Lots of different volunteer and visiting options, let’s travel responsible and lessen the demand for riding!